Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy 2016!

I don't really make resolutions. Resolutions, like rules, are made to be broken. It's probably a good thing I didn't make any a year ago because I wouldn't have kept them. In hindsight, 2015 was quite the year.

I'm a good little mostly German girl who doesn't usually cry much. Had I set a resolution last year to cry more, I would certainly have beat the tar out of that goal. I cried enough tears this year to last a good, long while.

If I'd set a goal to discover who my true friends are, I would have gone a long, long way in fulfilling that one, too. True friends are the ones who stuck right next to me when my heart was broken. They're the ones who tried to see me more when I was sad, instead of less. Sometimes they sent cards that said something like, "I see you. I'm proud of you. I love you." Maybe they said different words, but that's what they meant. Sometimes they gave me a good hug. Sometimes they just told me they were praying.

Had I made a resolution to improve my marriage, I would have done pretty alright. It wasn't in any kind of trouble before but it's better now. Sorrow rips people apart. And then, sometimes, it makes people stronger. We pulled our kids close and held each other tighter and, after the initial wave of grief, we loved each other in new and better ways.

I have no earthly idea what 2016 holds. I don't know what kind of life and death the year will bring. Sickness or health, who's to know? Prosperity or struggle? Joy? Pain? There is no crystal ball to show me the future. The only thing I commit to do is give control to my Lord and Savior and follow Him with great trust and expectant hope, knowing that, " all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

Happy 2016!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Riveting Story

I have this cyber friend who has a gift for taking an otherwise regular day and turning it into a hysterical blog post. I don't have that gift. When my days don't have something hilarious happen in them, I sit and stare at a blank screen, writing a sentence or two and then erasing it. Over and over again.

Yesterday, my dad fixed something on our dryer, my parents took the kids to see a movie while Troy and I saw a different film and then we came home and ate ravioli. You're welcome for that riveting story.

I did stop at Papa Murphy's on the way home in pursuit of an antipasto salad. Upon entering, I found that they only had tiny chef salads that were not fit to feed six. I walked out carrying a dessert pizza. That's really neither here nor there until I inform you of the fact that our house looks like we bought a sugar factory. We have cookies and candies and sugary treats we found in our stockings. Add that to the stash of Halloween candy the boys are still working on and it's a recipe for diabetes. So Troy raised both eyebrows when I hopped in the car with the dessert pizza in my hands.

"We don't have enough sugar at home?" he asked.

"Well, the salad was too small and I felt bad not buying anything."

"WHY?" he asked in a way that suggested that I am, in fact, insane.

"I don't know," I replied. And I don't. I walk in to stores all the time and don't buy anything. There was no earthly explanation. "Also," I added, "it looked good."

"Well okay then," he answered me as though the world now made perfect sense.

And we ate it and it was good.

The end.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas and, Also, Circumcision

I just have a quick second and I wanted to wish the three of you that are still stopping by my blog a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS INDEED! Thank you for reading even though this year hasn't really been hilarious.

I do hope you have a memorable and peaceful day tomorrow and that you take the time to remember that this holiday is about a baby come to save the world. Teach it to your children. There's way too much wrapping paper and not enough true meaning of Christmas these days. Think on the nativity scene for a moment. Consider Mary. Think about Joseph. Worship the baby. They are more than just figures on your mantel. They are real. This story is real.

And, since the ole blog has suffered a bit and been lost in our year of tears, I leave you with this remarkable story.

Last night, we piled on the couch to watch The Nativity. We had to pause it every now and then to explain some things--especially to the youngest. Turns out, we'd never actually told him about circumcision. There comes a point in the film where little baby John the Baptist has to endure the aforementioned procedure.

"What is happening?" Matthew asked, concerned.

Troy paused it and thus began a conversation about circumcision.

I KNOW there are those of you that are adamantly opposed to circumcision this day and age and whatever, I respect your opinion. But these Bassham boys are, well, Jewish in this particular regard. Deal with it. So, after the explanation which involved a pointer finger and a napkin (YOU ARE SO WELCOME FOR THIS POST, Y'ALL. MERRY CHRISTMAS!), Matthew's eyes widened.

"Is mine like that?" he asked.


"Is Garrett's?" The line of questioning was a bit weird because he's pretty much seen what there is to see around this house.

"Yes," Garrett answered for himself.


"Uh huh," came the reply.

Then he turned and stared me down.

"Is your penis like that, Mom?"

"Well...I don't have a penis."

"Oh yeah!" he dissolved into fits of laughter. "I forgot!"

Friday, December 18, 2015

Navigating a Life Interrupted

Interruptions. They come in all sizes and shapes. All colors and shades. Good and bad. Though we wish to avoid them, every season of life seems to include a few--sometimes on either end of the same day. As we're coming up for air from the devastation of one, a fresh and exciting interruption takes our breath away, challenging us with new responsibilities, leaving us feeling inadequate and outmatched. They shock us; they shake us; they compel us to change. -Priscilla Shirer

I just finished leading an evening Bible study by Priscilla Shirer called Jonah: Navigating a Life Interrupted. When the morning Bible study teacher handed me the book, back in the spring, I knew it was a study I could get on board with. I was still reeling from the abrupt turn our lives had taken. We'd painted over the samples of pink with a bluish gray color. We'd started referring to "Kate's room" as the library. We'd disassembled the crib. We were muddling through each day as best we could. But sometimes, the grief was overwhelming.

I couldn't understand it. I still can't explain where all this grief came from and I felt like I wasn't entitled to it. I couldn't imagine how people ever live through the death of a child they've raised or a spouse taken too soon because, some days, I wanted to pull the covers over my head and sleep forever. My plans had changed. How would I move on? What would come of this interrupted life?

It was easy to know what life experience I'd be drawing from with my answers to the personal questions. Early on, Priscilla asked us to consider the following equation:

Insignificant Person + Insignificant Task = Interruption

Significant Person + Significant Task = Divine Intervention

I pondered this and decided that I believed it to be true. Our God asking me to walk through the loss of my child equaled a divine intervention and not an interruption. But that didn't seem to provide me with any kind of comfort. Instead, if I'm being honest with myself, it made me angry. He'd brought a situation straight to us, pulled us out of obscurity, selected us to be Kate's parents with the omnipotent foreknowledge that, once we were blissfully and joyfully all in, He would intervene and she would be taken from us. It was the hand selection that I couldn't reconcile. I asked over and over again what I was supposed to be learning and why the lesson had to hurt so much. Initially, I knew it was to bring him glory through my response but when praising Him didn't soften the blow, I struggled. I wanted the lessening of pain to be directly correlated to the amount of praise I sang out and that simply wasn't what happened.

I always complete the studies that I lead before I start teaching them. As such, the answers I give to the questions are relative to that precise moment in time. Months later, when I teach that particular section, the answers might be different. I hoped this would be the case with this Jonah study. I longed to return to each section, months after first completing them, with a new perspective. But, as the study went on, I found my frustration building. I was loving what we were all learning about Jonah but relating it to my own life was increasingly difficult. I was swimming through grief and my perspective wasn't changing. I knew in my head that our sovereign God is Lord of all and that His plan is always the right one. My heart was just struggling to accept it all. And then my eyes would become exponentially angry with my head or my heart or both and volumes of emotion would drain from them in stinging sorrow.

Through October and November, I climbed through Scripture and focused on what we learning and not on how it could effect me personally. On Tuesday, I began preparing for Wednesday's study. Closed in to a closet not more than two and a half feet deep or wide, I sat with my book on my lap and prepared the lesson. I turned, eventually, to the very last day of the very last week of the study, titled, A Fabulous Ending.

Jonah's final verses offer us a peek into the heart of God. He spoke more in this passage than He did throughout the rest of the book to share His thoughts and perspectives with the surly prophet. Whenever God's words are concentrated in a compact portion of Scripture, I sit forward to listen. -Priscilla Shirer

But God said to Jonah, "Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?"
"It is," he said. "And I'm so angry I wish I were dead."

But the Lord said, "You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Ninevah..." Jonah 4:9-11a

In her commentary, Priscilla writes, "Jonah cared about a plant. God cared about people." Then she says the following. "Consider your divine intervention. What has it revealed to you about God's perspective, and what should be important to you right now?"

My answer from several months ago was simply: People. I remember writing it. I remember thinking that instead of being so inward focused on myself and my own pain, I needed to embrace the role I have within the church and the unique position I am in to pour into the lives of so many. More pouring. Less soaking. That's what I'd thought.

And that's a fine thought to have. It's a great goal and we should always be more outwardly focused than self centered. But I let the tears stream down my face in my tiny closet with the space heater and the post-it prayers on the walls. And, next to "People" I wrote her name...

Kate's mama. It was her body that held and lost Kate. It was her heart that broke. She was going to give Kate to us because she loved her and wanted the best life for her. After Kate was gone, Troy and I saw her. I fought my own grief for those brief moments and tried with all I had to minister to her. She just kept saying that she was sorry. Over and over again. I hugged her, held her, and shared Christ with her. I'm told that, in the months following Kate's death, she was lost in pain and despair and sorrow. I haven't had the opportunity to have any communication with her but I know that godly women have continued to pour into her life.

Two weeks ago, she surrendered to Christ and accepted Him as her Lord and Savior.

Thinking on this miracle in my prayer closet, it suddenly became clear. It was never about me. It was never about Jonah. It was always about the Ninevites. It was always about her. Her life has been one enormous example of why we need a heavenly Father who loves us so much bigger and better than anyone on earth ever can. I am convinced that it took the pain of losing Kate to realize how desperately she needed a Savior.

I don't know why God chose us to be involved and to walk this journey but I'd like to think He believed that we'd bring Him honor through it and that we'd help to point Kate's mama toward Him. I'm not comparing Kate to the plant in Jonah chapter 4. God loves Kate deeply and intimately. The miracle for Kate was that there is a Heaven to gain and she avoided the trials and terrors of this world completely. But she is the plant in that I have been completely focused on her and entirely consumed with what I was supposed to learn from the sudden blessing and then loss of her life. I was so busy clinging to my small space and grief and miracle given and taken that I forgot about the massive city behind me full of people--or at least a pair of them--who need the miracle maker.

God used Kate to bring her mama to Him. And maybe, in some teeny, tiny way, He used me.

On Tuesday, I sent the following message to our adoption coordinator:

"I just wanted to share something with you. Tomorrow, I will teach the final lesson in Priscilla Shirer's Jonah: Navigating a Life Interrupted Bible study. I started prepping for this study in June. At the beginning, we were asked to choose something in our life where we could clearly see that God had interrupted our plans. The goal was to begin seeing interruptions as divine interventions. Obviously, it was clear what situation I'd be using. What was a little harder was realizing that He brought a situation straight to us, knowing He would greatly interrupt or intervene once our hearts were all in. As I prepped for tomorrow and went over the lesson again, I realized that it's all so much bigger than me. I'd like to think He used us, in some small way, but all of this, all the hurt and pain, eventually led to the angels rejoicing in Heaven over another soul saved. Yes, I want Kate in my arms instead of the ground...but she is safe in the arms of her loving Savior...And for the soul of her mama, well, a year of pain is well worth a life saved."

She responded, "I love you, Kate's mom. You bless me and so many others for living the way you do..."

The repentance of the Ninevites was never about Jonah. Jonah just got to be a part of it. May I always remember, in my grief and my pain and my frustration, that maybe my life is being interrupted so that someone else can see the glory of the Lord.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Isn't There Anyone Who Knows What Christmas Is All About?

The following is an article written by my husband for our church newsletter. It's important. It's what I want my boys to remember. It's why we try never to have a "rip and tear" fest. It's why we don't get up before the sun to jump into our stuff. It's why our Christmas Eve service at church is the most important part of our Christmas.

Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about? --Charlie Brown


Trees and lights and shopping mall Santas. Family gatherings, exchanged gifts, frosted cookies and holiday dinner. There are so many things we associate with Christmas. But what is Christmas really about?

If you're reading this article, I'm sure you already know. You understand that Christmas is the celebration of Christ's birth. It is the day when we specifically remember the incarnation. We pause to reflect on the great gift of God to us. Himself.

But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. --Galatians 3:4-5

Jesus came to deliver us from sin and bondage. He humbled Himself so that we might be exalted. He suffered and died so that we might receive life. Christmas should remind us of God's love. It should reaffirm how far God was willing to go to save us.

And yet, we realize that this most important truth is often lost during this season. Even if we remember what Christmas is really about, the truth can be quickly addressed and set aside. Quick! Read the Bible story so we can descend into a gift unwrapping frenzy!

I've often heard Christians complain about financial hardship during the holidays. Money is just so tight. I don't know how we're going to have Christmas this year. I am sympathetic to the situation but the actual statement is incorrect. Our paper wrapped tokens and trinkets do not determine whether or not we have Christmas. Christmas is based upon the one gift--the GREATEST GIFT--given so long ago.

Before the tradition of giving gifts became mainstream, before stockings and St. Nicholas, before the Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer special was created out of Claymation, there was Christmas. There was Christmas because Christ had come.

I don't want you to feel guilty about participating in your own family gatherings and traditions. Enjoy some fudge and spend time with your family. But I do hope that the true meaning of the holiday isn't lost in the clutter. The Grinch could come and steal both our gifts and the roast beast and we would still be a people most blessed. We would be blessed because of the Love that God sent. It would be a day to rejoice and sing and celebrate. Because Jesus has come. God with Us! He has redeemed His people from their sins.

So, Merry Christmas.

Thank you, Jesus.

Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is both to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. --Luke 2:10-11

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Black Plague Cold of Death

Please don't misunderstand me when I say that I know there are actual dying people in the world. There are actual tumors and brain hemorrhages and accidents and awful things. So I'm not trying to compare my Black Plague Cold of Death to the people who are experiencing real death.

But still, I have caught myself the Black Plague Cold of Death, yo.

And the odds are 99 to 1 that it was transferred to my own body from the grubby, snot smeared hands of a tiny kindergarten human. Because I've been hanging out with them for eleven school days straight except for the one day where I was hanging out at the courthouse. It's always the same for me. My throat feels like I'm swallowing razor blades for a couple of days. Then my throat starts experiencing volumes of phlegm trickling down the back of it at an alarming rate. I don't sleep for two nights. Three if I happen to be REALLY lucky. Then I sleep and I am happy happy happy but I wake up with all the snot coming out of my face. I don't understand this pattern. It seems reversed, no? Shouldn't I have the snot in my face that then allows gravity to do its thang which will lead to Phlegm Trickle in the throat which will lead to a sore throat? How is it that my body works in reverse?

So, last night, I finally slept. But I woke up with drainage out the nose, sinus pressure, and, in general, a head that felt fuzzy and enlarged.

Off I went, however, like a good little substitute teacher, to a classroom full of kindergartners because I only get my long term pay raise if I'm there EVERY DAY. And, listen, I'd feel bad for all the germ exposing I'm doing but there is SO much snot coming out of all the faces that I don't even feel bad about it.

Yes. You read that correctly. I actually don't even feel bad. Because you know what I don't do? I don't pick my nose and then impatiently grab the nearest hand that isn't my own. I don't forget to cover my mouth when I cough. I don't wipe my nose with a tissue and then hand it to someone else to throw away. I don't cry so hard because my daddy left me at school that I shoot snot out of my nose and onto the table so that the teacher has to wipe it up. I cough into my bent arm. I blow my own nose. I'm not the one spreading this plague.


Anyhoo. Yes, I am on day five of the Black Plague Cold of Death. I'm counting down the days until I can plop myself down on the couch with the full intent of recovering. However, I'm currently hauling myself into a classroom with 29 kindergartners. Today, it was SNOW and FIVE DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS BREAK and WE STILL HAVE A SUBSTITUTE. The volume was at psychotic levels which was excellent for my fuzzy head. I couldn't talk over them because my voice is half gone. We made Christmas Tree crafts and did math and read a book about a Bad Christmas Kitty.

We survived.

But kind of just barely.

It should be noted that I really do like kindergartners very, very much. I just do not enjoy them quite as much when snot is rushing out of their noses. Or mine.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Jury Duty

In my life, I'd only once been summoned to jury duty. It was in California and I was able to get out of it by having my employer write a letter. In all my 16 years of being eligible, I'd only been contacted that one time. Until last month. I received a card in the mail asking me about my availability this month. I immediately explained that this was JUST REALLY BAD TIMING. I'm a substitute teacher who typically doesn't have an issue with scheduling conflicts. But this time I am doing a long term job. A job where the teacher has specifically trained me to run her classroom. A job where, after ten consecutive days, I'd earn more money, retroactively.

They didn't care about any of that. I received my official summons in the mail. This was the week. I would need to start calling the night before to find out if I was needed.

On Monday they called roughly 100 jurors. I was number 310. (Six consecutive days on the job.)

On Tuesday they called another 170. I was now 40 away from being called. (Seven consecutive days on the job.)

On Wednesday they didn't call any jurors. I held my breath. Maybe there wouldn't be any trials scheduled for the rest of the week. (Eight consecutive days on the job.)

Last night I called in. They needed all the jurors through number 312. THREE ONE TWO. I WAS THREE ONE ZERO. I'd missed the luck train by THREE. (It would have been my ninth consecutive day on the job and I'd have been one day away from earning my pay raise.)

So this morning, I reported for jury duty. I lost my pay bump plus I lost today's pay. I made $18.50 to appear at the courthouse. That's not really the same. Not really at all. Immediately, the clerk told us that there weren't any trials scheduled for tomorrow so we didn't need to call in again. I'D REALLY MISSED THE LUCK TRAIN BY THREE!!!

I don't feel well. It feels like I'm swallowing razor blades but there's no sign of strep or fever or anything other than the symptom of being a champion sword swallower. Still, I popped throat lozenges and hopped in my car. See, last night I was all annoyed and mad and inconvenienced and upset and threatening to do crazy things like only speak in lines from movies.



Or something like that.

But today, I decided to make the best of it. Then I found out the trial was only supposed to last a day. That's when I decided I really wanted to get on the jury. I was already there. I might as well get to do something. But, I knew they'd never put me on a jury. That was part of my annoyed demeanor last night. Can't I just phone in and say, "Hey, you don't want me, right? My husband's a Baptist pastor. My father is with the sheriff's department and my brother-in-law is a lawyer. So...I don't actually need to drive up there, right?"

And that's exactly what happened. With each question, "Do you know anyone in law enforcement? How about law?" the defense eyed me longer. I was afraid they were going to start thinking I was lying just to get out of it. PLUS it was a domestic violence case where some dude (who actually stared at me a lot and creeped me out) allegedly beat up his wife. They ended up stacking the jury with men because, you know, we women folk would probably be more sympathetic to the allegedly beat up wife. We can't possibly be subjective.

It was still an interesting process though. And I kind of wish I hadn't been disqualified by all the people I know. I swore that I wouldn't allow my judgment to be clouded by my contacts but, apparently, they didn't believe me.

So I came home and curled up under a blanket and am currently practicing the fine art of NOT SWALLOWING. And that's the story of how I didn't get on a jury today.

The end.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Dented Finger

When our boys get together with their best friends, chaos almost always ensues. They're 9, 9, 7 and 6. And they're BOYS. It's always sword fighting and Nerf gun shooting and THIS IS OUR BASE and GET YOUR OWN BASE and LET'S LOCK THE LITTLE BROTHERS IN THE BEDROOM and then THEY LOCKED US IN THE BEDROOM!!!

Last night, my best friend (who is also the mama of my boys' best friends) had us over for a most delicious meal. She invited our associate pastor and his daughter because his wife and other daughter are off  gallivanting around Haiti with my husband. (Okay so they're with a missions organization building homes and ministering to the Haitians. But still. Gallivanting.)

As the adults talked, the boys participated in the above mentioned chaos. At one point, a high pitched shriek rang out. "BEN!" my friend yelled at her youngest. As the shriek continued, he appeared, dressed as Indiana Jones and not yelling at all. That's when I realized it was one of mine. The scream continued and then subsided only to be replaced with Matthew's voice yelling unintelligible things. His finger had been accidentally slammed--and then stuck--in the hinge side of the door.

A long dent ran across it.

"IS IT BROKEN????" he repeatedly asked me when it was freed. He could bend it with ease so I assured him that it was not. He'd calm down for a minute and then he'd start writhing and sobbing all over again. At one point he wailed, "I just want dad!"

Eventually, his sobbing induced his seventh nose bleed in five days. Our associate pastor, Chris, who is horribly prone to nose bleeds, sprang into action and started assisting with the nose bleed while I held the writhing six-year-old. I finally announced that we'd have to leave because I just couldn't get him to settle down. "Can you carry me?" he cried.

"Hey bud, can I carry you instead?" Chris asked. Without responding, Matthew curled up on the ground in the fetal position. Apparently, it was a decided no. I heaved him up into my arms. By the time we got home, Matthew was calmed down and talking coherently to me. He climbed the stairs and put himself to bed fully clothed.

I'm a smart, self-sufficient, modern day, independent woman. I have people here who are more than willing to help when things go wrong. But I'll be very glad to have my husband back tomorrow. He forgets his wallet and his standard of cleanliness is beneath mine but he's kind of the super glue that holds this family together. We work better with him here, is what I'm saying.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Actual Adele

I'm embarrassed to say this, but I'm really late to the Adele party. See, when my firstborn kiddo emerged, larger than life and smaller than anything I'd ever held before, I decided to stop listening to mainstream music. I didn't want my toddler singing about getting laid or drinking himself to death. I introduced him only to faith based music. And, well, showtunes.

I don't live under a rock so, obviously, I've heard of Adele, and I've heard her hits. I'd just never really listened to an album. I only knew the other Adele. The one who, you know, was dubbed such by one John Travolta at the Academy Awards. And, it just so happens that the other Adele really loves the real Adele. I saw a tweet or two where the other Adele referenced the real Adele's music. That was neither here nor there to me because the other Adele also really likes Barbra Streisand and that hasn't made me run right out and collect all of the music ever sung by Babs.


I also watched that hilarious video where Adele showed up and impersonated herself and made her fans cry and I found her so endearing that I started watching some interviews. I saw one where she was asked about body image. She seemed genuinely dismissive and almost confused about the question. Completely comfortable in her own skin. Completely gorgeous even though she doesn't fit what we might call a conventionally desired body type. I couldn't understand where this confidence came from--especially in someone who hasn't yet hit thirty. I get that, maybe, it comes from money and incredible talent and stunning good looks. Still, I do have a conventionally desired body type and zero confidence because I feel like everything else is a giant mess. Money, talent, and stunning good looks--if suddenly bestowed upon me--wouldn't change the fact that underneath my clothes, in the depths of my soul, my self esteem is rarely high.

One negative remark. One judgement. One rejection. They negate a thousand compliments.

Adele's self-confidence about body image is incredible. And one that we ought all to embrace. Whether it's our face or our hips or our thighs or whatever's underneath everything that we wish was different. Then I saw her on SNL and she seemed genuinely humble. Humility + self confidence is a rare thing to find.

So I've spent the last day listening to Adele. On the one hand it stinks because I can't even begin to sing along. On the other hand, well, it's just become very clear that I should have joined the party long ago.