The Huxtables

My family is fun. We laughed a lot at home. Home was a safe place, and every memory of my childhood and adolescence is happy. My parents were creative and hilarious, but guided us with a firm hand and there were consequences for breaking the rules. We learned to love one another, and how to be a team. We also learned that what Mom and Dad said, they meant. Discipline was mandatory, and administered out of love. My parents went the extra mile to understand us. They made sure we knew that our home life did not revolve around us, but that our whole family worked according to what God wanted us to do.

Now that I’m a parent, especially in today’s world, I realize how very, very different their parenting approach is compared to so many. I had friends who had much more freedom, but never the complete and total assurance that home would always be the most loving, accepting place to be. I had friends who rarely received punishment for their actions, and as a result never learned personal responsibility. I’m not saying that we always got it right, but I do feel like my parents had a pretty good grip on godly parenting and we had an understanding that they were acting based on love for us. Nobody was looking out for themselves, we were members of a unit, and we strived to work together as a family.

So when I saw the Cosby Show for the first time in my life, I was thrilled. Here was a family that worked hard at being a family. The parents disciplined out of love, and taught their children responsibility, respect and hard work. And they had more fun than anyone I’d ever seen. I felt so connected to the Huxtables on so many levels, but mostly because they represented what we were trying to achieve in our own home. And it worked, both on television and in real life.

Now that I’m a mother, I LOVE watching Claire Huxtable relate to her kids. She knows them. She shoots straight, and doesn’t coddle them. She isn’t afraid to be the only mom standing up for what she thinks is right. She loves them fiercely and protects them, while also teaching them to take care of themselves. She is my “mom hero”. For example:

Theo understands that you can’t treat your family badly just because you feel badly. I work with teenagers every week, and this is not a lesson they are learning. Your actions are not dependent on your feelings. Your actions, and how you treat people should be based on what you know is right, not how you feel. Claire tells him to get over himself, and he does. And his family is ready to forgive and restore the relationship. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

So for eight years, every Thursday night this family influenced me. And they’re still doing it, thanks to Netflix. It’s encouraging to see what I’m trying to do as a parent played out on the screen. I know they’re working from a script, but the writers got it right. And I will appreciate Bill Cosby and his influence on the show for the rest of my life. He’s a true comedic genius, as well as a great man.

This has been a fun week for me. I have one more person to write about tomorrow, and I’m working on it. I am sure that I come across as an eternal optimist with a childlike perception of life…and to that I say, “Good.”

 

January 13, 2012 at 5:20 am Leave a comment

It’s a World of Laughter, a World of Cheer

Today’s my birthday.

I have a mental list of the three other big influences in my life, and it’s only appropriate that this one falls on today.

I have a lifelong love for Disney.

Yes, I admire the man Walt Disney. He was a brilliant, talented innovator. But when I say Disney, I mean the characters, the music, the colors, the humor, the excitement, the joy.

I mean this guy,

 

And these guys,

And so many, many more.

I remember being a teenager and becoming constantly frustrated with the movies my friends and I would watch. Horror movies, movies filled with sex and violence, movies with family drama and dysfunction, movies with more bad language than I would use in my lifetime…and I would find myself wishing for Disney.

So yes, I was picked on (good-naturedly, of course) by my friends. But I believed then, and still believe today, that entertainment ought to do just that. Entertain. Movies should make you laugh, but not at the expense of others. Movies could make you cry, but not because of the harsh reality portrayed, but because something spoke to you deep down in your heart. Movies should make you smile and feel like the world is a good place, filled with good people. A movie should be an escape, not a effects-laden version of the evening news. When you see a movie like that, it makes you want to be one of those good people, who sees the world a bit sunnier than you did before.

Disney movies do that for me.

I love music, and learned the words to every Disney song. Even today, my kids and I have the soundtrack to the new movie “The Muppets” memorized and we sing it in the car everywhere we go. You can’t sing “Life’s a Happy Song” and not feel like maybe it is.

I could go on further about my love for Walt Disney World and some of my best memories there. I made some of my dearest friends while on a church trip to the happiest place on earth. DisneyWorld makes me want to sing and dance as I walk around the park. What a wonderful, joy-filled place.

I love to be entertained, but even more than that, I want my entertainment to make me feel good. I’m so thankful for Disney for the quality entertainment, but also for some of the most fun movie lines, songs and memories of my life.

January 12, 2012 at 4:31 am Leave a comment

Obviously…

Amy Grant.

I’ll never forget the day. I was probably around seven years old. I knew I loved to sing, because I wore out my Gaither Vocal Band album singing “I Am a Promise”. My mom has an amazing voice and I knew she was very good. She listened to Sandi Patty and we would play her albums all the time. So I was very familiar with “More Than Wonderful” and “Upon This Rock”, but I couldn’t sing any of those songs.

My daddy came home from work that day with a new record. The cover was kind of a pale peachy color and there was a picture on the front of the prettiest person I’d ever seen. She had long dark hair and wore a white dress. I thought she was just beautiful.

I wanted to look just like that.

Then daddy turned on the record. “Sing Your Praise to the Lord” came on first, and when I heard her sing, I stood there motionless. This lady sang with a low voice, JUST LIKE ME.

I had never heard an alto sing on an album before, that I could remember. And she was singing about Jesus. And she was singing stuff that had a good beat.

And it changed my whole life.

I became a huge, huge fan. There were posters in my room from every album. I was really blessed to know a lot of people who worked at Christian bookstores and they humored a little girl who wanted to be just like the biggest thing in Christian music. I bought every single tape. I wore my hair pulled back in a barrette. When her “Unguarded” album came out, I wanted a pink leopard jacket more than anything in the whole world. Someone gave me an autographed cd that was my most treasured possession. I didn’t have a cd player, so I would walk to my neighbor’s house to listen to it.

As I got older, I started singing in church. I sang “El Shaddai”, and “All I Ever Have to Be”. At Christmas, I sang “Heirlooms”. I knew every word on every tape, and every time she appeared on television, I recorded it on the VCR. She was my hero.

When I was 11 years old, I was able to see her in concert at the Coliseum in Jackson. My brother and I found our seats and my friend Gary came to check on us. He handed me a backstage pass and I don’t think I heard a note of the concert. I was so excited. I met her in a group of people and we had a 45 second conversation. I remember every word she said to me.

She made a huge impact. I attribute so much of my love for music to her. She sang about what I believed and for that time in my life, when I felt very different because I wanted to live for Jesus and my classmates didn’t necessarily respect that, I felt like I wasn’t alone. Christian music was changed because of her. She took it from “church” music to just music about God. I’m so grateful for her and what her music has meant to me.

And I remember seeing her wear this on TV and thinking it was the absolute coolest outfit I’ve ever seen in my life:

Amy, you and your music changed this little girl. I found confidence in singing that I didn’t have. I found a love for singing about my Savior. I found that I have a love for pink satin pants. Grin.

 

January 11, 2012 at 4:41 am Leave a comment

On the Eve Eve of being 35

I turn thirty-five on Wednesday. Thirty-five just seems monumental to me. It’s not really, it’s just a number. Just a marker of the years I’ve been on the planet.

But years that divide by five are just more celebratory, right? Right.

I’ve been thinking (yikes!) about what makes me…me. So in honor of myself (can you do that?) I’m going to write every day this week (an accomplishment in itself) a tribute to those who have influenced me the most.

But I have to be categorical here, and say that I’m only going to write about the influential people I have never met. The famous ones. If I try to write about the folks who have invested in my life, who have loved me unconditionally and helped me grow, I’ll spend this week in a big puddle of tears. And I’ve written enough gut-wrenchers lately to last me into 2013.

So here goes…

1. Barbara Mandrell.

I adore Barbara. My earliest memories are of shelling peas in my grandparents’ den on Saturday night and watching The Barbara Mandrell Show on NBC at 7:00. I loved her singing, her ability to play ANY instrument, her humor, her clothes, her hair, her stage presence…she could do no wrong. The last time I saw her on television was a few years ago and she was making a tribute to Reba McIntire. She was sincere and beautiful, and it was obvious why she is one of the most respected women in country music.

I also remember listening to tapes of her duets with Lee Greenwood. I think I was probably the only seven year old in town who knew all the words to “To Me”.

Just as sure, as I’m sure there’s a heaven
This was meant to be
No road is too long, as long as you belong
To me.  

It just doesn’t get better than that, people.

My cousins and I pretended to be Barbara and her sisters, Louise and Erlene. I insisted on being Barbara. It worked out well, because I could be in the middle of the group, between the girls I loved most in the world. We would sing for our moms and my Mamaw and find whatever glittery costumes we could find to wear.

If we’d have had these dresses, we would’ve hit the big time:

Aren’t they gorgeous? And then there’s the talent:

I loved her when I was a little girl. I admire and respect her now that I’m an adult. She made country music fun and sparkly, while staying true to the heart of the music. She also proves that talent plus hard work pays off. Her natural ability is astounding, but she had to have worked for countless hours to master the number of instruments that she can play. I’ve listened to country music for a long time, and I’ve yet to see anyone who can do what she did. She’s one of the most impressive entertainers I’ve ever seen.

Thanks, Barbara. You made a lasting impression on a little girl who loved good country music. I recognize quality now because you demonstrated it in your fantastic career. I watched you play every note of that steel guitar and thought you were a princess. Thanks for making music seem like so much fun. You’re the best.

January 10, 2012 at 2:53 am Leave a comment

2011

Once again, life has gotten in the way of writing about life. My mom asked me for pictures of my kids the other day. She said, “You know, since we all use digital cameras, I don’t get pictures from y’all anymore.” I told her that I actually have fewer pictures this year that I’ve taken myself. When I’m in the moment, I forget to capture it for posterity. I try to be “all there” with whatever I’m doing, and the result is much fewer pictures! It’s been the same with writing. When I’m fully involved in what I’m doing, then I write a post in my head, but once the moment is over, the post has lost the luster and it ends up in my mental draft folder, where all good stories go to die.

But today, right now, I need to speak my mind on 2011.

It will go down as one of my least favorite years, ever.

It has been pockmarked with grief, of which I had experienced very little of in my 34 years. Losing my Papaw in April made the reality of losing my Mamaw more acute and for months, and even still now, I find myself feeling covered in a sadness that I cannot explain. My tears fall more frequently, and for no reason. There were many, many days that I found it hard to breathe. I had no idea what was wrong with me. I used to be skeptical of girls in junior high who would hear something sad and try to get attention by saying, “Y’all! I just can’t breathe right now!” and I was afraid I was being trivial. The truth is that grief is a weird process. It affects everyone differently. It can bring about physical problems. It hurts. It takes a long time to deal with.

I had no idea about any of that.

This year has also been littered with disappointment. We have been waiting for a change in our circumstances for years. We’ve prayed for God to change our lives, for God to change us, for God to change our perspective, for God to change whatever He wants to change…and things are still the same. Because I’m a pleaser, and I try so hard to always do the right thing, I keep feeling like there is some sort of puzzle piece I’m not finding. I feel like there’s something I’m missing with God, that maybe He’s waiting on me to do something or say something that will cause Him to say, “You got it! Now I’ll answer your prayers!”

That is so far from how the sovereignty of God plays out in our lives. Following Jesus is not a game show. I heard a sermon a few months ago that talked about this time of waiting. The preacher spoke about a time when God is not speaking or seems to not be working. He said the greatest time of testing was also the greatest time of trusting. It’s ironic, one of my strongest spiritual gifts is Faith, yet I’ve had the biggest crisis of belief during this time than I’ve ever had. I’ve had moments of asking my heavenly Father if He cares about us at all. I’ve wondered if He was too busy bringing about good things to other people that He has overlooked us. I’ve found myself overcommitting, hoping that my actions will please Him enough to get His attention and help us out.

What I was NOT doing was trusting.

This year has also been full of my own personal growth, which we all know is painful. I struggle terribly with comparing myself to others, and I’m learning that doing that will kill me on the inside if it doesn’t stop. I struggle with confidence in my abilities. I have a fear of working hard on something that matters to me, and finding out that it wasn’t good enough. As a result of this fear, I don’t try. I don’t work hard on things that I could excel at if I put forth the effort. I paralyze myself with untrue thoughts that people with my gifts are a dime a dozen and anyone else could do what I do. It’s a debilitating process, and my creativity is slowly getting buried under a mountain of self-doubt, comparison and insecurity. I settle for mediocre, when I know God has created me for extraordinary. I read the words of others, hear the songs of others, see the influence of others, and assume there is no room for me. I tell myself that God has used all the people He can use right now, and I just need to keep doing my everyday life.

But God’s word tells me that His plan for me is for a future. A hope. An abundant life. A life beyond what I could ever imagine.

If I believe that, I have to believe there is room for me there.

So it’s been a rough year. I’m ready for bedtime on Saturday night. I actually think I might feel relieved to see the calendar change.

I have big hopes for 2012. I have goals. I have things on my calendar that I’ve looked forward to for years. I also have prayers that need to be answered. I have talents that need to be honed. I have words that need to be said. I have lessons that need to be learned. I have pounds that need to be lost. (It IS New Year’s, after all.)

Before I hit “publish” on this personal confession of my weaknesses, let me say that there are things from this year that do stand out as some of the brightest moments, not only of 2011, but of my whole life.

Like when my friend in England got on her knees and prayed the most heartfelt prayer asking Jesus to take control of her life. I was with her and held her hands. I’ll never forget it.

Also, while in England, Michael and I ate dinner with some of the best families I know. We ate a Jamaican meal at the home of Tony and Audrey and I will never forget the love and laughter at the table. All because of Jesus. We ate at with Andrew and Wendie, and their boys and I saw a family who is striving to live like Jesus in a community that is not. They are beautiful people and I am encouraged even today by their faith. Every night, at my friends Bethan and David’s house, we would sit at the kitchen table and eat a late snack and share our thoughts about life with one another. My friend Michelle, who made the trip with me the year before, would sit there in her sweatshirt and pajama pants, looking all of 16 years old and make us laugh. Those pictures in my mind, as well as so many others from that week, are more precious to me than gold.

My parents took my family and my brother’s family to the mountains for the Fourth of July weekend. We made a trip with two vehicles, six adults and six kids. It was monumental…and so much fun. We laughed at the kids the entire time, and they were wonderful.

My kids have grown. They are best of friends and truly love each other. They are bright, funny, creative, and have a keen sense of right and wrong. They are exactly what I prayed for, and I love being their mom.

My marriage has grown. Dealing with grief and disappointment has taken a toll. Thankfully, I’m married to one who doesn’t give up. His faith in God is unshakeable. He is such a gift to me.

2012, I’m ready for you. I’m ready to see what God is going to do this year. My expectations are high, and I’m trusting. Yes, I’m trusting and I know He’s working. And we will go where He says go, and do what He tells us to do.

December 30, 2011 at 7:14 pm 1 comment

Ups and Downs

This week…okay, this MONTH…now that I think about it, this whole YEAR has kicked my hiney.

I can’t remember the last normal day I’ve had. Even if the events of my day are run-of-the-mill, life sneaks in and wops me upside the head.

Monday was Michael’s birthday, as evidenced in my last post. Man, I love that dude. I did not one thing for him. He understood, but I’m carrying some big time guilt over this.

You see, we had a lady call about our house. She can’t buy it, but wanted to rent. We’ve been against that for three years, but we’re at the place where we are beginning to consider other options. She wanted to see it yesterday (Wednesday). I spent Monday cleaning and grocery shopping and doing homework with the kids, and so on and so forth. I should’ve made a cake for my husband, but I was really busy. Tuesday, I skipped Bible study, and again worked all day on the house. Yesterday, I got everything in order, got dressed and was ready for her to show up.

She never did.

I missed several really important events waiting for someone that didn’t show up.

I finally left the house, drove to the school and got in the carpool line. As I was telling my friend about the events of the week, I realized that I left a candle burning at home.

I live a half hour away from the school. I was not planning to return home until after eight p.m.

I called the two people I know that live in my town and luckily one of them has a husband who can pop a lock with a credit card. The candle was extinguished and now I know who to point at if stuff comes up missing.

Oh, I kid. There’s nothing here to steal.

When I finally got in bed last night, mad about the wasted time, missed events, people that don’t show up, and mad at myself for leaving a candle burning…I started griping. And when I start griping, it’s quite dramatic.

Michael quietly listened to me, nodded appropriately, and said he was sorry it had been that kind of a day. But then he got up and left the room.

You know what I did? I used the first minutes of the day that we were together as my time to vent all personal aggravations. I stole OUR time and turned it into ME time. I threw negative words at him for half an hour.

I don’t blame him for leaving the room. I was sick of myself too.

He came back in the room a few minutes later, and I apologized. He understood. But then he asked me, not for the first time, to try to not let my circumstances dictate how I treat him or my family.

He is a godly, precious man.

And I’m a mess.

But you know what? Sometimes he’s a mess. And we balance each other out.

And it’s beautiful.

In a marriage, you have to ask hard things of each other at times. I’m glad he trusts me with his needs.

Yesterday, I was not on my A-game. But there was forgiveness and grace.

Today, the board was erased and we begin again…not letting our circumstances determine how we treat each other. Remembering that no matter what goes on around us, we love each other, need each other, depend on each other, respect each other and trust each other.

We don’t give up. Because we realize what we’ve been forgiven of by God, and in all of His perfect love and holiness, He continues to wipe the slate clean. He doesn’t let the circumstances of my life determine how much He loves me. Circumstances are temporal, passing, and unworthy of the attention I give them.

Marriage, while I’m on this earth, is the thing I can count on to be permanent. I can look past the circumstances and see Michael.

When I do that, I see Christ glorified in my most important earthly relationship.

Getting mad about a burning candle is no comparison.

 

 

 

November 17, 2011 at 2:50 pm Leave a comment

Grace

Thirty-eight years ago today, God gave me a gift.

I was not born yet. My parents had just started dating.

But God is sovereign, and in His perfect all-knowing sovereignty, He was providing for me, and blessing me and so many others.

Thirty-eight years ago today, Michael was born.

I have written many posts on how grateful I am for my husband. This year, however, I’m even more aware of how God has prepared us for this time in our life together and how He has given Michael to me to be our leader and head of our family.

Michael is the best person that I’ve ever known.

He is completely selfless. He lives to give to others. He serves us without complaint. He rarely asks for anything for himself, and uses everything he has to help others. He credits all good things in his life to God.

He’s humble and kind. He genuinely talks to people and when he asks how they are doing, it’s because he really wants to know. He doesn’t consider race, social status, gender, money or anything else when he talks to people. He just sees the person for who they are, someone created and loved so much by God.

He loves the world God made, and has a passion and desire to see the nations come to know Jesus. He wants to be out there, sharing the Gospel, because it changed him so completely. He wants others to know that change. He loves talking to others about what God has done in his life.

He’s a great athlete, but not competitive. He plays to have fun and spend time with people. He’s brilliantly smart, but can explain the most difficult concepts in a way that people like me can understand. He is one of the best teachers I’ve had the privilege of listening to.

He grasps God’s Word with an understanding of one who has studied for many, many years, though his own desire to know the Word is still relatively young.

He waits patiently on God to move us where we need to be in life, with our house and other life decisions. He knows God has a perfect plan, and while there have been bumps in the road, Michael is committed to following that plan, every step of the way.

In the twenty years that we’ve been friends, he has never one time befriended someone for his own benefit. He has never done something because he was looking out for his own interests. Even before he knew Christ as Lord of his life, he treated others better than himself.

He is a loving father, and cares deeply about our kids spiritual lives. He loves to play with them, and spends a lot of his free time playing board games, video games, Barbie, Star Wars, Legos, and coloring pictures.

He is fun to be with, can talk about anything and makes me laugh. His opinion matters greatly to me. He loves me for who I am, and our marriage is the best earthly thing I’ve ever experienced.

Thirty-eight years ago, God gave me a gift. I consider it pure grace, because I could never deserve a relationship like this one. Thirty-eight years ago, God brought into the world the best person I will ever know on this earth. And he’s the best person I know because he reflects the image of the one who made him and died for him. Just typing those words makes my hands tremble at the magnitude of what God has done in my husband’s life.

Thirty-eight years ago, God was sovereign. God is still sovereign today. He knows who we are and where we are going. He has changed us and made us new creations, and we praise Him for it!

I love Michael Albritton. I loved him as my friend twenty years ago, and I will love him when I take my last breath. I am so proud to be his wife, and will spend the rest of our days together on earth striving to be to him what he is to me.

Happy Birthday, Michael. It’s your birthday, yet I get the best gift. I’m so glad you were born.

 

 

November 14, 2011 at 2:28 pm Leave a comment

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