Friday, November 14, 2008

It's Official

Well, after many, many days of discussion, our sweet baby girl has a name. I thought it only appropriate that big sister Lauren gets to tell my faithful blog readers the winner.
video
Thanks to all who participated in my little blog poll. Your input helped :)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Round Two....Another Girl!

After a trip to the ultrasound tech on Monday, it is officially confirmed that baby number two is a GIRL! I was only slightly surprised, since 6 of the last pregnant women either at church or who have gone to church with us are having boys, I knew the odds were in our favor for another girl. At this point, my sister-in-law is the only other pregnant person I know having a girl. And, after pulling out Lauren's old ultrasound pictures. I am 100% sure that this baby is most definately a girl too.

I really thought at the beginning that this baby would be a boy, but when everyone else's ultrasounds started coming back boy, I realized quickly that I was probably wrong, and after a few minutes on Monday of a little mind shifting, I am thrilled at the idea of having another little girl.

And rest assured, those of you who know me well (which I'm assuming is all of you reading if you're actually taking the time to visit my blog), this baby will also be able to call the hogs, sing "Take me out to the Ballgame", and enjoy watching March Madness as much as her big sister does! After all, this baby's due date is in March!

I have watched Lauren so many times over the last few days now, and I am so thankful that God in His infinite wisdom has chosen us to raise 2 precious girls to be daughters of His. I have such a close relationship with my mother, and I only pray that I will have the same kind of relationship with my girls. Poor Jeremy is outnumbered now, but I don't think he'd have it any other way. I'm sure that both of these girls will turn out to be tomboys, and I'm perfectly ok with that...in fact, it's pretty much what I'm expecting. Especially because both of them are surrounded by boys to be friends with!

The next big step now is deciding on names, so here's where you come in. If you don't mind after reading our choices, just leave a comment letting us know which name is your favorite. With Lauren, her first name was already picked out, we only had to decide on a middle name which wasn't too hard. Had we had a boy, his name would have been Jackson James, but we're kind of stuck on another girl name.

Here are the choices:

My top pick is Caroline Grace. I also like Jillian Caroline if we wanted to stick with our names starting with the same letters, (Jeremy, Leanne, Lauren, Jillian) but I'm not set on doing that - it's just a thought. Caroline is still my fave.

Jeremy likes Claudia because that was his grandmother's name. It's not my favorite partially because of its meaning, but considering the other grandmother names we have to choose from (Dorothy, Louise, and Irene) it's probably the least older sounding name.

Anyway, any preferences?



Here's a profile of baby #2. We don't have a scanner anymore, so I had to take a picture of this picture. Hopefully, you can at least see a pretty good profile of her. I think she has an adorable nose!


Our sweet Halloween ghost!



Trick-or-treating at our friend's house!

Lauren had a great halloween, but I really think she loved being at home to hand out candy to other trick or treaters as much as she did actually trick or treating
herself!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween Y'all or My Husband Has Mad Skillz with Power Tools

Since Halloween is tonight, I thought it only right that I share a few pictures of our trip to the pumpkin patch and our jack-o-lantern this year. I love Halloween, and by the end of tomorrow, we will have been to 5 different Halloween events over the last few days - yippee! I'll try to upload a few pictures soon of Lauren in her "plain old ghost" costume - which is exactly what she chose and how she kept telling us what she wanted to be for Halloween, even after much talk from Mommy and Daddy to try to change her mind. She is of course, a sweet ghost, which she will also tell you, and had we not found the design we made our pumpkin into this year, Jeremy would have been carving yet another ghost pumpkin...thankfully, she changed her mind with a little prodding from us. Although, yesterday as we were setting our pumpkins out, she told me she wished she had a ghost pumpkin. I wish I knew where the fondness for ghosts has come from. One of these days, many years from now, she will look back and be amazed at the lengths her father went to for her to have a super-cool pumpkin this year. Anyway, since we're having a party here tonight, I'd best get on with the posting so that I can finish the cooking and cleaning. Happy Halloween Y'all!!


I absolutely love my child's face in this picture!


Picking out her pumpkin.


Trying to get the monstrosity that is our family pumpkin home safely. I'm pretty sure it's the biggest pumpkin we've ever had. Kudos to my sweet mom for making sure the pumpkin was just as safe as the rest of the family.


The finished product...I'm still amazed at it. I think this is one of my favorite pumpkins ever!


I think Lauren likes it too.


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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A New Post! A New Post!

Over on her blog, my friend Lynley recently posted 100 things about herself in honor of her 500th post. While I have not posted 500 times (at the rate I'm going, I'd be lucky to hit 500 posts by the time my youngest graduates from college), I started thinking that maybe a 100 things about me post would be a good way to get back into blogging - hopefully on a more regular basis. So in honor of my once again return to blogging, here are 100 things about me...some you may know, some you may not.

1. I was born in Missouri.

2. I've lived in Missouri, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas.

3. In spite of living in the South my entire life, I am sometimes mistaken for being from up north because of my accent (or lack thereof).

4. I have one precious 3 year old daughter that looks just like I did at her age, and I'm currently 14 and 1/2 weeks pregnant with our second child.

5. I love being pregnant! I have blissfully easy first trimesters (I'm so sorry Hannah and Leah!) and am fascinated by the miracle of pregnancy.

6. Jeremy and I met in college and knew after our first date that we would get married.

7. We started talking about wedding dates less than 2 weeks into our relationship.

8. The first house we lived in after we got married was also one of the stops on our first date. (Some of Jeremy's friends lived there and had a group of us over after our date.)

9. Jeremy proposed to me the night before my birthday after a whirlwind trip to the Old Mill in Little Rock and then climbing Sugarloaf Mountain in Heber Springs and then a trip back to Searcy.

10. He proposed to me in a swing on the Harding campus. It was the first time we'd ever sat in the infamous Harding swings together...thus breaking the traditional "three swings and a ring" motto.

11. The year that Jeremy and I got married was also the year of my parents 25th anniversary, my grandparents 50th anniversary, and had my great-grandparents still been alive, it would have been their 75th anniversary. I am quite confident that this trend will not continue with Lauren as she would be 17 when she got married, and I'm pretty sure her daddy's not even going to allow her to date until she's 23 or so.

12. My closest girlfriend throughout middle, junior, and high school has red hair, and we ended up being pregnant at the same time with our first children - who are less than 2 months apart.

13. My closest girlfriend now has red hair and is also pregnant (with her first child), and we are due a week and a half apart.

14. I have the closest group of girlfriends I have had since high school at this point in my life, and I am thankful everyday that God has blessed me with them.

15. I was baptized on my in-laws wedding anniversary. And as best as he can remember, Jeremy was baptized on my parents wedding anniversary. We didn't know each other back then :)

16. I have a younger brother who is almost 3 years to the day younger than me. Happy Birthday Friday Chad!

17. In high school, my brother was one of my best friends...he still is.

18. I act at least half my age when my brother and I are together (he does too)..much to the dismay and amazement of our spouses and parents.

19. When we were little, we used to get in trouble for making scenes because we were laughing so much. On second thought, maybe we never got in trouble for it, but we always made scenes because we laughed so hard. Um, scratch that when we were little part...we still do.

20. I was a runner up in a beauty pageant when I was little. After that crushing defeat, I was never in another beauty pageant.

21. I have never broken any bones.

22. I still have my tonsils, appendix, spleen, and gallbladder.

23. I never had a cavity until after Lauren was born...now I've had 5.

24. For the first two years of Lauren's life, I did proofreading for a gospel publishing company...mostly in languages I can't read or speak.

25. For the last year, I've been formatting commentaries for the same company in the Indian languages of Hindi and Punjabi. I neither read nor speak either of these languages.

26. I've been married over 1/3 of my life.

27. I love the holiday trifecta of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas!

28. Fall is my favorite time of year.

29. I am a HUGE sports fan...mostly baseball, college football, and college basketball.

30. Jeremy is not a sports fan at all. We always joke that God has a sense of humor since we ended up together.

31. I love the Chicago Cubs, and I have already taught Lauren to sing "Go Cubs Go."

32. I also love the Razorbacks, and I have already taught Lauren to call the hogs. We're working on the fight song.

33. I have sung during the seventh inning stretch at Wrigley Field when Harry Carey was still alive.

34. My dream summer vacation would be a road trip to visit every ballpark in the Major League.

35. Until I worked as an accountant with quarter end closings that I had to take care of, I took off of work every year after I graduated from college to watch the Opening Day of baseball.

36. I've also been known to take off work during March Madness.

37. I have filled out a bracket for March Madness since I believe my sophomore year of high school - it might have been my junior year though...it was so long ago.

38. I no longer have to take off work for Opening Day or March Madness since I am blessed to stay home with Lauren.

39. I am instilling a love of sports in my child even at her tender age.

40. Jeremy doesn't understand why I think it's necessary to watch some games crouched in the floor yelling at the television when the players can't hear me anyway.

41. I love to read when I have time.

42. One of my favorite things to read is cookbooks.

43. I also love to cook.

44. I love to sing.

45. In high school, I was a member of choir, and several other ensembles that I had to try out for, including a female equivalent of a barbershop quartet.

46. I was Nurse #2 in South Pacific my sophomore year of high school.

47. I co-wrote a musical with a few other people named "The Show Must Go On" in one of my high school drama classes. It was loosely based on "Weekend at Bernie's" but set in a high school during a production of a Shakespeare play. I was the character who was killed when a fake prop sword was replaced with a real sword. I spent most of the short musical tied to a dolly and rolled around the stage.

48. I have been to Michigan, Chicago, Texas, and Mexico on mission trips.

49. I had more long-distance relationships in high school than relationships with guys that lived in the same town as me.

50. I got very good at writing letters in high school.

51. I was a delegate to Girls State.

52. I went to Washington in junior high and loved every minute of it. I'd love to go back now though since 2 of my most vivid memories of that trip consist of one of the guys from the school we went with from Texas getting in major trouble for chewing gum at Monticello, then getting in even more trouble for spitting said gum off the back veranda at Monticello, and watching Color Me Badd on Beverly Hills 90210in one of the hotel rooms on the trip. Good times my friends.

53. I love the Back to the Future movies.

54. Flying makes me nervous...even though my brother's a pilot and assures me it's safe.

55. I love musicals and musical theatre - a love I share with my husband.

56. I've seen lots of musicals, but the one that I loved the most that almost made me want to yell "Bravo" at the end was "Les Mis." My favorite music from a musical is "Wicked."

57. My most surreal theatre moment was seeing "Spamalot" at the Orpheum in Memphis and being amazed at the amount of laughter at so many jokes that only Monty Python fans would get. In my head, Monty Python and theatre-goers aren't really the same people - except of course for Jeremy and me.

58. I have a very close relationship with my mother that I only hope Lauren and I will have someday.

59. I graduated with a degree in Accounting, although I am a rare personality type to be an Accountant.

60. One of the only regrets in my life is that I majored in Accounting. :) I should have been a librarian.

61. I have been to the top of Pikes Peak, Mount Evans, and several mountains in the Rocky Mountain National Park..all while being 7 weeks pregnant. Thankfully, I only had to ride in a car...not climb them.

62. I tend to get motion sick when I'm pregnant, but not any other time in my life.

63. I love zoos. At one point this summer, I had been to 3 different zoos, in 3 different states, in 3 weeks.

64. I am a huge Brad Paisley fan (another thing I share with my brother). I have seen him in concert once, and it was one of the best concerts of my life. His guitar skills amaze me.

65. I have seen the Eagles in concert twice.

66. I have seen Keith Urban in concert twice..once when I was pregnant with Lauren. She moved and danced for the first 3 songs. He is also an amazing guitar/banjo/piano player.

67. I own every CD Brad Paisley and Keith Urban have ever recorded and am giddy that they've recorded a duet together now.

68. I have also seen Sister Hazel, Kenny Chesney, Hootie and the Blowfish, Rascal Flatts, and James Taylor in concert.

69. I have a wide variety of tastes in music.

70. In high school, 2 friends and I started a singing group called "TLC." We did not sing "Waterfalls," nor did we dance around in skimpy clothes or sing hip-hop. However, like the other TLC, we called ourselves that because those were our initials.

71. Our biggest venue was opening an area-wide devotional one time for the gospel acapella group Straight Company.

72. I love the show "The Office." That's what she said - hee hee :)

73. I have been on 3 cruises. Two with Jeremy's family, and one with friends.

74. On one of those cruises, I climbed El Castillo at Chichen Itza.

75. On the first cruise we ever took, most of the passengers on the boat were stranded in the town of Merida overnight while the boat went on to Cozumel without us. My two nieces were still on the boat with a nanny when it left. We rode buses across the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico to catch up with the boat the next day.

76. On another cruise, we went snorkeling with a diving company in Cozumel. I was six months pregnant and extremely awkward. I pretty much fell out of the boat trying to get into the water and scared all of the crewman working on the boat that day.

77. I am not graceful...even when I'm not pregnant. In fact, pregnancy only increases my awkwardness.

78. I am passing that lack of grace on to my child.

79. I have no filter when I'm pregnant.

80. I also suffer tremendously from what my sister-in-law has termed "placenta brain" when I am pregnant. I'm lucky I can remember where I live.

81. I love Diet Coke, and sadly, so does my 3 year old.

82. I went to New York City in December of 2001. Jeremy and I stayed in a hotel right on Times Square.

83. We saw Peter Jennings on David Letterman, Kevin Spacey waved at me from the studios of the Today show (you know he did Jeremy), and I met Brian Kilmeade and Steve Doocy from Fox News Today after their show was over.

84. Jeremy stayed behind in the hotel room getting ready for the class he was taking the morning I went over to the Fox News studios. The television was on Fox News when I left, and he just happened to be putting his shoes on and looked up at the television about the same time I made it to the studio windows to grin and wave like an idiot on national television. I think my parents still have the tape of me in the Fox News windows and us in the audience of Letterman somewhere at their house. A few months later, my brother appeared in the same windows at Fox when he visited New York.

85. I love Mexican food. In fact, I would eat it about every other day if I didn't think my family would get sick of it.

86. I bought Veggietales and Disney DVD's long before we had a child.

87. I love taking naps...especially on Sundays.

88. I also love snow, and yet we live in an area that rarely gets any.

89. I started taking piano lessons when I was 4. I cannot play any instrument now. I can pick out songs on the piano, but it's very painful for all listening.

90. I have had 2 dogs that I really remember in my life. One was a German Shepherd named Kizzi. We got her when I was 10...she lived until I was 24. The other is Buddy. We've had him for 10 and 1/2 years now.

91. I love big dogs, and until I got pregnant with Lauren, Jeremy and I volunteered at a Great Dane rescue. I will make exceptions for a few small dogs (namely Ella).

92. I have been known to dress Buddy up - especially for Halloween.

93. I love entertaining and am happiest when our house is full of family and friends.

94. My aunt was 16 when I was born...I was 16 when her daughter was born, and now her daughter will be 16 when this child is born.

95. I have never flown overseas.

96. In second grade, I was convinced that Davy Jones of the Monkees was going to marry me someday. I cried when I found out he was older than my parents. I'm thankful now that he was :)

97. I am not a morning person, and right now, I'm not a night person either.

98. I rarely get anywhere on time. My friends know this about me and yet love me anyway. Of course, my friends know lots of things about me and love me anyway. I'm pretty sure I'll never know why.

99. I go by my middle name. My first name is Carol..after my mother.

100. I love playing board games, card games, trivia games, and party games. However, not many people I'm around do, so I don't get to play them very often.


If you've made it this far, thanks for reading. Hopefully, I'll be back to posting more frequently now. At least, I'm going to try hard...for a couple of weeks anyway!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The First 1,095 Days

3 years ago today, this was me:






Lauren entered our world exactly 3 years ago tonight at 8:50. I went to the hospital at 8:00 that morning after 2 hours of back labor at home, and after 13 more hours of labor and an hour and a half of pushing, this precious baby (if 8 pounds and 14 ounces can be called baby) was born:








After a full day of labor, and a total of 19 family members arriving throughout the day to wait patiently in the waiting room for our sweet girl to make her arrival, she finally did. I love this picture of my mom telling everyone waiting that she was finally here. (I, or course, was slightly preoccupied, but really hated to miss the fun time everyone was having in the lobby without me!)



Fast forward 3 years, and that sweet baby is growing up too quickly in front of my eyes. I cannot believe we've had almost 1100 days together, and I cannot imagine my world without her.

My sweet Lauren,

3 years ago today my love, the nurse placed you in my arms for the very first time. After almost 10 months of waiting for you to grow big and strong, God decided it was time, and out you came - not without a little bit of a struggle though! You get that stubbornness from your Daddy I'm sure. As we exchanged glances for the first time, I swear the twinkle in your eyes said, "I'll be easy on you two...I can tell you're newbies."

From that very first meeting until now, my love for you has only grown more and more. I love the fact that I am blessed to stay home with you, and I am so thankful for the family you were born into. You had 21 people at the hospital waiting to welcome you to us (counting Daddy and me), and numerous other family that came to see you over the course of the next week. You were born into this family, and God placed you here for a reason. And even at the tender age of 3, I am beginning to see more of that reason develop. You are loved little one. Loved by us, loved by your grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, your church family, and by God. God has loaned you to us, and I am so thankful for the blessing you are, not just to us, but to everyone you come in contact with. You are my shopping buddy, and even though Daddy thinks we shop too much, you are a joy to the regulars at the stores we visit. One sweet woman at Target brags about you to other customers even when you're not with me.

You have a purpose sweet girl. You are caring and gracious. Even today, as people have wished you "Happy Birthday," you've made sure to tell each one of them "thank you" in return. You are a sweet, sweet girl that loves being around others, and I am loving seeing the compassionate side of you develop - which I know isn't easy at this age. Should God choose to bless us with another child, I have no doubt that you will be a wonderful big sister - you are practicing up with your friends C. and L. whom I can tell you love dearly, and who smile and laugh at you in return. You are growing so very quickly, and while I may grow weary somedays (which is a wonderful word to describe it) I have to catch my breath and go on knowing that the days of being weary will be over all too soon, replaced with just memories of the few short years I have you as my baby, but hopefully not replaced with days where you cannot believe that God gave you the stupidest parents on earth. I am so thankful that God has blessed our family with you, and that He chose us to be your family on this side of Heaven. I have loved having you as an only child the last 3 years, and should our family grow from 3 to 4 in the future, my love for you will only increase. (And no dear readers, I have no big news to spill on my blog :) - I've been cornered once at church for that already - which I believe is how rumors get started!)

So, as we celebrate your 3rd birthday, know that you are loved by so many people - all blood relatives - some by the blood that flows in our veins, and others by the blood that flowed on the Cross. My prayer for you my precious girl is that God will continue to bless you with the sweet spirit you are already cultivating and that God will bless us with wisdom and patience as we strive to raise you in His shadow to become the child He wants you to be.

WIth all the love in my heart,
Your Mama

Friday, May 30, 2008

Everyday Surprises

On Monday, as I was mowing the yard to help Jeremy out since he was working on the pergola (which is almost finished with a first coat of paint and will hopefully be done in time for Lauren's birthday party next Saturday), I saw something dart out in front of the lawnmower. I immediately calmed down when I realized it was this (and not a snake):



Way cuter than a snake - let me expand on the story...

For those of you who know me, you know I don't do snakes. Period...ever. I can't stand the reptile house at the zoo, and I can't handle the thought of snakes at all. Last year, we were having company over one night, and I needed to make a quick run to the store to grab a couple of things for dinner. I loaded Lauren in the car seat and headed around to the driver's side of the truck when I heard a hissing noise. I was on the phone and told my friend I thought my tire must be leaking - until I looked back and realized there was a very large snake coiled up in my garage hissing and ready to strike. I quickly jumped in my truck and almost hyperventilated. I remember yelling into the phone that there was a snake in my garage to my friend. I called our local college in town to see if perhaps the biology department would be interested in this snake. They informed me that they were not in the snake catching business. So, I called my husband (who happened to be in a meeting with his boss). And I might have called one or two or four times with panic in my voice escalating with each phone call as I asked him when he was going to leave his meeting and come home to kill the snake so that Lauren and I could go back in the house. At this point, I'm terrified at the thought of opening the garage door and backing out in case I back over the darn thing. Which would of course solve my problem, but then I'd have to deal with the after-effects of running over something - which is also not fun. Jeremy told me he would take care of it when he got home, and I was flabbergasted. I could not believe he wouldn't run out of the meeting with his boss to come home and kill the snake while I was at the grocery store.


So, I went to the grocery store and got home - hoping that the snake was gone, but also hoping that if it was there, I could at least see where it was. Neither of those things happened, so I grabbed Lauren out of her car seat, and quickly ran into the house through the front door - almost hyperventilating again just thinking about the fact that there was a large snake in my garage.

Jeremy came home a few minutes later and had about given up on the snake still being in the garage because it wasn't out in plain sight when he got there. I immediately let him know that that was unacceptable, and everything was coming out of the garage so that we could find the snake. When we moved in, Jeremy built a nice workbench for himself on the left side of our garage. In the last 4 years, he has accumulated quite a collection of particle board and various wood pieces. I knew with every fiber in my being that the snake was hiding somewhere behind all of that wood. I wished him the best of luck, and went in to await the noise of a metal shovel hitting a concrete floor several times. A few minutes later, I heard that glorious noise, and I knew without a doubt that the snake was no more. I still have no idea what kind of snake it was - except that it was very very dark and about 3 and 1/2 to 4 feet long. And really, that was more than I ever wanted to know about the snake in the first place.

For weeks after that, I could not bring myself to walk anywhere close to the spot where the snake was or where the snake met its demise. I really was almost paralyzed with fear when I would think about it.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I was mowing, and I almost mowed over a 3 and 1/2 foot long snakeskin. Now, for those of you that really know me, you know there are very few times that I turn full on girly-girl. However, upon seeing the snakeskin, I immediately shut off the mower, screamed,"Oh sweet mercy," and ran screaming and arms flailing into the house. I really wish someone had been filming me, because I'm sure I would collapse into peals of laughter if I could see how stupid I looked. I'm giggling now just thinking about it. Anyway, I tell you this to say, I hate snakes...but I love bunnies ~ especially baby ones that live in our yard. Here's a picture of the mama in the rabbit hole:



Pretty cool huh? Lauren thinks it's really neat that we have baby rabbits living in our yard and even enjoyed leaving out some baby carrots for the baby rabbits - of which they ate a couple.

I leave you with a couple of sweet pictures of my almost 3 year old who is spending a few days with Mimi and Pappaw while Mommy and Daddy spend a few days trying to get some stuff finished up around the house (i.e. pergola) before this little one turns 3. Have a great weekend everyone!



And no, Lauren's not rocking the side ponytail 80's style...the other ponytail is just hidden by the camera angle and her noggin.


Friday, May 23, 2008

New Orleans

This is the post that I have been writing in my head for almost a week and a half now. Last week, Jeremy and I made our first trip back to New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina hit. Needless to say, I was slightly nervous about taking Lauren with us, but I should have known God was taking care of us! We got off I-10 outside of Gautier, and traveled Highway 90 pretty much all the way to Louisiana. I know that that entire section of the Gulf Coast was hit really hard by the storm, and driving down the Beach Highway seeing multiple foundations and stairs that led nowhere, I was struck by how much history we lost in Katrina. Gorgeous homes that dated back over 100 years are gone completely now because of this storm. I also know, because of my family in South Alabama, that hurricanes are a part of life down there – kind of like tornados in the Midwest and South, and earthquakes on the West Coast. But, like tornados and earthquakes, I don’t think there’s any way to really prepare for the devestation a hurricane or other natural disaster can do. Driving through Mississippi, I felt like I was pretty much prepared to see New Orleans too. Driving into New Orleans though, I realized I wasn’t.

When Jeremy and I started dating, New Orleans was our gateway. 3 times in 1996, I either flew into or out of the Louis Armstrong airport. Jeremy lived in Alabama, but it was always cheaper for me to fly to New Orleans. I remember being 19 and walking down Bourbon street for the first time in awe of the debauchery in broad daylight :) But, there was always a small sense in that year, that while New Orleans wasn't home, it was the city that took me to Jeremy. And when you're young and in love, and apart from each other for long periods of time, that means a lot.

After we got married in 1997, our trips to New Orleans became a little less frequent. We still went, but it was cut back to maybe once a year, but we always got to stay longer than a day at that point. We’ve had several short stays and one week-long vacation with friends in that city. And each time we go, I realize how much more I want to see.

From the first time I walked down the Riverwalk, to the first time I ate beignets at Cafe Du Monde, to exploring the French Quarter and French Market, I fell in love with certain aspects of the city. I love the attitude of the people there, the deep south roots the city has, the gorgeous architecture of some of the places in the French Quarter, and especially some of the houses in the Garden District. I love standing outside Preservation Hall at night and listening to some of the best jazz I've ever heard in my life. Music permeates that city like no other city in America..and it's not like Beale Street in Memphis where the majority of the music is blues. It's not uncommon for jazz, zydeco, cajun, gospel, blues, and a few other types of music to all blend together. I fell in love with zydeco music at the Rock and Bowl many years ago, and I had a blast this trip seeing Lauren dancing along with some jazz, some zydeco, and even some gospel! I think one of the reasons that New Orleans resonates with me so much is because of my love for music, and there is no other city in the world that does music like New Orleans.

We were in Alabama 2 weeks before Hurricane Katrina hit, and talked about going to New Orleans for a couple of days while we were down there. How I have wished we had!

Driving into New Orleans last week, crossing the I-10 bridge and knowing that some of the sections of the bridge had been washed out in the storm was slightly nerve-wracking for me ~ especially when I could visualize exactly what the pictures of that bridge looked like in the days following Katrina. Once we got into the outskirts of the city, certain things struck me ~ like seeing a Wal-Mart Jeremy and I had gone to years before boarded up and abandoned, or looking into neighborhoods that looked like they should have been full of children riding bikes up and down streets or people outside enjoying the day and talking to each other. Instead, there might have been 1 or 2 houses that were lived in, and most of the other houses in the neighborhood had not been touched in 3 years. Windows were broken, houses were gutted, and one of the things I remember the most were the massive dumpsters parked on each street with tons of carpet and sheet rock and other building materials. I couldn’t believe that almost 3 years later, there were certain parts of the city that looked almost untouched.

In late August and early September of 2005, I watched in horror as the most terrible natural disaster I have ever seen unfolded on national television. I watched, captivated, as a city that I loved, rapidly descended into complete and utter chaos, while it looked like no one was going to do anything. A mandatory evacuation was issued, but in a city that relies on public transportation with thousands of people that didn't even own vehicles, no arrangements were made to help those people get out of the city. And while there's enough blame to cover all of the levels of government, I do think that in the aftermath, you see the effects of poor planning on every level. No one, from the city government on up to the national government had any idea what to do, or where to even start.

Lauren was about 10 weeks old or so when Katrina hit, and I remember being so impacted by the stories of mothers and their children up on the I-10 overpass that I had driven over so many times, with no water or shade in the blazing heat and humidity of New Orleans in early September. I watched with tears, as a man described on television how his wife and two daughters were swept away right out of his arms, and I finally got to a point where I had to turn the television off because it was consuming me. I was depressed a lot, and I couldn’t go to sleep at night for long periods of time because of all of the images I was seeing on TV.

I ended up doing some volunteer work with the families that were evacuated to our town, and I don't say any of this to say that what I went through was even a small small fraction of what those poor families went through, but I came out of Katrina with a deeper understanding of something I have struggled with at various walks in my faith. I struggled for a long time after that with questions like how could God let something like that happen? And a few months after the fact, and it's something I realize even more after we've been there now, I think there are things that God allows to happen if for no other reason than to us to be His hands and feet. People ask where God is in situations like that, and I have to say that He’s in the face of every single person that helped clean up or offer assistance. He’s in the hands and feet of the volunteers who went down there to work with complete strangers to let them know that they were not alone, and they were not going to have to go through the aftermath by themselves. I know that prayers are answered, but I don’t understand at times why God doesn’t step in and prevent suffering – from natural disasters or situations like the earthquake in China or the typhoon in Burma, or the thousands of hungry children around the world that pray for food every night. But I do know that God expects me to do something about it. Could God stop it if He so chose? Absolutely, but maybe there are times that He chooses to let things happen so that His people can show others a visible reminder of a God that loves each of us more than we can imagine. Whether it’s actually going to do mission work in another country or state, or raising Lauren to have the desire to do that, or sending a check every month to sponsor a child in a third-world country, or just donating food or clothes to a local shelter, I think God calls us to make a difference on a daily basis ~ not just when disasters strike. Although, I think sometimes we have to have those disasters as reminders to not get too complacent in our daily walks. I also think that each time some kind of crisis hits, it creates (or should be creating) a little bit more of a longing to go Home, and it shows us just how much we are aliens here.

New Orleans is rebuilding, and I have to say it was so very hard for me last week to not ask every single person we interacted with what their Katrina story was – because I knew that everyone that lived down there was affected by the storm. Not everyone lost all they had, but everyone lost something – whether it was their homes, their possessions, or just a feeling of security or even innocence, everyone lost something. As we left the city last Friday, I was amazed at the number of tents set up under the I-10 overpass by the Superdome. In a space of maybe 1/10th of a mile, there were probably 50 tents that people were living in. I remember some tents from earlier visits, but I had never seen that many there before. There is still so much more that needs to be done. I do know that my prayers for that region have been renewed – especially after seeing how far they have to go. And I cannot wait to go back again to see how far they’ve come.

I know this post has been mostly just a bunch of rambling, but I have needed an outlet to get part of the emotions I felt last week out, so if you’re still reading thanks! And if you really are still reading, say a little prayer tonight of thankfulness that you have a bed to sleep in and food to eat and clothes to wear, and say a little prayer for the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast as they are still struggling to rebuild almost 3 years later.