oops

Well, here it is a week after Fat Tuesday. Not one blog post.

That doesn’t mean I’m not writing. I have at least two very intense drafts, but I find myself being more guarded with my words here. I’m taking my time. I want to say things right.

I suppose that’s the juxtaposition of social media: say whatever you think whenever you want.

I put a lot of thought into all my posts – including social media – and I want to encourage everyone to do the same. More on that later.

I want to know something: tell me your top six favorite animated Disney movies. (But MC, isn’t it usually a “top five” kind of thing? Yes, but my blog, my rules. I have six.)

Here’s mine in no particular order:

The Princess and the Frog
Frozen
Beauty and the Beast
Mulan
Aladdin
The Lion King

author out.

forty days of rest

My, my, my. I haven’t written an original blog post since October.
That was last year.
I apologize.
I plan to return with several Sunday Book Club posts. I’ve done a lot of reading.
Here’s what else I’ve been up to, in quasi-chronological order:

November:
-I had my wisdom teeth removed — all five of them — and provided my dear husband and a few lucky friends with some post-anesthesia entertainment.
-I got to have lunch with Hope and Rose Stanphill and their father Steve. They have family in the Atlanta area. How amazing is that?
-I turned 23.
-I spent Thanksgiving with my family in Tennessee and had a wonderful week with them.

December:
-I started a new job – my first real job – at the North American Mission Board. My job title is Production Specialist, and I support video and visual design production. It’s been wonderful so far.
-I saw my first Atlanta concert in the Phillips Arena — Justin Timberlake. Let me tell you, Christopher and I had a blast.
-topher and I threw a big Christmas party at our apartment and discovered that it can fit 17 people semi-comfortably.
-I spent Christmas with the Mizes in Georgia – my first Christmas not in Tennessee. We had a family-wide nerf gun fight, so I’d say it was pretty great. (Seriously, though. Chris and I hit the in-law lottery jackpot.)

January:
-My sister Jayme spent a few days with me early in 2014. It was so great to have quality time with my sister in  the eastern time zone.
-I applied for/received my passport, because Christopher and I will be traveling to New Zealand for most of November 2014.
-Season 3 of Sherlock finally premiered in America, and I became a woman obsessed (again). If you haven’t watched Sherlock, you should.
-Chris and I adopted a Boston Terrier-French Bulldog named Dr. Watson from a rescue organization, and he has us completely wrapped around his paws.
-I spent about five hours on the road (to travel about 30 miles) in the Atlanta Snowpocolypse of 2014 (the first one). I was lucky enough to actually make it home — I had coworkers who had to abandon their cars on the road and seek shelter overnight.

February:
-I became an aunt! My sister-in-law had the most beautiful baby in the world on February 5th. Her name is Scarlett and she’s perfect.
-I finally spent Valentine’s Day with Christopher – first time in almost four years of dating. He cooked dinner and had three bouquets of flowers waiting for me when I got home from work. I made him a cookie cake. We watched House of Cards season one and the first two episodes of season two (holy smokes, by the way.) It was a wonderful weekend.

So here we are at March. March 2014 means that I’m two months shy of being married for a year. Time really does fly fast when you’re having fun. This first year of marriage has been the best year of my life.

March also means spring. I still consider fall my favorite season, but spring is inching up the list. I like the transitional seasons. Not too hot, not too cold. All you need is a light jacket.

And on this Fat Tuesday, the fourth of March, I’ve decided to take a break from Facebook for the Lent season. I’m not Catholic or Lutheran, but I do enjoy participating in Lent. Last year I gave up Chic-fil-A.  That was a tremendous exercise in self-control.

This year, I want to be more intentional in my fasting. I’m not just giving up Facebook – I’m going to replace the time I spend on Facebook with time writing on this blog. This will be therapeutic and productive — just ask my husband. He has to tell me to stop looking at social media sometimes, because he can physically see the frustration and anger building in my face as I read various posts.

I will very much have a presence online, and I plan to spend these 40 days writing things that are important to me–things that have been on my heart and in my head for a long time.

I’ll write about life, love, friendships, religion, politics, marriage, books, food, and everything in between.

I hope you will follow me on this journey, and that my words will give you inspiration, laughter, and perhaps a refreshing viewpoint.

And since I plan to publish this link to my Facebook page, I’ve bought an accountability insurance policy. I’m not going to say I will post every single day, but I will try.

If you’re giving up something for the Lent season, I wish you the best of luck.

Facebook, I’ll see you in 40 days.

Everyone here…see y’all tomorrow.

oh death, where is your sting?

This is a re-post from my old blog (marychasebreedlove.wordpress.com).

 

Written October 2012

I experienced so much this summer, and I promise I’m going to finish telling the story.  But right now, I just can’t keep this story in my head. I have to share it. It’s too beautiful to keep to myself.

This summer, specifically on June 27 and July 6, my heart was broken. I was wrecked.

And it was one of the best things I’ve ever experienced.

After two very incredible but very exhausting weeks of camp, we ventured to Eagle Eyrie Conference Center in Lynchburg, Virginia. Needless to say, our entire staff was looking forward to this trip. Eagle Eyrie meant three weeks of camp (which means no Ryder loading for a while), a conference center instead of a college campus, and our first large week of camp. When we arrived to the warm, welcoming staff at Eagle Eyrie and the hotel-style rooms and beds, we instantly felt at home.

Once we got settled in, I noticed a lot of mail had already been sent to campers who would be at camp the following week. Box after box and letter after letter were addressed to two girls: Rose and Hope Stanphill. The first thought I had was, “good heavens, those are some lucky kids.” They got more mail that week than I think I have in my entire life.

We set up everything and got ready for a huge week of camp. Some staffers from CK2 joined us that week along with our CK6 angels since the numbers were large (600+ kids) and we began registration.

Camp registration was something I looked forward to doing. I got to meet each church leader personally before the week started. I could hear the kids outside getting excited about the week. Our staff had the best night of sleep we’ve had since I think most of us were on Christmas break, and the weather was beautiful.

After about half of the churches arrived, the group leader from Point Harbor Community Church in Chesapeake, VA came to registration. I recognized Point Harbor because 1.) I thought it was a cool name for a church, and 2.) The mail addressed to Rose and Hope were under “care of Point Harbor Community Church.”

The group leader from the church was a wonderful, beautiful woman named Cathy. As soon as we met, I instantly liked her. She had a large group of kids–one of the largest during the week. During the registration process of CentriKid, there is a time for group leaders to share their children’s special needs with us. “Special needs” mean anything that our staff needs to know about–family issues, food allergies, birthdays, emotional issues–anything that could hinder them from having a fantastic week of camp. Every night of registration, our staff took time to read through every single special attention card, pray for the kids, and delegate staffers to invest in those kids a little extra during the week.

As Cathy was giving us the special attention cards, she stopped and directly told us about two. Rose and Hope Stanphill.

She explained to us that Rose and Hope’s mother was battling cancer. She has been diagnosed in late February/March, and the cancer was aggressive. Through tears held back, she told us there was a chance the girls could lose their mother this week.

I was stunned. Our staff was stunned. We made it our goal to make this week of camp the best week of Rose and Hope’s summer.

Tuesday, or the “first full fabulous day of camp” as we call it, rolled around and was fantastic. Kids were having fun and were learning about the Gospel. Doesn’t get much better than that. Cathy won the honor of Gold Metal Group Leader that morning, too.

Then on Wednesday, June 27, I woke up not knowing that day would be the most emotionally and physically exhausting day of my summer.

During the end of the second hour of recreation/bible study, I got a call from one of my staffers. I had been on the recreation field and heard the phrase “Hey MC, there’s some group leaders in the conference center looking for you.”

Any other day, that would not be a surprise to me. In fact, it would be a surprise if I went a day without group leaders looking for me.  (During the second week of camp, I answered 67 phone calls from 2:30 pm – 1:00 am)

But when I heard my staffer say that, I got the sinking feeling that something was wrong.

I headed over to the conference center, walked in the door, and saw all the group leaders from Point Harbor.

My heart dropped. None of us said anything. Cathy just came over and hugged me, and then tears came.

Rose and Hope’s momma had passed away.

We spent what felt like hours in the conference center. They were reacting to not just the loss of two of their students’ mother, but also the loss of a dear friend. They were grieving the loss of someone they loved deeply.

I made a few calls to people to help come up with a plan on how to handle what was going on–how to tell the girls, how to tell the campers.

Do we send the girls home?

When do we tell them?

How do we tell them their mother is gone?

After an hour or so, we came up with a plan. We would tell the girls after track times. I let the track time leaders know to bring the girls to the conference center before hang time. Ellie and I made a trip to Wal-Mart and bought about 12 boxes of kleenex.

Soon, we were all sitting together in the conference center. I asked a few staffers who had spent time with the girls to come with us. One of the group leaders, a wonderful woman named Bonnie, with beautiful anointed words, told the girls their mother was with Jesus now.

What happened next continues to leave me in shock.

When the girls heard that, the first thing they did was smile.

They smiled. 

They smiled because their mother was with Jesus. She was free from her suffering.

That was the first reaction from a third grader and a fifth grader.

Of course, the tears came. We sat together and cried. One of my staffers, Michael, prayed because none of us adults were capable of speaking. After a few minutes of sorrow, joy came in one of the most unexpected ways.

The group leaders offered to take the girls out to eat away from camp (which is a BIG DEAL when you’re a camper) to celebrate their mom’s life. I left the girls with Michael and Aaron and went with Cathy to tell the rest of Point Harbor about their mom’s passing.

I was so incredibly relieved at how telling the girls went. My stomach had been in knots about it for hours. As we made our way to their cabin, I wasn’t expecting this part of the day to be very hard.

But I was wrong.

Cathy, with beautiful words like Bonnie, explained to the kids what happened. Hope and Roses’ mom died today.

The kids were devastated. They had lost a mentor, a teacher, and an active role in their ministry. They were heartbroken. I had no idea the impact Rose and Hope’s mom had on the children of this church. The kids mourned in their own ways. I found myself in the middle of a cabin filled with sorrow and love for Hope and Rose.

I returned to the conference center, aching and drained and what seemed like years later, to find Rose and Michel in an epic discussion of Pokemon. They were laughing and talking together.

I was stunned.

God used something like a mutual obsession of Pokemon to ease the pain of one of the worst feelings one can feel. Aaron managed to pop a bag of chips in his backpack that had us all in stitches while the girls left for dinner.

We discussed with the church group that worship might be very difficult for the kids that night. We decided Hope and Rose shouldn’t attend, but they had none of it. After their dinner, they insisted on attending worship.

The theme for that night’s worship was “Take a Stand.” Daniel, our camp pastor (and a dear friend of mine), would tell the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s refusal to bow to the false god King Nebuchadnezzar demanded they worship. Daniel 3:18 was a key verse.

“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Our God is able to deliver…but if He doesn’t deliver us, we will still not serve another god.

Wow.

In the time before worship, I sat in my room and cried. I cried until I physically couldn’t produce any more tears.

I thought about how Rose and Hope’s lives changed forever today.

I thought about the pain they’d face when they went home.

I thought about what their father was feeling.

I thought about how God didn’t deliver Helen Stanphill through the cancer, but rather from the disease.

I thought about loss the Point Harbor group leaders were feeling, and how they had to be strong for the broken kids.

While I was pulling myself together, I got a phone call. A camper fell down some rocks and we think she dislocated her knee. Minutes before worship started.

Seriously? Right now? You’re telling me that just happened?

Remember how I said in my previous post that spiritual warfare is real? It’s real.

Two ambulances showed up during worship that night. A worship service with a hurting church and two girls who lost their mother hours earlier. The potential distraction made me physically sick. I probably would have thrown up if I had been able to eat anything that day.

I waited at the end of the road with Ellie to tell the ambulance to turn their lights off, and arrived to see Amanda Kate, our rec leader (and a dear friend) literally holding this child’s kneecap. She was taken to the ER and treated, and was back the next day. Worship happened in spite of the distractions.

The next day finally came, and to my surprise, the girls wanted to stay at camp.

They wanted to stay at CentriKid. They wanted to play OMC. Rose was in the variety show that night.

Again, I was stunned.

That Thursday was arguably the best day of camp I’ve ever experienced. In the sorrow, there was joy. Cathy shared with me she was absolutely convinced their mother knew what she was doing. She didn’t want her girls to see her go. She held off until she knew they were at camp.

The day before she died, one of the group leaders had texted the girl’s father with an update about how much fun they were having at camp. Their dad read the message to their mom, and in her coma, she smiled. She died the next morning.

Apparently, I still had some tears left in my body.

Thursday night was the variety show for the campers who were in performance track times. Until the moment it happened, it never occurred to me that Rose was in the sign language track time.

I watched in complete astonishment as Rose beautifully signed “Christ is Risen” by Matt Maher.

Oh, death, where is your sting?
Oh, hell, where is your victory?
Oh, church, come stand in the light
Our God is not dead. He’s alive. He’s alive!

Rose was on stage signing these words the day after her mother died.

Death, where is your sting?

I was, you guessed it, stunned.

The next day was closing. Actually, it was “clopening” for us. Closing and opening. We had a weekend camp following this week of camp.

I didn’t want Point Harbor to leave. I didn’t want the girls to face what was in their near future. Rose and I connected Thursday night over ice cream and a mutual admiration for Star Trek (caveat: Rose is literally the coolest kid on the face of the earth). I wanted them to stay at camp.

But alas, they left, and we began our turnaround. We had a very smooth registration with awesome adults.

That night, while Ellie and I were getting a head start on filling up water balloons for the next day’s OMC, the sky turned black and the power went out. It didn’t come back on for a very long time.

A derecho came that night. I woke up at 5:30 in the morning after we spent the night on the floor of the conference center (it seriously sounded and felt like a tornado) and walked outside. I saw debris everywhere. Trees were down. Power lines were down.

This was bad.

This was very bad.

Remember what I said about spiritual warfare?

With the power out, there was nothing to do except go on. We ran the next (and only full day) of camp completely without power. No lights, no music, no sound, no videos, no air conditioning. The amazing people at Eagle Eyrie did everything they could possibly do to help us out.

The kids loved it. We moved chairs to the rec field and had worship outside, lit by the light of our van headlights. We still had running cold water. The weekend was a great week of camp. Churches who had never attended camp before told us they can’t wait to come back next summer.

Wow.

Since the power was out, we made an impromptu trip to Washington, D.C. for the Fourth of July. We ended up having to cancel the next week of camp because of the power outage. I was so happy to see my staff’s reaction–they were sad. They didn’t want camp to be cancelled. They thought I was kidding when I had to tell them. That was a proud moment for me as a director.

So in light of the darkness, we ventured to Hampton, VA to the home of Amanda Kate. We spent a few days with her incredible family and wonderful neighbors. We took showers, washed our clothes, and charged our cell phones. The people in her community completely showered us in love. It was a fantastic weekend.

It also just so happened that the Friday we were there was the day of Helen Stanphill’s funeral, which would be held at Point Harbor Community Church. Twenty minutes from where we were staying.

Myself and the ones who were close with the church that week decided to attend the funeral. We saw the girls, the group leaders, and the wonderful kids from the church.

Her funeral was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. I dare you to read her obituary and not be floored, crying, and/or both.  It’s a good thing I had a few days to replenish tears, because I cried during the entire service. The celebration of her life was incredible. Cathy spoke about CentriKid and how, through the death of Rose and Hope’s mom, twelve of their students came to know Christ for the first time.

Wow. 

The next day, we attended Point Harbor’s night service. We went out to eat together. We had fellowship, laughter, joy, and wonderful memories in spite of the heart-wrenching circumstances.

For the rest of the summer, Daniel told Hope and Rose’s story on Wednesday night of worship. Hundreds of children came to know God through the death of Helen Stanphill at CentriKid.

I wish I had a way to sum up this experience, but I’m at a total loss for words. The power did come back on, and I will resume in the stories of our adventures (first, backtracking to Campbell week), but I wanted to share this experience with you all. It changed my life. I think about it every single day.

sunday book review: the silent wife

I read The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison over the weekend. I read several articles that compared it to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn–some said it was even better than Gone Girl. I was intrigued.

silent

This book is about the troubled marriage between Jodi and Todd. Each chapter alternates telling their perspectives of life together–a “his and her” kind of thing. The book doesn’t have a remarkable plot, but the way it is told is chilling. I personally enjoyed reading Gone Girl more, but it was still a good read and a psychologically-thrilling experience. And I stayed up way too late finishing it.

Good night.

13 books to fall for

I’ve never been one to take Halloween too seriously. When I was 16, I dressed up as a monk for my church’s fall festival and told everyone “Happy Reformation Day!”

However, one of my very best friends is the Queen of Halloween. She’s a bona fide, pinterest-recipe maker, decorative Fall-banner-sewing, Halloween movie connoisseur.

She was my roommate my last year of college. When you’d enter our apartment on October 1, you’d enter a world of lighted owl figurines, glittery orange pumpkins, scary cobwebs in the ceiling, and a delicious fall scented candle burning.

Under her watch, I baked sugar cookies to look like pieces of candy corn, dressed up like Charlie Brown for the annual Famous Maroon Band Halloween Rehearsal, and indulged in candy corn frappes from StrangeBrew Coffee House while watching Hocus Pocus for the 10,000th time. (Let’s be honest, can you watch that movie too many times? I don’t think it’s possible.)

She even convinced me to watch Halloween with her in the dark one time.

Although I will never be up to her Halloween standard (though I did make a fall centerpiece for my dining room table this year), fall is, and has always been, my favorite time of year.

I love the cooler weather, leaves changing colors, and getting to wear a sweater. I love sweaters. Cardigans. Hoodies. Sweatshirts. Yes.

I love crock pots of chili cooking all day, baking scones, watching football, and feeling cozy under a blanket.

And I may be the only white American 20-something female who doesn’t like Pumpkin Spice Lattes (I like pumpkin and I like coffee, but the two flavors are way too strong together), but I always enjoy drinking coffee more when it’s cold outside.

My birthday is always around Thanksgiving, so usually my birthday cake consists of an entire Thanksgiving feast.

And all you fall-haters out there, did you forget you get an extra hour of sleep soon? Come on, people.

So what could you add to Fall to make it even better?

Books.

Here’s a list of 13 books for you to read during the Halloween/Thanksgiving season.

13. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
If you haven’t read Harry Potter yet (watching the movies don’t count), Fall is the perfect time to start. You’ll be finishing the series around Christmastime, which is already the most magical time of year. You can buy the paperbacks at a really inexpensive price, or dust off your library card and get to work. You won’t regret it; the hype is real.

12. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you know I’m shamelessly addicted to Gillian Flynn’s novels. Be warned: Dark Places is scary. And disturbing. And CRAZY GOOD. Dark Places lives up to its title, and it’s an excellent story to get sucked in during Halloween.

11. Night Film by Marisha Pessl
I wrote a review on this book in an earlier post. It’s about a horror-film maker and the mystery surrounding his family and his daughter’s death, and you’ll be up all night trying to finish it.

10. Carrie by Stephen King
If you’re excited to see the new remake of Carrie, I encourage you to read the book first. I read Carrie for the first time when I was in high school, and later fell captive to Stephen King’s books. Read the book and be creeped out before the movie.

9. Nancy Drew and The Password to Larkspur Lane by Carolyn Keene
Reading Nancy Drew as a child was a life-changing event for me. Why? Because Nancy Drew made me love books. These books were the first “real” books I ever read. I felt like I achieved a huge accomplishment when I finished them, and for a first/second grader, it was a huge accomplishment. Nancy Drew laid the foundation for my love of a good mystery. The Password to Larkspur Lane is my favorite, if I absolutely had to just pick one favorite. You can read it in a day.

8. Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult
This is about a hidden pregnancy and murder among an Amish farm community. It’s like reading a novel-length episode of “Law and Order: SVU.”

7. The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown
I read this book in high school so I would understand all the brouhaha surrounding this book and Christianity. The book is fiction, as indicated on the cover. The conspiracy theories in the book are just that–conspiracy theories. As a Christian, I read this book and was not offended or upset…in fact, I loved it, and I’ve probably read it twice since. It’s a murder-mystery treasure hunt intertwined with history, religion, conspiracy theories, and a tiny shred of romance.

6. Divergent by Veronica Roth
Again, this would be a great book series to start during the fall (and in time for the spring movie). The third installment comes out next week, so get busy!

5. The Green Mile by Stephen King
This book is probably my favorite Stephen King novel. It’s one of the few books out there that made a movie adaptation equally as good. Even if you have seen the movie, I encourage you to experience this story the way it was intended.

4. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
My husband got me to read this book a few weeks ago, and I could kick myself for waiting this long to read it. If I were a teacher, this book would be required summer reading. It’s packed with literary elements and social commentary.

3. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
This is my favorite of Flynn’s novels, and probably in my top 5 favorite books of all time. This is a story about a journalist recovering from her addiction to cutting herself, investigating murders in her hometown, and facing her troubled past. I stayed up until four in the morning trying to process this book after I finished it.

2. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
This book is brilliant. It’s fun, light-hearted, witty, and adventurous. I can’t say too much about it because I’m waiting on my husband to read it and I don’t want to spoil anything. I will say this: it’s like National Treasure meets The Social Network. Only better.

1. Goosebumps: The Haunted Mask by R. L. Stine
Does anyone else remember how CRAZY MESSED UP this story was? Especially for an 11-year-old! I remember vividly picking up this book at the library and finishing it so fast it made my head spin. This, like Nancy Drew, was foundational for me: it scared me, and I liked it. I like reading books that made my heart pound. So this fall, pick up a Goosebumps book for old time’s sake and re-live your fourth grade nightmares.

Happy reading, and Happy Fall, y’all.

MC

sunday book club: two books to make up for tardy posts

I realize this is my Sunday book review on a Tuesday, again, but I have a good reason this time.

My husband and I flew to my hometown of Somerville, Tennessee (metro Memphis area) for the weekend to hang out with my family and visit my alma mater for a football game down in Starkville. It was a lovely weekend and I really enjoyed getting to see my parents, my sister, my friends, and let’s be honest…the most important thing: my dog. Just kidding. Kind of. 

With all this traveling around, I got to finish Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl and also read Dare Me by Meagan Abbott. 

Of all the books I’ve read in the past few months, Special Topics in Calamity Physics is at the bottom of my list of favorites. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy it–I did, and I think Pessl is a talented writer. I just had such a hard time getting used to how the story was told. It was so wordy and complicated. But if you enjoy complicated, you’ll like it. I liked it. I really did. It just didn’t blow me away like some of the other books I read. 

I picked up Dare Me for two reasons: 

1. I read an article about a list of books suggested by Gillian Flynn, and this was mentioned. I’m having severe Gillian Flynn withdrawals. Flynn’s quote about the book was on the front cover, and she described it as “Lord of the Flies set in a high school cheerleading squad.” Uh, heck yes. 

2. Said article described it as the “Pretty Little Liars” of the book world. And since I (now) shamelessly watch “Pretty Little Liars,” of course I had to get this book. 

Dare Me was crazy. I like crazy, so I definitely enjoyed this read. It sort had a “Great Gatsby” feel to it–the book is told from the perspective of a girl who isn’t directly involved in the major conflicts. Very Nick Carraway. 

The story is exactly what Gillian Flynn said it would be: Lord of the Flies in a high school cheerleading squad. It affirms my belief that there is nothing more mean, crazy, or dangerous than a teenage girl.