Monday, November 30, 2009

It's so hard to say goodbye (NOT)- Xander's saga...the final chapter...


Hello Blogosphere! I am so excited to pass on this latest information on my son...but, first a bit of background. In October of 2007, Xanman was diagnosed with a disease called Eosiniphilic Esophagitis (say that five times fast!) At the time, we knew little about the disease and its treatment and were completely overwhelmed by the diagnosis to say the least. For more information about this disorder, check out www.apfed.org.

Basically, I learned that for five years I had been killing my son with his food. Turns out this sort of revelation does not make one feel particularly good about her mothering skills. We made changes to our diet, began to "eat only" chicken, rice, quinoa, millet, some veggies and some fruits. Everything else (and yes, this is no exaggeration) was off limits. We began a series of quarterly endoscopies with biopsies to check his progress and a heartwrenching back and forth of "he's better/ he's not".

At one point last winter, we were told that his only option for improvement in his condition was more medication, elimination of ALL foods and implantation of a stomach tube for feedings of elemental formula. Charlie and I discussed, and prayed and felt that this course of action, for us, was too extreme. So we took a different course. We discontinued meds, stopped quarterly scopes, started regularly chiropractic treatments and vitamin therapy and continued to follow a strict diet.

Today, I am happy to report that his Pediatric GI released him from further scopes. She said and I quote, "You are doing great...I don't think you need me anymore!" AMEN! I did a jig right there in the office.

Xander still has to follow a very strict diet and understands that his food choices can negatively impact his health, but he knows they are HIS choices to make and that is a powerful distinction. HE controls his health, not a doctor, or a health system, or even *gasp* me!

Thank you all for praying. We still covet those prayers, but are totally claiming this victory for the Lord!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Family and Festivities: My Latest A-ha...

" There are no individuals in this world. Only fragments of families."
Carl Whitaker


So I've talked a lot lately about the lessons my Marriage Champions class is teaching me these days. From "smiling socks" to communication styles, it seems like each week as I am sharing with the group from examples from our marriage that I have an "A-ha" moment that kind of rocks my world. A couple of weeks ago, I go t smacked with an epiphany that really highlighted a giant area of strain in our relationship.

Now don''t get me wrong, we are both well aware of this smoking woodpile about to burst into flame in our relationship, I have just never been able to get over my point of view to take a look through Charlie's window...and really had no idea what to do about it.

What is IT? The little scab that always seems to get infected this time of year? The holidays. Not the holiday itself really, but the way our individual families of origin celebrate them.

So we were talking about our family of origin and how it effects the way we show up in our relationships. I was sharing the story about my first Christmas with Charlie's family and how I cried myself to sleep on Christmas Eve because the way his family conducted their festivities was so foreign to me. I had never spent Christmas away from my family and not only was I terribly homesick, but I had no frame of reference for how to act or what was coming next. Charlie's family was wonderful and gracious, but I was terribly sad.

Charlie's parents divorced when he was young, so Christmas Day is spent in this kind of progressive celebration from house to house. Each celebration was with a small nucleus of the family, maybe 6-7 people and was quiet and intimate. Looking back on it, I probably should have rejoiced in the multiple celebrations and the opportunity to get to know each family on a more personal level, but I was simply too stunned by the stark contrast between our celebrations. My family all descends on one home- aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents - usually about 25-30 people, sometimes more. There is a huge amount of wrapping paper, food, football and uncles and cousins talking in ever louder tones to be heard over one another. It is beautiful chaos.

After 12 years of marriage, I have learned to love Charlie's family's Christmas rituals and have even brought some back to my family (the Kaufman Family Secret Wassail is now a staple in the Welch household- thank you Grandpa Mikey!) However, the celebrations are still intensely different and I still get a little unsettled by it.

As I was telling the story of this first Christmas in Maryland to our class, something occurred to me that I hadn't ever realized before. I realized that when telling the story I had never drawn the contrast before in such a way. Charlie's Christmas- quiet and intimate; mine- beautiful chaos. Hmmmm....

Our argument always centers around two things. When we are in Maryland- I get tired of going, I want to snuggle in, stay put, and argue loudly about politics and football ...and I don't have a place in the kitchen which is where I generally busy myself. I don't really know what to do with myself, so I resort to my defense mechanism: irritability and withdrawal- not exactly great behavior on Christmas. When we are in Arkansas- Charlie gets tired of the noise and same scenery...he wants to get up and go and to talk about life and get caught up with each other....he doesn't have a place on the couch or running errands which is where he usually busies himself. He gets overstimulated and overwhelmed, so he resorts to his defense mechanism: shutdown and withdrawal. I never realized that for every time I have been uncomfortable at his family's celebrations, he has too. I am just more vocal about how I am feeling.

So what to do with all this new found insight? Well, I don't know what works for you. For us, the solution is around defining our expectations. Both of us, for our holiday. What do we want to see happen, where do we want to fit, what do we need to make this our best year ever? And a lot of it is just understanding and recognizing why it is that we feel we need to withdrawal and work to eliminate that sense of discomfort.

Thanksgiving is upon us...kicking off the whirlwind of activity and celebration that is the Christmas season. It is also generally when we experience a lot of stress. I encourage you married folks to take a look at your spouse and try to remove THIS one piece of stress. Try to set aside your point of view for a moment, and look at it from your spouse's. Is there a place for them in your family's celebration? Can you make one?

I'd love to hear about your celebrations and traditions. What do you do? What are the differences between you and your spouse's families and the way they celebrate the holidays?

Monday, November 23, 2009

My Heart Belongs to the Caribbean....

Ok. Well not really…my heart belongs to Jesus Christ, who entrusted part of it to my earthly husband, Charlie Kaufman…but after that…my heart belongs to the Caribbean.

I have on many occasions said “I am a flower that blooms in the sun.” Never has there been a truer statement than on our trip to Cancun two weeks ago. What a beautiful place. Man, the Mayans totally knew how to pick a location. I have seen God’s glory played out in breathtaking locales before, but something about the whole area around Cancun resonated with me.

We arrived on a Sunday afternoon after a 12 hour day of traveling, but even that couldn’t dampen the wonder and excitement that I felt surrounded by water the color of, well…the color of the Caribbean…Have you ever been there? Been to a place that had colors that could only be described by that place? It is like trying to describe what a tree looks like to a blind man. Anyway, I haven’t the words…so I will include pictures.

The people….ah, the Mexican people. I fell in love with the people. With the language. With the accent of a natural born Mexican speaking my own home language. Beautiful. With the intellect and wit. With the cultural, spiritual and historical knowledge. I know I was in a resort city and that there must be places where everyone is not this way, but it truly doesn’t matter. I fell in love with Cancun. I have decided that there are words that are much easier to say in Spanish than in English, and thus, I brought home my own version of Spanglish (simply because I have a VERY limited Spanish vocabulary) that I hope doesn’t offend any native born speakers, but it honestly is a sign of adoration.

And the food….I miss the homemade pork tacos and hand milled masa tortillas and empanadas…I don’t miss the extra ten pounds I gained, but es no matter. I enjoyed every bite.

I think my biggest take away from the whole experience was the art of a joyful spirit. I am still working on this one. But the single biggest impact this trip had on me was the beauty of the joyful spirit the people around me had. Right down to the woman whose job it was to squigee the marble when it rained to keep it dry (it rained a lot while we were there- perhaps you heard of Hurricane Ida?) This was an endless job and she did it all the while with a joyful spirit. A spirit of gratitude. A person once told me that they had “never met a bitter person that was thankful or a thankful person that was bitter.” How true is this?

So as we enter into Thanksgiving week. Let’s do this: let’s seek out the wonder and awe in our everyday lives. The drudgery…the mundane…the squigee on the marble….I am thankful that I have a dishwasher…and dishes to put in said dishwasher…and food to make said dishes dirty so that I can put them in said dishwasher….wow…I am full….of gratitude. Lord, my cup runneth over…and all I can say is, “Thank you!”

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Lessons From the Jewelry Box


I am getting dressed this morning and I decided that I had the perfect necklace for the outfit that I was wearing: a triple chained number with beads and such.

As I am rushing through my morning routine, I move to the jewelry box to retrieve aforementioned necklace. Currently, my jewelry box is actually a heart shaped tin where all of my necklaces live in a jumbled mess all woven together in a crazy puzzle of knotted chains and twisted beads.

Okay. Deep calming breath, center myself. I am going in to the labyrinth, fingers crossed, praying that the necklace I want will be laying easily on top. Crap! The particular necklace I’m after is one of those triple chained things with tiny chains and sporadic beads and it is inextricably tangled with another necklace. Ugh!

Thinking to myself, “Self, I don’t have time for this.” And nervously watching the minutes tick by as I work to free each one of the strands from one another, I make progress, but painfully slowly.

Finally frustrated, I plop down in the floor, legs spread out and begin to really focus on the issue at hand. It is a matter of principle now. I WILL NOT let a cheesy $6 necklace get the best of me! I work and work, but finally get to a point where, as I am looking at the necklaces intertwined as they are, I simply cannot see how to continue to make forward progress. The situation looks totally hopeless. Completely complicated. Far too time consuming.

“Ugh! I give up!” I exclaim to the jumbled knot of chains. Throwing my hands up in exasperation, I let go of the offending tangle. As I did, the long chain slipped easily away from the necklace I was working diligently to free.

Oh! Hmmm….Many times in life we are faced with challenges. Sometimes seemingly insurmountable ones. But we work and work to find a solution, pushing hard to get the situation to submit to our will. But God doesn’t always want us to continue to manipulate our environment until WE stumble unwittingly onto the solution. Sometimes he wants us to trust that He has it all under control….if we just let go.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Company Girl Coffee 11/19/09

!Hola! He echado de menos a todos mucho!

(I THINK that is Spanish for "Hi! I have missed you all so much!" But for my Spanish readers out there, I would love to KNOW that that is what I have started this post with!;)

The past two months have been an absolute whirlwind for me. In a crazy wonderful way, which is exactly how I like it. My friends have taken to calling it my fall tour. I like the sound of that. I think I will call it that as well. My "fall tour" started in October with a trip to Maryland. That trip doubled as both a vacation for my family and work for me. It was a wonderful learning experience. At times both difficult and beautiful, and at times fun and exciting- I came away from that trip a changed person. As did my husband...interestingly enough. He discovered a delight in our children in a new way, and it has transformed him into an even better father and husband than he was. I discovered limitations within myself that I hadn't encountered before, that I am now working to break through to improve both myself and my retreats. I learned an enumerable amount about my Gracious and All Powerful Lord, and about the enemy of my soul and his weaknesses. It was a ten day trip that has changed my life forever as well as the movement of this ministry.

Strings Attached is growing in both recognition and quality. With each retreat, I learn new things, about myself, about the ministry and about the women I work with. I love it, and am daily filled gratitude that I have found my purpose in this life. What a blessing!

We are moving forward with our website development and hope to have it up by the end of the year (YAY!) I am working on two books: one a ministry leader's guide to connecting with women in the church and a second that explores friendship through difficult times. The curriculum of Strings Attached is slowly being recorded to DVD format and will hopefully soon be available as a church enrichment program. So needless to say, the past few months have been crazy busy!

The retreat last weekend was wonderful! I led it for my home church, Immanuel Baptist Church in Rogers, Arkansas. Not only was a wonderful weekend with friends, but it was the best Strings Attached retreat yet! You can check out the slide show in the post below.

Before that, Charlie and I went to Cancun, Mexico for his brother's wedding. That trip is a blog post in and of itself (check back on Monday- it's scheduled to post then!)...all I can say is that my heart belongs to the Caribbean! The beautiful blue ocean and white sandy beaches were literally awe-inspiring.

So we come to today. The week before Thanksgiving 2009. I find myself prone to reflection on this crazy wonderful year. So much growth, personally, for me and my husband and my business partners and my family. So much is different, and yet it all feels like such a natural progression that it is not shocking in any way. What an amazing year it has been...and you know what one of the best parts is? I started this blog...finally! After years of saying I would. I did. And as a result, I found you guys- my coffee buddies! So sit with me, have a cup of tea (or coffee if you must), maybe a few of my gluten free scones, and reflect on what we are thankful for this year...I'll go first: I am thankful for you all! Now it's your turn...what are you thankful for?


Thursday, November 19, 2009

IBC Princess Retreat


My Father is the King of kings...and that makes me a Princess!



Wow! What a wonderful time we had at the Women's Ministry Retreat for Immanuel Baptist Church in Rogers. Twenty one other women and I drove 55 mins to Sonshine Mountain Retreat Center (http://www.tcwm.org/Sonshine-Mountain-Retreat-Center.html) in Mountainburg, Arkansas. It was a beautiful facility with an even more beautiful view! I highly recommend it for your retreat or family reunion.

Anyway, what a wonderful beginning to the Strings Attached Ministry at our church. Together, we shared our hearts, our minds, our laughter and our quiet moments with our Lord. Thank you, IBC Princesses for fully engaging and for opening up your hearts and minds to all that the Lord had to say. For those Princesses that missed it, I ain't gonna lie, you missed a rowdy, fun time! But rest assured, there will be more! We need you!

You are a vital piece of the puzzle! Without you, our picture is incomplete!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Have a cup of tea (or coffee) and stay a while....


!Bienvenidos!

Hello Ladies! It has been a long time....lots has happened in the last few weeks. First of all, uber-busy....craziness....and I wish that I had time to tell you all that has been going on, but I am preparing to leave to lead a retreat this weekend. I did want to touch base and say hello to you all! I have posted several new posts in the last several week, I would love it if you stayed a while and checked them out...feel free to comment!

By the way....Mexico in November rocks!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day Speech: What the Star Spangled Banner means to me....

By popular request, here is the Veteran's Day speech I gave today at a local middle school. This was the original script and I am positive that I did not stick to it, but since I can't really remember what else I said, this will have to do;)

What the Star Spangled Banner means to me….

I am a soldier. A retired soldier, true, but once an army chick- always an army chick. I have heard this song sung more times than I can count and honestly it doesn’t matter where or when or who sings it, it stops me in my tracks.

Just last week, we were in Cancun, Mexico for a wedding. The resort we were staying at played the World Series every night on the beach (by the way, watching baseball is WAY more enjoyable on the beach!) One night, we were walking out to meet some friends by the pool and heard the National Anthem being played. Call it training, call it conditioning, or, simply call it patriotism. I stopped..middle of the sidewalk, tons of people behind me, put my hand over my heart and sang along. You see, it may be just a song, but to me it represents so much more. It represents the freedoms that our American military fight so hard to protect. It represents a way of life that I thank God for daily. It represents triumph over oppression.

Just in case you don’t know the history behind this song, let me give you the short version. “The Star Spangled Banner” was written by a man named Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812 fought between the British and the Americans (as well as the French and Indians.) There were many causes of this war, but a lot of it boiled down to a desire to uphold national honor for a relatively young nation.

At this point in the war, the Americans weren’t doing so well. We had already lost control of the capital. The White House had been burned and looted and the entire government was on the run. The British had set their sights on the Baltimore harbor, but they had to take Fort McHenry, the point defensive station for the Harbor.

The attack on Fort McHenry began on September 13, 1814 and lasted nearly 25 hours. The British hurled 1500-1800 canonballs at the fort. The Fort repelled two land assaults and on the morning of September 14, 1814, the soldiers at Fort McHenry took down the standard storm flag…torn and shredded by the raging battle and raised a huge 30 ft X 42 ft American flag.

Now a lot of that you may have already known, right? How many of you knew much of this? Good! But did you know that Francis Scott Key was in the harbor on a British ship? No? He was. He was on a mercy mission negotiating the release of an American doctor who was being held as a British prisoner. He was carrying letters from wounded British officers praising the care they had received from this doctor. The British released the doctor, but they had to stay with the British until the attack was over. On the morning of the 14th, Key saw the American flag flying over Fort McHenry, and began writing the verses on the back of one of the letters. It was originally known as a poem called “The Defense of Fort McHenry.”

So now that you know more of the story, let’s look at the words again. Did you know that we traditionally only sing the first verse of the “Star Spangled Banner?” Anyone know how verses there are? There are four. Here is the song in its entirety.

O! say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: 'In God is our trust.'
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Every time I hear the words of this poem, I am struck by the sense of total elation that must of come over Key when caught the first gleam of that flag.

Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Can you imagine? The White House has been burned and looted. Washington, DC is completely destroyed and the enemy is marching on our major sea ports. If Baltimore Harbor falls, the entire East Coast is lost. And after an entire day and an entire night of bombs exploding, rockets firing, and people shooting at one another, you are sure all is lost. The country will be retaken by the British.

There is so much smoke from all the cannon fire that you can’t even see your hand in front of your face. You look over the edge of the ship you are on and can barely see the water. You are peering, focusing, straining your eyes, looking for that storm and fire battered flag through the smog and darkness. Over the horizon the sun rises, and in the distance, you see OUR flag waving.

You see in the military world we have guidons. Does anyone know what a guidon is? A guidon is a flag that symbolizes your unit. During battle, it is the rallying point for the troops to fall into formation. The guidon bearer is a soldier selected with the specific duty to carry that flag into battle. Being selected as the guidon bearer is a big deal. It is a position of great honor and responsibility, and the guidon bearer accepts this responsibility to never let the guidon fall, even if he must die to protect it. Because as long as the guidon flies, our unit still exists, still triumphs. THAT is what the American flag is. It is this country’s guidon. Our rallying point, our common shout that despite our differing backgrounds and beliefs, we are blessed to live in the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”

As long as it flies, it is a symbol that this country is triumphant and strong. The Star Spangled Banner is so much more to me than a song. It is a cry of triumph, a shout of joy, and a roar of pride that our country is great and mighty. It was the same for Francis Scott Key, who was on the verge of losing his country in battle, just as it is the same for us today.

So think about this the next time you hear the Star Spangled Banner. Stopping, hand over heart, and standing at attention is not only a sign of your respect for our country, but a way to honor and join in that cry of triumph. Each time you see our flag, try to understand importance of it waving freely over our ballparks and our schools and our homes.

And remember the last verse, my favorite verse, because this poem wasn’t just about that one fateful night, it was about continuing victory of this country.

O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: 'In God is our trust.'
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

We live in the land of the free and the home of the brave because men and women for the last several hundred years have chosen to fight for it. Have given up their blood, sweat and tears for it. So that the guidon doesn’t fall. So that you can still rally here beneath this flag. Take some time today, this Veteran’s Day, to remind yourself how blessed you are because of those sacrifices….and then go out and make it a point to say, “Thank you,” to someone who has or is serving. They deserve it. Thank you for the honor of speaking to you today. God bless America and God bless you!


Below is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir with both the first and last verses. I love this version!

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