Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A tough day . . .

This has been our wonderful church home for almost the past 4 years - Hunter Street Baptist Church in Hoover, AL. We have made lifelong friends here and grown in our walk with the Lord. They have truly been our family during these years that we are far away from our family. That is why Sunday was such a tough day for us. It was the day that we had to tell a group of people that have supported us for all these years that we were leaving. It was a difficult decision that we have been struggling with for about a year and a half. We have been praying about it and until this point we did not feel like we were supposed to leave. However, in the past few weeks it has become very clear to us that God wants us to be a member of another faith family here in Birmingham . . . .
this is the Church at Brook Hills. We have been visiting occasionally for the past year and a half or so at their Sunday evening service. We have decided that this is going to be our new church home. Often Rhett and I have thought and said - is there anyone else out there that feels the way we do about things? And the answer is a resounding yes! - his name is Dr. David Platt. Some of our friends from UGA may know David and his wife Heather because they are our age! It's not everyday that a huge church like this elects a (then) 28 year old pastor. There is a simple reason for that - David is special. He is a gifted speaker, rock solid in theology and biblical knowledge and has a huge heart for the nations.

I feel awkward saying that David has a huge heart for the nations or the Brook Hills is a mission focused church because although those things are true it is more accurately described as God having a huge heart for the nations and God being a mission focused God. At Brook Hills we are reminded of this important fact constantly. The mission of this church is not bringing people in but sending people out. David says it so eloquently and I can't come close but it is something like this- the Old Testament church is one of worshiping in a certain physical place (the idea of going to the temple to worship) but in the the New Testament church we are in Christ and Christ is in us and guess what - that makes US the temple! We are supposed to GO out and show Christ to the world all the time not just retreat to a church building once a week to worship. Our lives are worship. It seems as though a lot of church culture in the U.S. is practicing Old Testament worship in a New Testament world.

Anyway, we were at a service a few weeks ago at Brook Hills and a young college guy was being Baptized. At Brook Hills you film a short video of your story of how you became a Christian that they play before you are Baptized. The idea being that your act of Baptism is telling everyone that you are a Believer and a follower of Christ. We were singing a song and the music just kind of died back a little bit and the video started after which this guy was Baptized surrounded by his friends and family. Then the amazing part . . . everyone cheered. Not a golf clap while you read the program or search for a piece of gum. Everyone genuinely celebrated the decision this guy had made. The the music cranked up again and everyone continued singing and worshiping. It was beautiful. It was after that service Rhett and I both had the overwhelming feeling that we want to be a part of what God is doing in that body of believers at Brook Hills.

On paper it doesn't really make sense - we are only going to be living here for another 13 months and 3 of those months we are going to be living in Peru. We had a wonderful support system at our other church. We were plugged in and active in a lot of different ways. It would make much more sense that we just stay put. The fact that it doesn't make sense and yet we both overwhelmingly know it is what we have to do is just confirmation that God is working in this. When we move our family overseas next summer we want Brook Hills to send us. Like I said, their whole thing is sending people out. We are showing up saying "Here we are, send us!".

We went to Brook Hills on Sunday night after our emotional day at Hunter Street and the confirmation that God gave us was undeniable. We were so thankful for that because like any big change in your life it is easy to second guess yourself. We love our friends at Hunter Street and want them to know that. Thanks for loving us and supporting us through 4 years of residency and 2 babies - that's a heck of a lot. We are excited about what God is doing through the Church at Brook Hills and we can't wait to see how he uses it to prepare us for this next huge step we are about to take.

There I did it! I blogged about religion - what is next politics? Like Laura said this blogging thing is all about what I think so there you go - that is what I think!

Required Reading

OK, so quite a while ago I mentioned required reading for our family and I never followed up with it. So I'm going to catch up and tell you a little bit about each book that I recommended.

Miracle at Tenwek - This is the story of the life of Dr. Ernie Steury a missionary who lived his life serving the Lord and making disciples of all nations. If you feel like you are tired or having a bad day this is a good book to pick up and refocus. This guy was an absolute machine working literally 24 hours a day for years of his life as the sole doctor to hundreds of thousands of people in Kenya. He is such a reminder of what God can do through you if you allow him to. It is also a reminder of the amazing blessings we may be missing out on if we don't open ourseves up to what God could do through us. There was obviously a huge cost to Ernie and his family but hopefully if you read this book you can get past that human cost and see the tremendous eternal payoff of so many people entering into a personal relationship with Christ.

The Bourne Identity - Ok, I know most of us have probably heard about a little movie by the same title starring some guy named Matt Damon. Yes, I saw it and I really enjoyed it. However, besides the names of a few of the main characters and the title they really don't have much in common. The book blows the movie out of the water. It is an I-can't-put-this-book-down - long-enough-to-go-to-the-bathroom kind of a read. All that being said I reluctantly read it about 7 years ago because I have been hearing Rhett talk about it since the first day I met him. It is officially his favorite book. I have to give it to him, although it is not in my normal genre of favorites, I can highly recommend it.

Another amazing story about a man who made an incredible difference in the lives of millions of people. Dr. Paul Farmer is an Infectious Disease physician who poured his life out to the benefit of millions of poor Haitians. Of course I love any book about Haiti so I automatically was interested in this one. You will walk away from this one really feeling like you need to go out and make a difference in the world.

Oh my. This book is almost indescribable. I can't even wrap my words around a good enough description of it. This is one of those books that you read and it stays with you. In the case of A Long Way Gone - it haunts you. Be warned that if you read this book you will not be the same afterwards. Rhett had seen an interesting interview with the author and had mentioned his amazing story to me. I was in Starbucks one day and saw it sitting on the counter for sale. I picked it up and realized that this had to be the guy that Rhett had mentioned to me. Rhett and I both read it and we have given it to just about everyone in our family since then. It's a tough read - if it were a movie you would watch some parts with your hands over your tear-filled eyes. The importance of this book is in understanding that not everyone in the world wakes up in a soft bed, takes a warm shower, shuttles their kids to various activities in a safe SUV and comes home to a fridge full of food from which to make a nutritious meal. Most people are probably saying "duh, I know that Megan" but really do you know it? Do you also realize that the people that live in war torn poverty are exactly the same as you? They love their children just as much. I remember the time in my life when I had this realization. I was spending a lot of time in Haiti and began to see the similarities between myself and the people I was serving instead of the differences. Then it just hit me that I could have just as easily been born into a hut in Haiti and be living a very different life. To this day I have a painting of Haitian women hanging in my laundry area. I thank God every time I put a load in my washer that I am not walking miles to a river to scrub my family's dirty clothes on a rock. Of course you may take away something entirely different from this book. I just think it is a good reality check that we should all associate with the suffering of all people in the world and not just live our comfortable lives ignoring the plight of everyone else on the planet.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Mum-Mum Yum Yum!!

This is my newest find! Baby Mum-Mum rice rusk snacks for baby. Ford absolutely loves them. We are big fans of the little star puff things but these are a little bit easier for the little ones to handle. I don't really like those wheel snacks because they used to break off in big chunks in Claire's mouth or she would shove the entire thing in her mouth - I just didn't trust them. These Mum - Mums are easy for them to hold and break in soft dissolving pieces in their mouths. From what I can gather on the box it seems as though these rick rusks have been a favorite of babies in Communist China (and other parts of Asia) for a long time. Now American babies and partake in the deliciousness. I found them at the WalMart Neighbornood Market. I've heard they carry them at Whole Foods too. I always enjoy hearing about new finds from other people so I thought I'd share the love. Bon Appetit!

Monday, May 12, 2008

103 Things about me

OK, here it goes!

1. I was born Megan Louise Swindell on July 28, 1978 in Brunswick, Maine.
2. I left the hospital and went to the airport where I flew to my new home in Quantico, Virginia.
3. My Dad was a Marine and had been transferred but they had to wait for me to show up before they could move.
4. I was 10 days late.
5. I have lived in a lot of different states due to my Dad's career in the military. They are:
6. Maine,Virginia, Hawaii, North Carolina, California, Georgia & Alabama
7. I had a wonderful childhood living in some pretty amazing places.
8. I have not visited only 4 states.
9. Rhett and I are having a race to see who can get to them all first.
10. I'm not sure how I can get to North Dakota without him taking me though so he has an unfair advantage.
11. I had the best of both worlds because we lived in some great places and traveled all over but also settled in Athens, GA when I was 9 years old.
12. Athens is my hometown.
13. I love Athens. It is a special place. If you have not been there you should go.
14. Preferably on a Saturday in the fall.
15. I played varsity soccer for 4 years in high school.
16. I was also a cheerleader all 4 years. Go Glads!
17. I have some wonderful friends from high school. We all still keep in touch. Even if we go for a year without seeing each other we can get together and have a great time.
18. I only applied to one college: The University of Georgia
19. I didn't have to go far to get to college. My dorm was 1.1 miles from my house and my sorority was about 150 yards from my parent's front door.
20. I was a Kappa Delta.
21. I went into college as a business/real estate major
22. One day I was reading about all of the upper level classes that I would be taking in my major and couldn't find a single one that sounded interesting to me.
23. I switched to nursing the next day.
24. I've had several interesting jobs in my life. I bagged groceries, a receptionist at the world's largest manufacturer of ball bearings, a nanny all through college, a waitress in a Sushi restaurant. I worked at Steinmart one Christmas and hated it. The only ones I have really liked were being nanny, a nurse and a mom.
25. I met Rhett, my future husband, in October of my Freshman year at Georgia. We were standing in line signing up for a ski trip.
26 He doesn't remember.
27. He does remember seeing me on the ski trip several months later.
28. We were barely aquaintances for the the next 3 years.
29. The most fun I had in college (and in my life until that point) was spending a summer in Europe. I went to school in Innsbruck, Austria and traveled around all summer. It was so much fun.
30. I ran across the Champs d'Ellyse to get to the Arc d'Triumph.
31. Note: there is a tunnel that runs underneath the 8 lanes of traffic that I (Kelly and I) ran across.
32. I decided to leave my beloved Athens and stretch my territory back out a little bit by going to nursing school at Emory University in Atlanta.
33. It was a great decision. I made some of the best friends of my life there and got an excellent education.
34. When I was little I wanted to be:
35. a baby nurse
35. a mommy
36. a fighter pilot
37. a marine biologist
38. a real estate developer
39. I eventually came back to what I wanted to do when I was 5 years old. It turns out I had a pretty good head on my shoulders back then when I wanted to be a nurse and a mommy.
40. I ran into Rhett in a bar called East/West the day before I moved to Atlanta for nursing school. We talked for about an hour and sparks flew but I left the next day and didn't see him again until January.
41. Once again I ran into him at East/West and sparks flew. This time he called me and asked me to go out to lunch.
42. Our first date was lunch at the Mayflower Restaurant in downtown Athens. I had a grilled cheese.
43. We started long distance dating then and a year and a half later I moved to Augusta where he had moved to go to medical school. We dated for ANOTHER year after that. Then we got engaged.
44. We got engaged on June 29, 2002 on Monhegan Island, Maine.
45. We got married on July 26, 2003.
46. We went to Maui on our honeymoon.
47. Since the first time Rhett and I talked we have just clicked. He is very passionate about things he believes in and I love that about him.
48. We also share a love for travel.
49. I told Rhett that before we got married he had to come to Haiti with me where I had volunteered several times in an orphanage.
50. It was a test of sorts that he passed. He fell in love with the kids just like I had.
51. He also said that he fell in love with me and knew he wanted to marry me as he watched me drain an abcess from a little boy's bottom.
52. That's not something I thought would impress a guy but hey what ever works.
53. I love Haiti. I miss it.
54. I started my nursing career on a medical floor in a children's hospital.
55. A year later I moved to the pediatric ICU where I worked for another year before moving to Birmingham where I once again worked in the PICU.
56. I work in one of the saddest places on earth.
57. It never gets easier to see sick and dying children.
58. I worked 12 hour night shifts for 3 years of my life.
59. Those 3 years are a little hazy for me.
60. We moved to Birmingham 4 years ago.
61. I love Birmingham.
62. It is a wonderful secret city and we want to keep it that way so as not to ruin it with lots of traffic.
63. I'm only on 63 ??
64. If I could change anything about our life it would be that we had more time and money to travel.
65. My favorite foods are peaches and pasta (not together).
66. I also love chocolate cake and apple pie a la mode.
67. I am also quite a fan of soul food. Fill my plate with some fried chicken, collard greens and black eyed peas, please.
68. My favorite color is blue. It always has been.
69. At one time in my life I think I had a bit of OCD. I used to be exceptionally organized. I even had my closet organized by color.
70. I got over the OCD and my closet is no longer color coordinated.
71. My life changed forever when I gave birth to my sweet baby girl, Claire Louise, on December 28, 2005.
72. I love being a mother.
73. I don't particularly like being pregnant though.
74. I threw up for 4 months during my pregnancy with Claire. I had to take Zofran so I could work. It was brutal but it was worth it.
75. It wasn't quite as bad during my second pregnancy - thank goodness.
76. My second baby was born October 17, 2007 - Ford McKey.
77. Now I love being a mom even more.
78. I am more of an attachment parent than anything else.
79, My babies have both slept next to me for between 4-6 months and nurse pretty much on demand.
80. It's amazing how God uses your children to enable you to love your spouse even more.
81. We want to have lots of kids.
82. We don't know how many exactly but Rhett says we can get one of those high top vans and paint "The Shirleys" across the side of it if we have to.
83. We want to adopt some kids too.
84. We are planning on becoming missionaries after Rhett is done with his Infectious Disease training.
85. We don't know where we are going yet but we are making a two year commitment to where ever we are going.
86. After that - who knows?
87. The only show I really watch on TV is "Jon and Kate plus 8". They have twins and sextuplets. Although I'd love to have 6 kids I'd prefer not to have them all at the same time.
88. Our kids don't watch TV at all. Ever.
89. I'm happy about that and hoping it lasts for a while.
90. I took Rhett skydiving for his graduation present from college.
91. I was trying to impress him and although it was expensive it worked and he thought I was cool and adventurous. I wasn't trying to deceive him but his thinks it was a hoax.
92. I really am cool and adventurous - I'm just a little older and more responsible these days.
93. my least favorite household chore is laundry.
94. A highlight of my day is getting the mail. I feel like I am getting a present of sorts.
95. I have next to no artistic ability.
96. If I could choose to have some artistic talent it would be with photography. I think photography is the coolest art because it's not your version of something it is reality. Some times the things that God has made are just perfect and your impression or version of them just can't beat the real thing.
97. I have played the piano, cello and flute at one point or another. I didn't really like any of them for more than a week and I still can't read music and I definitely can't carry a tune.
98. The most beautiful place I have ever been is the Napali coast of Kauai. It was indescribable.
99. If I could go anywhere in the world it would be New Zealand.
100. Did I forget to mention that I am an only child?
101. I stand a commanding 5 feet 4 inches.
102. I owe a huge thank you to my parents who have loved and supported me though my entire life and now I get so much joy out of seeing them love my children.
103. Wow - 103 wasn't as tough as I thought it would be!

Happy Mother's Day

I had a wonderful Mother's Day with my sweet babies! Rhett surprised me with a delicious breakfast in bed (oatmeal, orange juice and hot chocolate with whipped cream) to start out "my " day! We had a full day planned with Ford's baby Dedication at church. We had all of our extened family in town for the Dedication and lunch afterwards. Claire was so cute during the ceremony. She waved at everyone as we were waiting our turn to be called out on stage "Hi Ama!, Hi Pa Pa! Hi Mac! Hi Jo Jo! Hi Doc!" - all the way down the line. She thought it was pretty fun because after it was over she said she wanted to go back on stage again. We may have a little performer on our hands!
This is my sister-in-law, Tish and nephew, Mac. I thought picture of us and our little ones (she has another little boy due in September) was in order since it was Mother's Day and we are in the trenches. I'm so thankful that we are in this stage of life and motherhood together. She is such a blessing to me. I hit the sister-in-law jackpot! I'm glad our kids will be so close in age too. It won't be long before we have Claire trying to boss around three very busy little boys. I'm excited for our kids too since they will have cousins so close in age to play with and grow up together.
You know you are a grown up when you have a kids table set up and you aren't sitting at it. Mac and Claire were sent to the playroom to eat and yes that is my daughter eating her lunch on Federal Platinum. She wouldn't dream of eating on plastic when it was very clearly a special day with fancy dishes. Clearly a sign of things to come.
So here I am with my second baby on Mother's Day. The blessings just keep on coming. I spent some time on Sunday reading 1 Samuel where Hannah so desperately wanted to become a mother and God answered her prayer by giving her Samuel. She in turn gave him back to the Lord. The verse from Ford's birth annoucement from Hannah's prayer in 1 Samuel 2 that starts "My heart rejoices in the Lord . . ." I have always loved her story. I have wanted to be a mother for so long (as long as I can remember) and I am overwhelmed when I think that I am living my dream. I spent some time on Mother's Day just thanking God for the priviledge and honor of being a mother to these children He has given me. When I think about all of the joy they have given me I feel as though my heart is going to burst. I pray that I can be a mother like Hannah and realize that although the Lord has entrusted them to me for this time they are ulitmately His.

I realize I have blown through my 100th post and not done my celebration post. I will work on it in the days to come but I have a feeling it may take a while so I'm putting it off. So at this point it will be 104 things about myself! Stay tuned . . .
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Friday, May 02, 2008

Favorites from Disney

Here are a few of my favorites from the week. We spent time at the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom and EPCOT. Rhett and I hit Hollywood Studios to ride some of our favorite roller coasters while the kids were napping one day. We enjoyed perfect weather and light crowds most of the week which made it that much more enjoyable!

We stayed for the "Spectromagic" parade one night. We fought our way to a good viewing spot and waited for the 9pm start of the parade. Five minutes after 9 they made an announcement that it would be 10 more minutes until the magic started. Not so magical Disney. It is very difficult to entertain a 2 year old standing still in a crowd of people. It was about that time that Claire looked at me and said those dreaded words at a time like this "I have to go pee pee". At first I was in denial then I realized that we would have a bigger problem if I didn't deal with the situation. So I took off with her though the crowds of thousands of people looking for a potty realizing that the parade was pretty much toast. I had to ask three people and run approximately half a mile before finding a potty and taking care of business. I decide at this point that I may never find my family again not to mention before the parade starts but something in me thought it would be worth a shot so I throw Claire on my shoulders and take off. I was dodging people at every turn, hurdling over small children and darting across streets. Then - I see it - Rhett's UGA hat in the distance - could I actually have found them??? Just then - the lights literally go out in preparation for the parade. Now I have to find everyone in the DARK??? Somehow, using the castle as my landmark I make my way back and get right in the same spot before the parade started. I think I get one of those mom badges for the effort made there. We saw the parade and it was magical and lovely. Claire was really excited to see Snow White dancing with the dwarfs in the parade.

My other favorite was the "Wishes" fireworks display. It was incredible. Ford was absolutely mesmerized by the show and watched with a huge smile on his face. It was a wonderful way to finish our wonderful week at Disney. Everything from breakfast at Chef Mickeys, the safari at the Animal Kingdom, dinner at Morocco, riding Space Mountain twice - it was all wonderful. We made some great memories with my parents and they had a great time showering the kids with love and attention. See you someday soon (Rhett says 10 years but it will be sooner than that!)! We had a wonderfully magical time!
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Disney continued

Here are my two sweeties on Dumbo. Claire would have stayed on this ride all day. I suggest that Disney have a Fast Pass for Dumbo.
OK, back to the castle. We came into the castle and had our picture taken with Cinderella. Claire described her as very big and very blue. She was right. After we had our picture taken we waited for a few minutes then headed up a winding stone staircase to the dining room. It really was magical. I felt like I was 6 years old and really wished I had on a princess dress too. We sat down to a really delicious fancy meal. During the meal the mice and fairy godmother did a really cute performance singing "bibity bobbity boo!" and telling us that all our dreams can come true! Ahhh. I actually believed them!

Claire did not like the mice but was fine with the godmother. Ford on the other hand enjoyed every minute of it! One thing that I loved that they did at WDW was that everyone called Claire "princess" - the guy parking strollers, the girl putting us on a ride, all of the waiters . . . everyone called her "princess". What a wonderful and sweet reminder to her of who she - a valuable, special princess - especially in light of what our culture tries to tell little girls to aspire too. More Disney magic - thanks! I highly recommend a visit to Cinderella's Royal Table for princesses and princes of all ages!
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We had a wonderful trip to Disney World!! We flew down on Sunday and enjoyed the Magical Express service that those smart people at Disney have come up with. We said good-bye to our bags on the curb at the Birmingham airport and the next time we saw them was in our room at our hotel. Nice. Thank you Disney for making our trip down magical. We settled into our room at the beautiful Polynesian Resort at Disney World. We had booked at "garden view" room (which is usually code for parking lot view) but we were thrilled to find our room had a lovely view of a little strip of quiet beach - more Disney magic . . . thanks again! I was really hoping that we would be one of the chosen families that gets to spend the night in the castle but no such luck on this trip. Oh well. Our hotel was wonderful. The room was really spacious and you really had a wonderful feeling of being on a vacation with the Polynesian theme. Best of all was the location. We were right on the monorail and just moments from the Magic Kingdom. The first night we headed next door to the Grand Floridian Resort for a fun princess dinner buffet with Cinderella, the step sisters, Prince Charming and the whole gang. Claire wore her Snow White dress because she is her favorite princess (except for Belle who is also her favorite princess). The scene at the dinner was a little bit of Las Vegas (the buffet part) and a little bit of a school cafeteria (the LOUD children part) but overall the food was good and it was fun to see that characters.

We took some fun pictures of Claire on the the beach at the hotel before tucking the kids away dreaming of the fun to come the next day at the Magic Kingdom!
So here we are - the quintessential American photo! We had a blast at the Magic Kingdom. We didn't get much past Fantasy Land the first day. We spent a lot of time waiting in line and riding on Dumbo. Claire loved Dumbo and cried when she had to get off. She enjoyed all of the rides she went on -even some of the "scarier" ones like Pirates of the Caribbean. We headed back to the hotel for a late afternoon nap then came back in at dinner time with fresh legs for the next part of our adventure . . . dinner at Cinderella's Royal Table at the castle. I'm not sure who was more excited me or Claire. I honestly wish I had been able to dress up like a princess too.
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