Monday, May 21, 2012

Faith

I have been hesitant to share my feelings on a very sensitive topic that is making headlines in these months leading up to our next presidential election.

I know my personal opinion will not be popular among many, and that's okay.

I came across a news article yesterday which addresses my feelings better than I ever could myself. Know that I'm not asking for anyone to agree with me. I value and appreciate everyone's opinion on the topic. This is just one that I feel very strongly about, because of certain experiences and the amazingly brave choices of some of my family members. (see below for a direct link to the article online)

I am a Christian, and I am in favor of gay marriage. The reason I am for gay marriage is because of my faith.

What I see in the Bible’s accounts of Jesus and his followers is an insistence that we don’t have the moral authority to deny others the blessing of holy institutions like baptism, communion, and marriage. God, through the Holy Spirit, infuses those moments with life, and it is not ours to either give or deny to others.

A clear instruction on this comes from Simon Peter, the “rock” on whom the church is built. Peter is a captivating figure in the Christian story. Jesus plucks him out of a fishing boat to become a disciple, and time and again he represents us all in learning at the feet of Christ.

During their time together, Peter is often na├»ve and clueless – he is a follower, constantly learning.

After Jesus is crucified, though, a different Peter emerges, one who is forceful and bold. This is the Peter we see in the Acts of the Apostles, during a fevered debate over whether or not Gentiles should be baptized. Peter was harshly criticized for even eating a meal with those who were uncircumcised; that is, those who did not follow the commands of the Old Testament.

Peter, though, is strong in confronting those who would deny the sacrament of baptism to the Gentiles, and argues for an acceptance of believers who do not follow the circumcision rules of Leviticus (which is also where we find a condemnation of homosexuality).

His challenge is stark and stunning: Before ordering that the Gentiles be baptized Peter asks “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”

None of us, Peter says, has the moral authority to deny baptism to those who seek it, even if they do not follow the ancient laws. It is the flooding love of the Holy Spirit, which fell over that entire crowd, sinners and saints alike, that directs otherwise.

It is not our place, it seems, to sort out who should be denied a bond with God and the Holy Spirit of the kind that we find through baptism, communion, and marriage. The water will flow where it will.

Intriguingly, this rule will apply whether we see homosexuality as a sin or not. The water is for all of us. We see the same thing at the Last Supper, as Jesus gives the bread and wine to all who are there—even to Peter, who Jesus said would deny him, and to Judas, who would betray him.

The question before us now is not whether homosexuality is a sin, but whether being gay should be a bar to baptism or communion or marriage.

The answer is in the Bible. Peter and Jesus offer a strikingly inclusive form of love and engagement. They hold out the symbols of Gods’ love to all. How arrogant that we think it is ours to parse out stingily!

I worship at St. Stephens, an Episcopal church in Edina, Minnesota. There is a river that flows around the back and side of that church with a delightful name: Minnehaha Creek. That is where we do baptisms.

The Rector stands in the creek in his robes, the cool water coursing by his feet, and takes an infant into his arms and baptizes her with that same cool water. The congregation sits on the grassy bank and watches, a gentle army.

At the bottom of the creek, in exactly that spot, is a floor of smooth pebbles. The water rushing by has rubbed off the rough edges, bit by bit, day by day. The pebbles have been transformed by that water into something new.

I suppose that, as Peter put it, someone could try to withhold the waters of baptism there. They could try to stop the river, to keep the water from some of the stones, like a child in the gutter building a barrier against the stream.

It won’t last, though. I would say this to those who would withhold the water of baptism, the joy of worship, or the bonds of marriage: You are less strong than the water, which will flow around you, find its path, and gently erode each wall you try to erect.

The redeeming power of that creek, and of the Holy Spirit, is relentless, making us all into something better and new.

Full article at cnn.com:
http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/05/19/my-take-the-christian-case-for-gay-marriage/?hpt=hp_c3


Because this was so well-written, I felt the need to share the article here.

I pray every single day that we, as Christians, can be open and loving to those around us who live a different lifestyle than we might choose for ourselves. We are all God's children and we all deserve to be respected and cherished.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

99 Things

My friend Ashley shared on her blog a list of "99 Things" that's been circling the 'net. Guess it's my turn to join the crowd! All the things I've done are in bold, along with a few details as needed.

1.  Started your own blog. 
2.  Slept under the stars.
3.  Played in a band.
4.  Visited Hawaii.
5.  Watched a meteor shower.
6.  Given more than you can afford to charity.
7.  Been to Disneyland. (Hopefully Disneyworld counts! I've been thrice!)
8.  Climbed a mountain.
9.  Held a praying mantis.
10.  Sang a solo.
11.  Bungee jumped. (Hahahaha. Soooo not happenin'.)
12.  Visited Paris.
13.  Watched a lightening storm.
14.  Taught yourself an art from scratch. 
15.  Adopted a child.
16.  Had food poisoning.
17.  Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty.
18.  Grown your own vegetables.
19.  Seen the Mona Lisa in France. (And it's surprisingly tiny.)
20.  Slept on an overnight train. (On European backpacking trip with friends. Awful night's sleep, had stinky feet dangling in my face. And yes, this was back when I actually had a sense of smell.)
21.  Had a pillow fight.

22.  Hitch-hiked.
23.  Taken a sick day when you're not ill. 
24.  Built a snow fort.
25.  Held a lamb.
26.  Gone skinny dipping. 
27.  Run a marathon. (Hahahaha. Oh I'm sorry, I guess they don't know me that well.)
28.  Ridden in a gondola in Venice.
29.  Seen a total eclipse.
30.  Watched a sunrise or sunset.
31.  Hit a home run.
32.  Been on a cruise.
33.  See Niagara Falls in person.
34.  Visited the birthplace of your ancestors.
35.  Seen an Amish community.
36.  Taught yourself a new language.
37.  Had enough money to be truly satisfied.
38.  Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person.
39.  Gone rock climbing. (Forced into it as a "team-building exercise" once. Yeah, not cool for this heights-fearing chick.)
40.  Seen Michelangelo's David.
41.  Sung karaoke.
42.  Seen Old Faithful erupt.
43.  Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant.
44.  Visited Africa.
45.  Walked on a beach by moonlight.
46.  Been transported in an ambulance.
47.  Had your portrait painted. (Grandma commissioned an oil painting of myself and my twin sis when we were little. Presh.)
48.  Gone deep sea fishing.
49.  Seen the Sistine Chapel in person. (I stood in the middle of the room and bawled like a baby. And I didn't care how many people stared; it was amazing.)
50.  Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower.
51.  Gone scuba diving or snorkeling. (Swam with stingrays in the Bahamas. It was uber-scary and I'll never do it again.)
52.  Kissed in the rain.
53.  Played in the mud.
54.  Gone to a drive-in theater.
55.  Been in a movie.
56.  Visited the Great Wall of China.
57.  Started a business. (I freelance graphic design on the side, does that count?)
58.  Taken a martial arts class.
59.  Visited Russia.
60.  Served at a soup kitchen.
61.  Sold Girl Scout cookies.
62.  Gone whale watching.
63.  Gotten flowers for no reason.
64.  Donated blood, platelets or plasma. (After 9-11 I got uber-patriotic and waited four hours to donate blood, only to find out that I was rejected because I had recently gotten a tattoo. Bummer.)
65.  Gone sky diving.
66.  Visited a Nazi concentration camp. (Most humbling and moving trip of my life.)
67.  Bounced a check.
(Hello college life.)
68.  Flown in a helicopter. (I won an Air Show art contest in middle school, and the prize was a helicopter ride above my hometown. It was sooooo cool.)
69.  Saved a favorite childhood toy.
70.  Visited the Lincoln Memorial.
71.  Eaten caviar.
72.  Pieced a quilt.
73.  Stood in Times Square.
74.  Toured the Everglades.
75.  Been fired from a job. (Don't ask.)
76.  Seen the Changing of the Guards in London.
77.  Broken a bone.
78.  Been a passenger on a motorcycle.
79.  Seen the Grand Canyon in person.
80.  Published a book.
81.  Visited the Vatican.
82.  Bought a brand-new car.
83.  Walked in Jerusalem.
84.  Had your picture in the newspaper.
85.  Kissed a stranger at midnight on New Year's Eve.
86.  Visited the White House.
87.  Killed and prepared an animal for eating.
88.  Had chickenpox.
89.  Saved someone's life.
90.  Sat on a jury.
91.  Met someone famous.
92.  Joined a book club.
93.  Gotten a tattoo.
94.  Had a baby. 
95.  Seen the Alamo in person.
96.  Swam in the Great Salt Lake.
97.  Been involved in a lawsuit.
98.  Owned a cell phone.
99.  Been stung by a bee.

I've done 54... How about you?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Wow!

Our family has experienced some pretty exciting milestones in the last few days, so I thought it appropriate to share them here.

Fair warning: if you are not a fan of reading about potties or toilet training adventures of toddlers, this post is not for you. I never thought I'd be "that Mom" sharing my kid's personal bathroom behaviors on the internet -- but let me just add this to the list of things I said I'd never do as a Mom :) I digress...

Andrew peed in the potty THREE TIMES yesterday!

Wow!

He is the youngest one in his class at school, and has several classmates who are partially potty-trained, meaning they only pee in the potty. He has also had some first-hand experience at home, since we sometimes allow him in the restroom when are using it, so he can see what exactly that big white scary toilet is there for :) Seeing as how kids love to mimic others, over the last few weeks he has said several times, "I pee! I pee!" and gone to stand in front of the toilet, hips thrust out, like he is trying to pee. It is the cutest thing because he says it with such vigor!

Lance and I weren't sure that he knew exactly what that meant, but figured we'd go ahead and buy him his own personal training potty to test out. I hadn't planned on initiating potty training of any kind for him until he was 2 or 2.5, so this was a fun fast track for me, getting to see him start something on his own schedule.

We brought the seat home Sunday night, and he sat on it a few times with his diaper on just to get a feel for it. Lance was home for a half-day with him yesterday (Andrew was getting over a virus) and in the morning, Lance asked Andrew if he needed to go pee. He said yes, then sat on the potty and peed just like a big boy! He was so excited! Before I got home at noon to take over for Lance, Andrew had done it a second time. He did it again last night before bed. He came running out of the bathroom to me and said, "Momma! I pee! I pee!!!!" He was super proud and it made me so stinkin' happy to see :)

Okay, so that was pretty darn exciting.

Then... this morning, as I was sitting down with Andrew as he ate his breakfast, he asked for milk. I brought it to him in his regular sippy cup. He began to grunt (which usually means, to my OCD child, that I've placed something in the wrong spot on his tray or something like that). But instead of whining and pointing and me not having a clue what was wrong, he said, "Straw!"

Yes! I knew exactly what was going on in that little brain of his. I took the lid off his sippy cup, put in a bendy straw, and sat back down.

He immediately yelled, "Cup!" and pointed to the dishwasher where we had just washed a load of dishes. I asked him, "Do you want another cup Andrew?" He smiled giddily and said, "Elmo cup!"

I got his Elmo cup out of the dishwasher, poured the milk from his sippy cup into it, replaced the straw, then sat down yet again.

But of course, there was still one thing a little off. He pointed again to the straw. I asked him if he wanted another color straw and he said, "Blue!" Who knew a yellow straw would be so un-enticing? :) So I replaced the yellow straw with a blue one, and the smile my son gave me could've lit up an entire Christmas tree.

This may not seem like a big deal to anybody else, but this was just the epitome of how amazing it is to have a child who is really beginning to communicate. Instead of grunts and whines and frustration on his part, he is finally able to articulate to me what exactly he wants -- and I am thrilled that I finally know what's going on in that head of his!

Lance told me later that after he took over on breakfast duty (while I showered), Andrew pointed to the fridge and said, "Grapes!" Lance brought him several and put them on Andrew's tray, but that was not the way he wanted it. Andrew said, "Bowl!" and laughed. Silly Daddy, bringing him his grapes without putting them in a bowl first :)

I know these are milestones every parent gets to enjoy, and you may be reading this thinking, "Big whoop. Your kid is average. Wait til he is actually potty trained or can say actual sentences before you share your stories with us, m'kay?"

Well, these are the moments that my life is made for. I love every second of being a Momma (even during the temper tantrums and "No!"s and whining fits) -- and I could not be happier being in this place at this time with my amazing son and precious husband.

I am so blessed that God gave me these small moments to appreciate. Besides, it's the small things that make the big picture so amazingly beautiful, right? :)

Kisses kisses, my sweet boy!

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

School Happenings

Andrew is blessed to attend the very best preschool in Memphis (I'm not biased at all, hehe). We are so grateful he is so well-taken care of, and loved by every teacher there.

Recently one of the school directors sent out links to photos that had been taken at several school events this spring. Each parent had a chance to browse the images, looking for pics of their own kiddos.

I wanted to share a few faves of our sweet little man!

 

Petting Zoo Day
Braving a ride on the big horse.
His face here makes me laugh -- he's holding on for dear life!
   


Easter Egg Hunt Day
Class picture with all of his sweet friends and their Easter loot.
Thanks, Ms. L and Ms. J for loving our boy so much!



Hunting for eggs to fill his cool Elmo basket.
 


Trike-A-Thon Day
Jumping for joy with his friends at school.
 

It was so fun for me to get a peek into what a day at school is like for Andrew, since of course I'm not there to see it for myself. We always knew he loved his teachers and his friends, but seeing his big smile in these pictures is so comforting to me!

Kisses kisses, my sweet boy!

Monday, May 07, 2012

Summer 2012

I'm a list maker. It's always been the easiest way for me to keep track of not only how many things I have to do but, more importantly, how many things I've already done :)

I thought it would be fun to put together a Willis Family to-do list for this summer. Memphis has so many family-friendly activities to offer, and on top of that -- now that Andrew is getting older, we have so many family activities that we can really enjoy together at home or close by.

I will mark things off as we do them, and hope to accomplish a vast majority of these by summer's end. Summer is my absolute least favorite season of the year, so my optimistic side is hoping that having a bucket list to check off in the dreadfully hot days to come will help me be a little happier as the days get longer and hotter.

Enjoy!


PS: if your family has especially enjoyed an activity and you think we should add it to our list, let me know! I would love for our list to keep growing :)