Billy Graham is Off Limits – some thoughts on Community

Watch your mouth about Billy Graham, son.

One time, my husband Daniel and I got called out for our church (Vintage Fellowship) not having an alter call.

It went like this:

Daniel: Blah blah blah, something about Evangelism today…Billy Graham…(interrupted)

     –Family Member thinks that the next words out of Daniel’s mouth are going to insult Billy Graham who is apparently untouchable in their eyes.–

–Please note: Daniel was not going to trash talk Billy Graham–

Family Member:  Don’t listen to him! They go to a church that doesn’t even invite people to Christ. They just say ‘Go in Peace.

The words “Go in Peace,” were saturated with contempt. Which I thought was pretty amusing since, you know, it’s a QUOTE FROM JESUS.

Quite a few people said it in the Bible, actually.

Thirteen times.

Plus, I always thought that just being at church was an invitation to Christ. Or helping each other. Or comforting each other. Pretty much any of the things Jesus told us to do, I saw/see them as invitations. But I can only speak to my experience.

The complete dismissal of our community of Faith over something like that didn’t offend me immediately. I actually had to stifle my laughter because it was just such an absurd thing to hear. I think I found it so puzzling because I didn’t grow up in a church with an altar call. I didn’t have the faintest clue what Daniel was talking about when came bursting into the living room the next day having come up with the perfect rebuttal in the shower. As one does. Always too late. He said, “For over 1,000 years the Church survived without 8 verses of ‘Just as I Am,’ and it will survive for 1,000 more.” I think I cocked my head to the side like a confused puppy. He had to explain the concept of singing through the hymn verse after verse until someone finally would get up and move forward to the altar. Apparently, this is a big deal. I don’t know about anyone else in the Church of the Brethren or any other Anabaptist groups, but that was not something that happened at Broadwater Church of the Brethren. I remember it there was an altar call every night the summer I was a counselor in training at a 2nd Baptist church camp but I thought it was a camp thing. I had no idea they probably did that every Sunday at their churches at home.

It was very interesting that the next Sunday our friend Jeff Miller spoke on Romans 14 at Vintage. Because that’s how God works.

We need to let go of our need for others to be like us. Within our community there is and should be individuality. My journey is my own but the Grace of God in it is the same as it is for everyone else. We are bound together by God. We all live and walk and serve in different ways.

You want to have an altar call every single Sunday? You go on and have your altar call every Sunday. Good for you, Glen Coco. You GO, Glen Coco! But don’t assume that it’s the only way to ‘invite people to Christ.’

You want to give away half of everything you own? Good for you, Mark Scandrette. You GO, Mark Scandrette. My collection of books and movies will be remaining cozily on my book shelves.

How uninteresting our communities would be if we were all exactly the same and had the same passions.

One thing I love about Fayetteville is the Community. With a capitol “C.” And one of the things that happens in this Community is a little event that used to be called “Churches Outside Together.” Despite the seriously cheesy name, it is a really enjoyable event at Gulley Park where some local churches get together and just hang out. (June 5th this year) BBQ is provided and everyone brings a side dish to share. Cause it ain’t a Southern church function without a potluck, ya’ll. Bands and musical groups from each congregation take turns on stage entertaining with gospel, barbershop quartets, the Beatles, hymns, bagpipes; pretty much whatever the musicians are in the mood for. One year I brought bubbles in a baby pool. So many bubbles.

This year there has been a name change from “Churches Outside Together,” to “Congregations Outside Together,” to include Temple Shalom, which is awesome even if I feel a prime opportunity was missed to come up with a ridiculous Hipster-y name for the event.

There will also be volleyball and kickball tournaments. You’re welcome to come and try to play kickball, but the Vintage Fellowship Bible Thumpers are going to win. Fair warning. Game prep includes a craft night. We’re making t-shirts. This is serious.

The smack talk has already begun on the Facebook page.

I know because I’m the one who started it.

I Googled “Christian Smack talk” but apparently that is not a thing as far as I can tell. So I resorted to a classic.

StillwellAngel You're Gonna Lose

I think you should come and have some fun.

But watch your mouth about Billy Graham.

Or don’t.


Monthly Baby Photo Shoot – Samuel is a Year Old!

Samuel turned one year old this LAST month!

Clearly I am in denial and that has manifested in me taking a whole month to publish this FINAL monthly blog post. *sniff* Seriously, it’s been written for weeks.

I can’t believe we have had this little joy in our lives for a year already.

1 Year Old Photo Shoot 3


He’s still working hard on those top two teeth with little progress, the poor fella. They swell up and go down over and over.


1 Year Old Photo Shoot 1


It seems like Samuel is learning new things every day now. He can clap. He dances when he hears music. He chatters ALL the time and sometimes you can almost make out the words. Our very favorite new skill is his adorable “Meow” when he sees Tonks or when you ask him “What does the kitty cat say?” Some times he just cruises around meowing in his little voice. So sweet.


1 Year Old Photo Shoot 3


Still no walking and I don’t encourage such shenanigans. He will stand unassisted for a moment if he’s not paying attention. As soon as he realizes what he’s doing he sits back down. He’s plenty mobile for me right now!


1 Year Old Photo Shoot 2


We had a sweet little birthday party for him the week after his birthday. I’m still working on editing those photos and our friend Donny took some with his nice camera so I hope to share those soon.

In the meantime….

1 Year Old Photo Shoot 4

Monthly Baby Photo Shoot – Samuel is 11 Months!

I can’t believe this is my last update before Samuel turns ONE!

11 Months Photo

My instincts were correct, Samuel’s bottom two teeth popped through this month. He takes after his Mama on the teething front and immediately started working on the top two. (I was late to get teeth but I cut four at a time) These have been much harder on everyone than the first two. They still aren’t through and the poor kid wakes up screaming at night and seems to need to nurse constantly.

Teething Boy

This is what happens when you photograph a teether.

nom nom nom

“Samuel! Over here!”

nom nom nom

“Grin for Mama!”

nom nom nom

St. Patrick's Day Baby

Samuel’s Granny came to visit last week and he had a wonderful time getting spoiled and loved on. She, of course, had to get him an outfit for St. Patrick’s day. This picture looks like he has been partying it up. Maybe we have a future Rolla graduate on our hands?

On the Move

He chose Granny to be the recipient of his first obvious wave. And Granny swears she can hear him saying all kinds of words and that Daniel and I just don’t even listen to our own kid. I admit that he does sound like he is trying very hard to say “Pup Pup” for Luna.

Book Lover Baby

This month my heart nearly exploded when Samuel picked up one of his books and brought it to me to read to him for the first time. I can not express the level of my joy when his face lights up at the first few words of ‘Tugga Tugga Tugboat.”

11 Month Baby Photo

I have not been on the ball at all about planning his 1st Birthday party but hopefully those details will start to come together in the next week or so. I have a theme, I just need to do silly things like set a date and invite people and plan to feed them.

Baby 11 Month Photo Collage

It’s time to get to celebrating this growing boy!

Samuel is 10 Months!

Samuel’s 10 month baby photo shoot wardrobe provided by Aunt Jo!


I didn’t realize how much Samuel had changed in the past month until I looked back at his 9 month update.


On January 8th, he finally pushed himself into a seated position from his knees! Once he made this leap he did a lot less screaming when he found himself on his tummy or hands and knees.


Apparently, finding he could free himself from the tyranny of facing down was quite the discovery. Within a few days he was doing his version of crawling all over the place. He doesn’t crawl on all fours. He gets up on one knee and propels himself forward with the other foot.


And he moves FAST. It made the photo shoot a little more difficult this month.


He’s also doing a lot of cruising around the couch, coffee table and all his big toys.

IMG_8428Lastly, take a good look at this sweet face. Next month I’m pretty sure there will be a little tooth in that grin! I don’t know if my heart can stand it.


Monthly Baby Photo Shoot – Samuel is 9 months!

What an exciting month this has been!

9 Month Photo Collage

Our big boy has continued to prefer scooting on his bottom as his preferred method of travel. Of course, above all else, he prefers to scream until I move him where he wants to go. He did start getting on his hands and knees once in a while but definitely makes sure to let me know that he does not like that one little bit.

Standing Baby

He’s been pulling up with Mama and Daddy’s help for a while, but Samuel started pulling up all by himself onto his toys this month!

Samuel 9 Months 6

He’s gotten very vocal and sings “Bah Bah BAH!” to his musical toys. He also says Mama and Dada lots more often and clearly now.

Samuel 9 Month 3

He gives open-mouth kisses to Mama now, which is disgusting and adorable.

Samuel 9 Month 4

He is still a terrible sleeper and napper but we are (and by “we are” I mean I AM) getting much more sleep since we decided to co-sleep most of the time.

Samuel 9 Month 2

He is also being very ticklish and laughing like crazy.

Samuel 9 Month 1

He has tried several new foods. Even carrots diced really small! His Granny and Aunt Jo introduced him to puffs New Year’s Day and he’s hooked. It’s amazing to me to watch him try to pick them up to eat and think how eating can double as building fine motor skills. Every single thing he does all day long teaches him something about the world. I wish we could keep that wonder in mind as we grow up.

I simply can’t believe he will be a year old in 3 short months!

Baby Photo-shoot 3-6-9

Anticipation – A Christmas Tale

Last night we enjoyed Christmas Eve service at Vintage Fellowship as a family. This Advent season we have been simply telling the story of birth of Jesus. We’ve also been sharing our own Christmas stories. Some have been funny, some have brought me to tears. I had the opportunity to share one of my own stories last night.


When I was very small the rule for Christmas morning was that my brother my sister and I were allowed to get out of bed at 6am and open our stockings. We were not allowed to wake our parents until 6:30. I guess that extra half hour of sleep was more valuable to them than watching us ransack our stockings. As we got older and Christmas morning began to lose a bit of its luster, my mom started looking for ideas to keep up the magic.  Before the days of Pinterest, she relied on stories from other moms and probably some magazine articles to guide her on her journey. One year she mentioned that she had read that some families made the excitement last by letting everyone open a single present every hour.

That idea was quickly vetoed.

What happened when it was your turn to open up your yearly pack of new underwear while your big sister got to play with her new Diskman for an hour? Have an underwear fashion show? I think not. Determined to do SOMETHING to keep her remaining two children living at home safely pinned under her iron thumb of wonder and magic, she decided that we would hold off on opening anything until after we had eaten a huge hearty breakfast she would cook Christmas morning.

No stockings.

No candycanes.

Nothing until she saw a table full of happy plates, emptied of bacon, eggs and biscuits and gravy. Then, her beautiful Rockwellian family would retire around the Christmas tree to enjoy the rest of Christmas morning after a proper level of built up anticipation. One thing she did not count on. Me. Her youngest little angel. It seemed I did not NEED the extra encouragement to be excited for Christmas morning. I was dying to dive into the pile of glittering paper and bows. She disregarded my pleas to at least open stockings. She brushed off my claims of not feeling well enough to eat breakfast.

The anticipation was too much for me.

My nervous system couldn’t handle the strain.

And I barfed.


The next year we began a family tradition that has survived for over 20 years. We woke up and, to keep my mind occupied, I made cinnamon rolls. From a can. 14 minutes of bake time being about the maximum amount of cooking time my nerves could handle. Cinnamon rolls, followed by stockings and then presents around the tree. This year, I got ambitious and made cinnamon rolls from scratch. They were delicious and I didn’t even throw up.

Merry Christmas!

Monthly Baby Photo Shoot – Samuel is 8 months!

Hello there, 8 months.

Your Christmas tree sign may not be as cute as the 7 month turkey, but I still love ya.
PicMonkey CollageWhile all of Samuel’s little friends and family members his age have started crawling, Samuel says, “Suck it. I don’t wanna be on my tummy,” and has made exactly zero attempts to crawl. I am ok with this. We are definitely not baby-proofed enough for a mobile baby.

IMG_7886What he DID start doing this month is scooting on his little booty. It’s difficult on the carpet, but he’s getting better and better at moving across the floor.

IMG_7916He sure does love his puppy!

We added a few new foods this month. Pumpkin puree has been his favorite so far. He tasted it for the first time on Thanksgiving day (of course) and devoured it.

IMG_7834I can’t believe how fast he’s growing. He is pretty solidly in 9 month clothes now. He was able to get a little extra wear out of some 6 month outfits over Thanksgiving since we did disposable diapers while we were gone and they aren’t as bulky as the cloth.

IMG_7836I had to take the pillow out of the bassinet for this month’s photoshoot. I was afraid he’s topple out trying to sit up in it!





Monthly Baby Photo Shoot – Samuel is 7 months!

It seems like Samuel jumped suddenly from newborn to big baby this month.

7 Month Baby Photo

He moved from his cradle in our room to his crib in his nursery the night he turned 6 months old. That was so difficult for this Mama! Even though it only takes me about 4 steps to get from our bed to his crib. He hasn’t been sleeping very well lately but his Granny sent me a copy of “The No Cry Sleep Solution” by Elizabeth Pantley so I have high hopes of some improvement. Waking every 1-2 hours is a little much.

7 Month Baby Photo with Puppy

Our little guy starting sitting unassisted this month.

7 Month Baby Photo with wooden Toy

We sit on the floor and play with all of his toys and he just looks so BIG.

Remember this Toy Box? Our cousin did some work on it for us to tighten up a few spots where the wood was pulling apart and it’s as good as new and taking a place of honor in Samuel’s nursery.

7 Month Baby Photo with Toybox

He has also started listening when I read him his books instead of trying to eat them the entire time.

1-7 Months Baby Photos

Our big, sweet boy weighs 18 pounds now! He’s going to outgrow his carseat before we know it and have to move up to the next size. It’s all going by so quickly!


Happy Halloween!

Samuel’s First Halloween!

I tried to take some fantastic seasonal photos on the front porch with my four pumpkins but Samuel-Pumpkin was very serious during our photo shoot.


Cute Pumpkin

This was the closest he came to giving me a smile.


Fall Porch

The composition is a little off on this one, but I really like how you can see the mums and the fallen leaves on the steps.

Family Halloween

Family Costumes!

We took Samuel to Trick-or-Treat on the Square so that we could say we took him for his first Halloween and also to see some friends who were handing out candy. I grabbed a tiny Halloween bag on the way out the door so that we could pretend Samuel was actually trick-or-treating. I always thought it was weird when parents would come to our door for candy carrying only a child that clearly isn’t old enough to eat the candy. I was just looking for a photo op but something lovely happened. People kept sticking candy into Samuel’s little bag with a wink.  One lady put a sucker in for Samuel (no, I’m not letting him have it) and then grabbed a huge handful of candy from her basket and said, “And THIS is for Mommy!” Oh, Bless that woman. Bless her, Bless her Bless her!

Because it’s his first Halloween Samuel has multiple costumes, of course. We Trick-or-Treated at the neighbor’s house with the cutest bee ever. And by Trick-or-Treated I mean we went over and hung out talking for two hours. We haven’t visited with them in a while so it was great to sit and catch up.

Baby Bee

Keeping an eye on Facebook today, I was excited to see everyone’s Halloween costume photos from work. I hadn’t anticipated how much I would miss Halloween in an office! All of the costume contests and special food and excitement. Halloween was always one of my favorite work days so it was definitely a tiny bit sad to be missing out on it all. It occurred to me too late that there is no reason not to do all that stuff at home! So I’m going to start planning now for making Halloween an all day event next year. First item on the list will be wearing my Halloween costume all. day. long. Hurrah for overkill!

Non-Crazy Rules For Dating My Son

I have a bit of a rant for you tonight.

You’ve probably seen the silly “Rules for Dating my Daughter” lists floating around the interwebs over the years. “I’ve got a shovel and a big back yard,” etc. I don’t think I ever paid much attention to them. I might have laughed or given a hearty “you know it!” including a sassy head swivel that hasn’t actually been cool since the mid-nineties when I learned it from “In Living Color.”  A new-to-me version showed up on my Facebook wall today. (Can we talk later about how Facebook makes me feel stabby lately and if I see one more ‘Like if you love Jesus. Scroll down if you love the Devil’ post I might develop a nervous tic. Don’t tell me what to do. The other day I saw a picture I thought was cute and I almost clicked the Like button but then I noticed the big “Like if it’s cute” text on the photo and I was all “YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!”)

That’s probably part of why this new version of the dating rules list affected me so strongly today. The other part is harder for me to admit. I have always chaffed when people shook their heads, smiled and patronizingly suggested, “You’ll understand when you have kids someday.” I still don’t totally buy that thought process all the time but here I am having a freaking different reaction to something partly because I’m a mom now. A mom to a little boy.

This is what a friend of mine shared today.

Rules for Dating My Son


I want to be clear that I’m not passing judgement on my friend. I see why she shared it and why she thought it was funny. I see more than just the easy humor in the list, though. I see a lot of crazy with a dash of misogyny thrown in. Maybe it’s funny to read, but how scary would it be to actually have someone tell you “I know how to avoid jail?” Or to be dating a guy whose mom keeps telling you that she can make you go away and that your opinion doesn’t matter? It’s funny in the way “Everybody Loves Raymond” made people laugh but they would have been miserable to live with some of those relationships in real life.

I couldn’t get it off my mind as got Samuel down for bed tonight. I absolutely do not want my relationship with his future girlfriends to look like that and I definitely would not want to be giving that type of example for him to follow.  So here are MY rules for anyone wanting to date Samuel someday. I’m assuming this list is aimed at Junior High and High School girls since I find the thought of a mother having these kinds of rules for a grown man to be creepy and bizarre.



  1. While he lives at home with us, our son will be required to work within a basic budget to give some, save some and spend some of whatever money he earns. If he wants to use his spending money to shower you with gifts, that’s up to him. If he runs out of money to buy his clothes and pay for his hobbies, that’s his problem. Sometimes budgeting is a hard lesson to learn. But, if he’s anything like his father or me he’s probably going to be a cheap one. So get ready to be on the receiving end of flowers he picked in a field on the way to your house instead of a dozen roses.
  2. If you show up to my house and I hear my son judging you or any other girl based on what you are wearing, then he won’t be going anywhere because he’ll be at home writing an essay about how words like “slut” and “whore” and “looking like a stripper” contribute to a culture of rape and explaining why we don’t use them in our home.
  3. If I see any “sexts” on his phone (coming or going), you will both find yourselves sitting on my couch having a conversation with my husband and me AND your parents that I’m pretty sure you will find extraordinarily embarrassing. Also, phones will get taken away. And if you are under 18 and you send a nudy picture, it’s child porn. No. Really.
  4. Understand that if I don’t like you it doesn’t matter. I’m not the one dating you.
  5. Understand that I could make you leave our house, but I know that I can not be with my son every second of every day monitoring who he interacts with and I wouldn’t want to be. So, no, I will not try to ‘make you go away.’
  6. My son is not a “Mama’s boy.” He’s a young man with a healthy, respectful relationship with his mother. That’s a good thing for you. It means he’s been raised to treat women nicely and has someone to make sure he doesn’t buy you something ugly for Christmas. You’re opinion on what kind of relationship he has with other people absolutely matters. How he interacts with other people tells you what kind of man he will become. You do not need a ring on your finger to give your opinion value!
  7. You are not in charge of anyone but yourself and it will cause you nothing but heartache if you try to change other people. If my son isn’t the guy for you, that’s ok. It doesn’t reflect poorly on either one of you. Find a guy you don’t need to see as a project.
  8. He is a gentleman. His father and I taught him that. He will treat every girl and woman he meets as a lady because they all deserve it. If he behaves otherwise, don’t you put up with it!
  9. I’m not going to threaten you with thinly veiled suggestions of violence. That’s insane. If a grown-ass woman threatens you or even implies a threat, go immediately to your parents, a trusted adult or a teacher and let them know. 
  10. Do not fake your way to any type of relationship. No one will end up happy. Who you are is enough. My son has grown up in a home that deeply values authenticity, so I hope he is able to tell when people are being fake so that he can avoid them. You are a little young to be worried about trying to get a ring on your finger but, if you do end up married to my son, you will be one lucky woman to get a man who respects women and to have a mother-in-law as cool as I am.