Thursday, April 26, 2012

Of Pecans and Beer

So, I have this husband. Said husband is extremely talented when it comes to writing (and many other things such as knowledge of literature, brewing beer, being a husband, brewing beer and did I mention brewing beer?)

Back to his writing...for the past who knows how long (maybe 5 years) he has been writing beer reviews on the website, Beer Advocate. Over 420 reviews, in fact.

Beer Advocate "is a global, grassroots network, powered by an independent community of beer enthusiasts and industry professionals who are dedicated to supporting and promoting beer." (Website)

His reviews differ from the normal reviews by way of creativity. Where regular beer reviews judge based on appearance, smell, taste, mouth feel and overall likeability, Joseph judges on those categories but in a creative way. He reviews beer by way of nostalgia and the emotion evoked by recognized flavors.

I encourage you to read other beer reviews by him.

So sit back and enjoy!

Yes, the days of tween-age when I was living in the town of Orangeburg. My best friend had pecan trees in his yard, and a huge field next to them. His mother used to pay us to pick them up for her, as she would make far more money at the farmer's market. The days lasted a lot longer then. Before I knew of beer, or of heartbreaks, or of long work-weeks. This one takes me back. Pours lazily into the glass, a glowing dark amber with a finger of froth that only lasts a few moments, like the dust kicked up behind the tractors, or the dust floating down from the crop-duster we used to chase in my dad's car.

There's a sweet, almost maple-syrup note to the nose, those early mornings after staying out all night in the woods, that we would come home to warm pancakes on the griddle. His mother used to make pecan waffles, too... I'm reminded as I take another whiff. The hint of bitter in the back isn't at all reminiscent of hops, but rather of the bitter lining inside the pecan's shell.

The flavor is not quite as good, sadly. The malt is very "newcastle-esque," though sweeter. The hops come in in the back, with an almost cardboard-note. Lightly sweet but largely bland, and only a hint of nuttiness, unlike the rich pecan aroma that hinted at much more.

Smooth, medium-full bodied with a pleasant lingering dryness in the back of the throat. Carbonation is fairly high, almost too high, as this beer would be perfect for those slow days by a lolling river, or paired with a wheat-stalk that one could chew contemplatively between sips, on a thick, fly-biting summer day as only South Carolina has.

This beer is not excellent. It's just above average, almost good. But it takes me back such that it just reminds me of home... The home I'll never return to, the state of mind that I had on those warm days under the pecan trees in my childhood. Life is too fast. Drink one of these, and try to slow down.

Remember what it was like when you were young... and long for the country in the summer.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

i will carry you

I hate being a broken record, talking about the miscarriage and other macabre things. But sometimes things impact your life so much that you can get consumed.

I was reading the blog, I Will Carry You, that I just found through another wonderful mommy blogger, BoHoBabyBump, when I stumbled upon a song.

First, the story of this beautiful mommy and family: at around 23 weeks, Aleisa and William was told that their baby was not "compatible with life" as their sweet little one was diagnosed with Trisomy 18 while still in the womb. While many people would have decided to terminate the baby, they decided that Aleisa would carry full term. Baby Nora Rose was born yesterday, April 18. They expected her to be still born, or to not breathe once she came to the world. Aleisa prayed for Nora Rose. Her prayer was answered. I encourage you to read about and watch the photo montage of Nora's first moments, of the heartwrenching joy that came from answered prayers.

That simple act of selflessness is enough to move the biggest mountains, but it was a song that Aleisa posted on her blog on the 8th day after she found out that her baby had Trisomy 18 that caught and broke my heart and then healed it two seconds later.

The song is by Selah, titled, "I Will Carry You" (where Aleisa gained the name of her blog).
The song chronicles a mother's heart. I want to go stanza by stanza with you and explain all the emotion that comes from me, because if I don't do it here then I won't do it and I feel as if I need to release it out into the world. So, here goes:

There were photographs I wanted to take
Things I wanted to show you
Sing sweet lullabies, wipe your teary eyes,
Who could love you like this?

In a previous post, I wrote a letter to Lord Volde, my own precious one whom we lost in September. After only 8 weeks, I was attached and had dreamed dreams and had already fallen so in love with the little being inside of me.

People say that I'm brave, but I'm not
Truth is I'm barely hanging on
But there's a greater story,
Written long before me,
Because He loves you like this

To be honest, my initial reaction after the miscarriage was to be mad at God. To sit in hostile silence blaming Him for taking Lord Volde and declaring that I ONLY wanted HIM and no other baby. But it was also God who spread salve over my wounded heart and made me realize that there is a greater plan.

So I will carry you,
while your heart beats here.
Long beyond the empty cradle,
through the coming years.
I will carry you,
all my life.
And I will praise the one who's chosen me,
to carry you.

The woman I mentioned before that write the blog, iwillcarryyou, made this promise to her baby despite knowing the probable outcome. Beyond the promise, she decided to acknowledge our Father and praise Him despite the card she had been dealt. So often, we curse God because of what He doesn't give us or what He takes away. Very seldom do we praise Him for all the amazing things that happens because of Him. It wasn't until a week after our miscarriage that I was able to stop and praise God for the beautiful weeks we were pregnant. There was an incredible freedom in releasing God and not blaming Him. The bitterness subsided (though not altogether gone) and I was able to reflect on the life that was.

Such a short time
Such a long road
All this madness,
but I know.
That the silence
has brought me to His voice.
And he says,
I've shown her photographs of time beginning,
Walked her through the parted seas,
Angel lullabies, no more teary eyes,
Who could love her like this?

Wow. This is the part that healed. Apart from the experience of miscarriage, this stanza applies to so much more. The lines, "All this madness/but I know/that the silence/has brought me to His voice", are true. When you pray and nothing happens, when you feel as if everything is falling apart and that God isn't listening. When you think that His silence is too much to bear, He is still faithful, He is still there. It reminds me of Matthew 6:26, "Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?" It is hard to imagine the breadth of God's love for us.

The last stanza is the same exact chorus as above. I read this last stanza as God singing to us. Just as we carry our babies in our wombs and arms, God carries us. His promise, that no matter what we face, He has us. He knows our hearts. He knows our desires. He carries us through every trial we face. But most of all, He is carrying the little ones that were lost too soon.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Weekend to Remember

In celebration of my 27th birthday (Lord, help me), Joseph's parents have graciously given us a weekend in Atlanta. Not just any weekend, but a Weekend to Remember.

I have already started to celebrate my "big day". My parents have already showered me with gifts (a beautiful diamond heart bracelet and flowers) and Joseph has gotten me a surprise gift from Home Depot (and a not-so-surpise oil painting from South Eastern Salvage).

But this weekend, we will be traveling the 3.5 hours to ATL to stay at the Renaissance Atlanta Waiverly Hotel which is extremely beautiful and attending a Family Life, Weekend to Remember.

The purpose of the Weekend to Remember is this: Focus, Connect and Discover. This marriage retreat will allow Joseph and I to focus on each other and connect without the distractions of daily life and to discover how to: receive each other as gifts, clarify the roles of husband and wife, resolve conflict within our relationship, maintain a vital sexual connection (woohoo!), express forgiveness to one another and increase our commitment to one another.

Through several speakers and sessions (including Why Marriages Fail, From How to Wow: achieving God's plan for marriage by leaving, cleaving and becoming one flesh, We Fight Too: how to handle the inevitable conflicts of marriage, and Marriage After Dark: Uncover Intimacy From God's perspective), application projects (that are done on our own) and even a date night on Saturday night (where we will be visiting the infamous Gladys Knight's Chicken and Waffles restaurant, the conference promises leave each couple with hope, encouragement and practical tools that will help build and grow our relationship.

I am excited to be able to share what Joseph and I gain from the conference but I am more excited that I get to spend a beautiful birthday weekend in Hotlanta, learning about each other and God's will for our marriage.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Things that remind me...

April 30th marks the 3 year anniversary of my grandpa's death.

Death is no stranger, my grandmother passed away in 1993, when I was 8 years old. Followed by a myriad of great aunts, great uncles, cousins removed, a police officer I never really knew but that I saw die as he lay on asphalt. My Dad's dad, Grandpa Edwards passed away in 2004 and just last year I lost an uncle, great-uncle, first cousin and grandpa on my husband's side.

In a way, I am grateful that I was exposed to death at an early age. You learn to cope, to process and in a way to numb yourself and while it doesn't make losing someone any easier it makes it  bearable.

So. Raymond Eugene Pressley. Grandfather, father, uncle, brother and at one time so very long ago, husband.

Here are a few things that remind me of him...

Number One: Orange slices

When I was younger and Grandpa lived in Charlotte, we would visit him. He would have an endless supply of these gummy treats as well as Number Two.

Number Two: Mountain Dew

Oh, Mountain Dew. During our visits, he would also have "Good Ole' Mountain Dew" at the ready. Up until he couldn't remember any longer due to his dementia, he would sing "Give me that good ole' Mountain Dew." He would continue with his version of the lyrics, "fill up a bottle or two. I'll hush up my mug if you fill up my jug of that good ole' Mountain Dew." Of course, this song was about mountain moonshine, not the neon yellow, lemon-lime concoction.

Take a listen, you may need to fast forward to about 45 seconds, unless you want to hear Mr. Flatt and Mr. Scruggs talk for a bit

Number Three: Little Debbie Cakes

I would say that Gramps had a sweet tooth. Swiss cake rolls and Oatmeal Creme Pies. Strawberry Ice Cream that he would share with my brother's dog and then deny knowledge of how Hutch got pink all over his snout.

Number Four: Gomer Pyle (played by Jim Nabors)

Gomer Pyle was a character on The Andy Griffith Show and eventually gained his own television sitcom. I honestly don't remember why Gomer reminds me of Gramps. Maybe they favor each other, maybe because he talked about him.

Number Five: The Marine Corps

Grandpa was in the Marine Corps, serving in the Korean War. He was proud of being a marine, as most marines are. He was always randomly saying, "Left, left, left, right, left".

During the latter part of his life, he brought so much joy to our lives. His legacy of redemption will live on.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Got the Life

"Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." 2 Corinthians 5:17

Korn. The band I listened to during the darkest years of my life (which weren't that dark in retrospect). Jonathan with his bagpipes and kilt, Head with his long hair, Fieldy with...well his bass, guitarist Munky and former drummer David Silveria. I would write the band's and members name in whiteout on my black cloth trapperkeeper.


Their dark, rebellious lyrics attempted to fill a void within me. I mainly listened to them because the people I hung around listened to them. I was a follower. Jonathan's angry, low-pitched, violent vocals were something I could latch onto.

When I became a Christian, I stopped listening to them, favoring bands like Zao, POD, Chrome Donuts and Stretch Armstrong.

In 2005, after 12 years of playing with the band, Brian "Head" Welch left. He left to follow Christ. In a radio interview with The Full Armor of God Broadcast Head explained his leaving, "I was walking one day, just doing my Rock and Roll thing making millions of bucks, you know success and everything, addicted to drugs and then the next day I had a revelation of Christ and I was like, everything changes right now."

A man that was addicted to alcohol, meth, xanax and other drugs; a man that was addicted to the world - to fortune and fame; a man that was completely broken, laid everything down to follow Christ.

Now, Head knows what his purpose is, "He put me on earth to have fellowship and intimacy with him. I am going to spend as much time as I can possibly spend getting to know Him...I don't want to waste any time, I've wasted enough time. That's what I am put on earth to do...let Him fill me with the Spirit so that He can do the work by bringing people into the Kingdom." (CBN)

I was taken by Head's brutal honesty of how he came to know Christ, view his testimony here:

A few months ago, I heard that Fieldy also turned his life over to Christ. What was happening? What IS happening to this band named Korn that I used to know? Christ was/is revealing himself to one of the biggest bands in nu rock.

In an interview, Fieldy said, "All you gotta know is what Jesus did for you...and if you ask him into your heart, it's for life. He is going to be with you forever." (CBN)


While Fieldy has stayed in the band and Head has stepped away, they are both ministering to the people who need it most, to the people who Christ himself ministered to: the unloved and those who are deemed unloveable. Their faith speaks volumes about Christ's love, forgiveness and grace. Nothing is too big, too bad, too abhorrent that Christ won't forgive you.

Easter Sunday, while sitting around a table talking to a few of my "in-laws" (cousins and aunt/uncle), we got on the topic of Christ's death. Not only that he died, but that he took every sin on himself. That he lived the sin and that God's cup of wrath was taken from us by Christ. Christ drank of the cup, the bitter, hot cup of infidelity and shame. Of murder and lust. Of sin. Of my sins.
Oh, the height and depth of mercy!
Oh, the length and breadth of love!
Oh, the fullness of redemption,
Pledge of endless life above!
So take the world, but give me Jesus.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The One About Running

Seeing as how there's 32 more days until the "big" day, I thought I would give a quick update post.
When I started running with the Run for God program at Riverland Hills Baptist Church, I honestly didn't think I would stick with it.

Here is the thing: I have a tendency of starting things with the full intention of finishing and somewhere along the way I lose interest, I get preoccupied with other things or I just quit for no reason. The $75 price tag for this program (which includes a nice running t-shirt, book and registration for the Get in the Pink race) helped in the way of sticking with it.

Over the past 7 weeks, I have gone from not being able to run 60 seconds without sounding like all the air in the world was gone to being able to run two 8-minute intervals without getting too winded. For some of you this doesn't seem a big deal, but for me it is huge. This week we jump to a 20-minute run. While I am nervous, I know that this program is designed for people like me and I trust that by the end of this week I will be running the full 20-minutes. I have run in the rain (which I recommend everyone do at least once in their lives), in freezing cold and in the stifling Columbia heat.

I started this program not knowing anyone besides my friend Brooke who is training separately in the 10k group. At first, I didn't mind the solitude. I actually liked running by myself so I could huff and puff and pant as loud as I wanted to without feeling embarrassed. But with anything, there needs to be a sense of community. During one of the first weeks, I met a woman named Robin and got to know her story. The following weeks I met Diane and Joan. Strong women of all ages that I could run beside and be encouraged by. It has made all the difference.

Thanks to Bill Haselden for the photos!

I didn't realize that I needed someone beside me saying, "You can do it! We are almost there!" Followed by high fives, smiles and laughing after the whistle blows.

So that is where I am at. At a place where running isn't so bad. At a place where I am getting healthier. At a place where I am not feeling so lazy.

I still don't like getting up at 7:30 on Saturday to run. I still don't like the occasional pain of my sciatic nerve. But at the end of the day (or mid morning), when I take off my running shoes and peel off my sweaty t-shirt. I feel good. I feel rejuvenated and I feel alive.

Side note: I also feel as if I would be safe in the event that a Zombie Apocalypse occurred. Just saying.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Dear Lord Volde:

Dear Lord Voldemort,

Seven months ago, we lost you. You were a mere eight weeks along, just beginning to have little fingers, toes and eyelids. You were the size of a kidney bean. You were my kidney bean.

You would have joined us on the outside very soon (if not already). Long since, we would have known if you were a boy or a girl and more than likely we wouldn’t still be calling you Lord Voldemort. (Though I am pretty sure your Auntie Katelyn would have held on to the nickname and embarrassed you at high school graduation by yelling it out for all to hear.)

It is hard to let go, to know that I should be big and pregnant with swollen feet, feeling you kick and squirm inside, ready to come out and see the world. Imagining what names we would have come up with and the colors of your nursery. Would you have green eyes like me? Or brown like your daddy? Would you have the Haltom bump on your nose? A ruddy complexion? Long fingers and toes?

Would you be a book worm, an athlete or both? Would you play t-ball or soccer? Dance or play piano? And the most important question: would you like Carolina or Clemson?

One thing is for sure, you would have been smart. I imagine reading to you, praying with and for you, playing with you, creating with you. However, one thing that I don’t think about is having to change your diaper.

I think of you often, every time I see a pregnant soon-to-be mommy or a little baby, when I talk to my friends who are pregnant or have babies of their own. I usually smile at your memory, at the joy that you brought during those few weeks that we knew about you. Sometimes there is a bitterness that creeps up especially when I see or hear people complaining about motherhood or those who choose to not have their babies.

But you were here, even if you were only a whisper. You were real. You had a life, no matter how short and for that life I rejoice. Ultimately, you are His. For that life I am grateful. You gave us new titles, that of Mommy and Daddy. We will tell your brothers and sisters about you and one day we will see you.

“You should know...
That your days here changed everything.
You are missed here and will always be
But you left here. The greatest gift of all.
Cause our hearts ache for home...”

~Home by Nicol Sponberg