Sunday, November 2, 2014

Fall Pictures

Gail Smith never let's us down. Here are three new Dickenson Family photos courtesy of Images by Lucy.

The last picture posted of Kathleen by herself was posed by Kathleen and taken by Daddy! She sat down on one of Gail's props and said, "Daddy, take my picture!" I know that beautiful smile combined with the red boots, yellow mums, and pumpkins will be one of our favorite photos for years to come.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Happily Ever After...

This morning in play time before school Kathleen rolled out my yoga mat and said, “It’s an aisle! Let’s play wedding!” Then the fun began…

First Kathleen got a blanket to walk behind like she saw Jessica Nelson do that at her outdoor wedding (so no one could see the bride before she walks down the aisle). Then Daddy was asked if he would be the groom which put Mommy in the position of official wedding director/pastor. We rehearsed the basic ceremony before school and when I picked Kathleen up at the end of the day the details of the plan came together on our ride home. Kathleen had the best time thinking about and discussing which dress she would wear, how she wanted to set up her stuffed animals as guests, and last but not least we could not forget to pour the sand!

Once we got home, Kathleen and Mommy spent a full hour getting ready: preparing dinner, the room, and most importantly the bride for her big night. When Daddy walked in the door at 6:30 p.m. the game was on. In fact, I believe Daddy was greeted at the door with a sweet Kathleen running up to him in her wedding dress yelling, “Daddy, Daddy, we’re ready for the wedding ceremony!”

First, we ate Kathleen’s favorite dinner to celebrate the occasion (Yellow rice, Black Beans, Veggie Fajitas, and Guacamole). After dinner, Daddy put on his suit jacket and walked his little girl down the aisle behind a blanket. At the end of the aisle he tossed the blanket aside to reveal the stunning beauty of his bride. While holding hands, Kathleen then promised to love Daddy forever and ever. Daddy likewise promised to love Kathleen forever and ever. Kathleen gave Daddy his wedding ring and promised to love Daddy no matter how old or sick he became. Daddy then gave Kathleen her wedding ring and promised to love Kathleen no matter how smart or beautiful she became. Then they walked over to a special table to pour colored sand into a glass bottle. This sand was a symbol of how their two hearts, joined by love, could never be separated - just as the beautiful colors mixed together in the sand also cannot be separated. Coming back to the center of the aisle, Mommy then pronounced the happy couple married and Daddy kissed the bride! They danced back down the aisle and celebrated among all their stuffed animal friends. Kathleen baked a pretend cake for all the guests and the couple’s first dance was to “Everything is Awesome” from the Lego movie. It was truly a dance of celebration and did not disappoint!

As a child, I don’t remember ever asking to marry my daddy, but tonight was a night of dreams come true in the land of parenthood. Kathleen had such a great time preparing for and walking through her wedding ceremony. Thank you Jessica Nelson, for allowing us to attend your beautiful wedding and therefore causing Kathleen to want to be just like you!

p.s. No filter was applied to these photos, and our house is not full of smoke! I was just a horrible photographer in the midst of directing and officiating. Emotions were high, what can I say. 
The memory of the night however remains perfect. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

God loves to bless barren women

I have volunteered to lead the UMW program for Gillburg UMC's June meeting. Preparing for June invited me to go back and read what I presented in October the last time I spoke to the group. This is what I said on October 19 & 20, 2013 to both Gillburg and Spring Valley United Methodist Women's groups. Could this also apply to you, your women's group, or your church? 

"Five of us women attended the Women of Faith Conference last weekend in Charlotte. The theme for the weekend was “Believe God Can Do Anything”. The first speaker on Saturday was Liz Curtis Higgs. She is a well-known author most famous for her book Bad Girls ofthe Bible. I loved what Liz had to say so a small portion of that message is what I would like to share with you today.

Let’s look at the story of Elizabeth - Luke 1: 5-12 - In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old. Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 

Now Zechariah was a priest entering in a holy place but he didn't expect anything holy to happen. He was startled, and overcome with fear. Don’t we do the same thing on Sunday mornings? When we come to God’s house, what do we expect? Do we expect to meet him here?

Luke 1: 13: But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 

The angel said, “Your prayer has been heard.”  That’s it. Simple enough. Your prayer has been heard. Do we believe that when we pray?  

The angel goes on to tell Zechariah…. Luke 1: 14-17 - He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

And what’s Zechariah’s response? “Are you serious? How can I be sure?”  Luke 1:18 - Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

Here Zechariah is saying to God - "that's impossible" - and we still do that today. We read his word and we shake our head and say – "that’s impossible" - but the Truth is:
God Loves to work in the realm of the impossible because that is where He gets all the Glory.
Is anything too hard for our Lord?
Is it too hard for Him to fill the Spring Valley or Gillburg UMC pews on Sunday mornings? 
Is it too hard for him to bring growth to His church? Life within these walls? Love among His people? 
To grow this UMW group into a force of sisters in Christ that have come together to spread the good news?

The story continues, Luke 1: 19-25 - The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.” Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. When his time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

God loves to bless barren women – Sarah, Elizabeth, Mary, Rebekah, Hannah, and there are more. And the light bulb moment for me here was when the speaker Liz went on to say that “Any kind of barrenness in our lives is God getting ready to bless us.” Will you believe that if you open yourself to the Lord you will be filled? That God will hear and answer your prayer? This could be those barren pews on Sunday mornings, it could also be your marriage, your relationship with your children, the relationships between us gathered here, your work or home environment, or your calling of current purpose in the world. 

As Calvin was discerning his call into ministry, one of the books our pastor gave him to read defined calling by saying, “It is the intersection of where one’s greatest joy meets the world’s greatest need.” Tell me, what is the calling of this women’s group? Do you know that you still have a calling on your life no matter what your age is? Look at story we just read. God can CHOOSE anyone, and He can USE anyone. And I love knowing there is a plan, God’s plan, and we are part of it. So it is our job to open ourselves to being used. What can our time, talents, gifts, service and witness offer the community around us? I would love to see us come together as a powerful group of sisters in Christ who offer the love and light of our savior to those around us. Let’s think, and pray, and be open to what we can do for the children of God outside the walls of this building. As Calvin said it so well this week: Instead of saying, “Look at this small church.” Let us instead say, “Look at all this small church can do!” 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Chocolate Avocado Mousse

Beyu Cafe in Durham was Voted Best Dessert in the Bull City Vegan Challenge with their Chocolate Avocado Mousse. I plan to try making this special treat for my family this Memorial Day Weekend.

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, such as Ghirardelli
4 very ripe (8 ounce) avocados, peeled and pitted
1/2 cup agave
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup almond milk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
Fresh raspberries, for garnish

Place the chocolate chips in a small bowl. Place over a small saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth, about 3 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.

Place the melted chocolate, avocados, agave, cocoa powder, almond milk, vanilla and salt in a food processor. Blend until smooth and creamy, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Spoon into glasses and refrigerate for at least 3 hours (can be prepared 1 day in advance). Garnish with fresh raspberries and serve.

Recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis
SHOW: Giada at Home
EPISODE: Spa Day at Home

Read more & watch video at:

Monday, April 28, 2014

Angels Among Us 5k

We decided to run the Angels Among Us 5k in Durham with some friends from Plank Chapel UMC because it sounded fun and it was for an incredibly good cause - to raise money as a team for the Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke.

My dear friend Megan let us borrow her jogging stroller and we prepared Kathleen for her first race by telling her what all she could expect in the days leading up to the event. I think just calling it a "race" was the most exciting part for her. The night before the event we put her to bed saying, "Sleep well. We're going to have to get up earlier than normal to go to the race. It will still be dark out when you wake up." Well Kathleen was so excited she woke up two different times during the night asking, "Is it time to go to the race yet?" I told her not yet and we cuddled in her bed together until she fell back asleep.

This was our first race together as an entire family. Calvin pushed the stroller and we ran with each other the entire time. Running as a family was more enjoyable than I ever expected. Kathleen fell asleep at about the half way mark. She was worn out from all the feelings of excitement the night before. Our official time was 36:17 running 11:40 min miles. Not fast, but not bad! My goal was to beat 12 min miles and we did! Success.

This single event gave me an idea of how fun it could be to run faster to keep up with Calvin (or at least make it not so hard on him to slow down and run with me every so often). I've been stuck on 12 min miles for the past 5-6 years without pushing myself do any better. Why not? Next step - 10 min miles.

Yes, my shirt says Duke on it.... It is a Chronicle v109 tee.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Missed Miscarriage

On Friday, January 10th I woke up and took a pregnancy test. It was the fourth month in a row where Calvin and I had been trying to get pregnant. I was beyond thrilled when I saw a faint second line on the test. This was what I had been waiting for! During the morning routine I was not able to tell Calvin the great news since Kathleen was with us so I opted to call him that morning when I drove to a mid morning meeting and had a minute alone. That very evening we drove to visit my parents and Saturday we had a family play date with a couple of our best friends from divinity school.

To tell or not to tell: With each pregnancy there is always the question of to tell or not to tell. The first trimester is the most common time for miscarriage and most often couples hold the news of their new pregnancy to themselves in the event something goes wrong. Calvin and I opted to tell our parents and several of our closest friends and confidants. We wanted, and still want, to protect Kathleen from any feeling of loss so we did not share the news with her. The benefits of keeping the information to ourselves was to help protect others from riding a roller coaster with us should the pregnancy fail. If we did not tell them in the first place, then we did not have to go back and share of the loss with everyone should something go wrong. The trouble with this is that it means you are riding a roller coaster of emotions and the people around you have no idea.

My pregnancy confirmation appointment was first scheduled for Thursday, February 13, but was moved back to Thursday, February 20th due to snow. (That was the Wednesday Durham hit gridlock and it took me 6 hours to get home!) Calvin came with me to Durham on the 20th to enjoy the site of seeing our second baby for the first time and hearing the long awaited heartbeat. We expected the baby to be 9 weeks and 4 days at that time. When the ultrasound technician measured the embryo at 6 weeks 1 day with no heartbeat we knew something was wrong. The doctor came in and questioned me about symptoms. She said we would do a blood test that Friday and I would come back on Monday to repeat the same test then we would perform a second ultrasound a week later just to confirm there was no additional growth. In the meantime she prepared me for what to do should a natural miscarriage occur. Of the people who knew we were pregnant, we only informed a handful of them of the pending complications until we confirmed the obvious over the course of the next week.

The following week Calvin went back with me to the doctor for the follow up ultrasound and it was confirmed that the baby had miscarried. It was a missed miscarriage. The baby had stopped growing, probably due to a chromosomal defect, and my body had yet to figure out the pregnancy ended or let go of it. From there we scheduled a D&E procedure to end the pregnancy so that we could move on as quickly as possible and avoid any additional complications. The surgical procedure took place on March 4th in the middle of another ice/snow storm. Luckily my mother came to our house Monday to be there in time to help with Kathleen for the day and allow us to leave Monday night and stay at a hotel in Durham in order to get to Davis Ambulatory Surgical Center by 7 am the following morning. I took the day off work under the appearance that the weather had kept me from making the commute to Durham. My husband was called to help with driving a friend from Spring Valley UMC home from the hospital and had to explain he was tied up all day with no further explanation because we were not sharing this news with others.

I am blessed to have a husband, who is also my pastor, to be with me each step of the way on this journey. I am thankful for my health, our family and that now on the other side of this we will be able to try for a baby again in just a couple months. But I’m left with the question that still seems to have no one easy answer: Why is it that we as women work so hard to hide the fact that we have had or are having a miscarriage?

After the miscarriage for our family was confirmed Calvin and I proceeded to share the news with the dozen or so friends who knew about the pregnancy. Several of them explained to us that they had gone through exactly the same thing and reassured us that they went on to have additional children. Other stories about friends of friends also came to us in abundance, and even the anesthesiologist for my procedure shared the story of his wife having a miscarriage and going on to have two more beautiful children after that. We are so thankful for all of these stories that reassured us what we were going through is normal and common. That miscarriage does happen even when you do nothing wrong and it does not typically doom you from future children.  So if this is such a common complication in women who are healthy, then why are we so bent on keeping the news to ourselves, bottling up all the emotions and trying to act like everything is ok as we walk through the journey alone? By not telling our church families they were unable to lift us up in prayer during this trying time. They were also not able to share the community love Jesus taught us to share with one another because they had no idea anything out of the ordinary was happening in our lives. While I understand it is a form of protection not to take the whole world on a now I’m pregnant, now I’m not journey with you it is also a form of shooting yourself in the foot by not allowing others to know what is really affecting your daily life during a time of trial. Trying to act to the outside world like nothing was happening different to my body from January 10th to March 4th felt like a lie. A lie by omission. Was it?

We will try to get pregnant again in the near future. Once two pink lines appear I do believe we’ll keep the news fully to ourselves (just Calvin and I) until the pregnancy confirmation doctor’s appointment gives us good news. But from there, I expect we’ll share the news openly to anyone with an ear. Why? Because we want our family and community to lift up the pregnancy in prayer on our behalf. And should another unfortunate miscarriage be the case, we’ll share that openly as well. For the exact same reason. There is strength in prayer and community.

The question is often posed to me that since Kathleen is getting older, “Isn't it time for another one?” In the past I’ve answered with, “talk to my husband about that” or “maybe someday.” Shouldn't I instead say what I’m really thinking? “That would be wonderful, we would love it. Please pray with us that we’ll have news to share soon of a new little one on the way.” What is the true harm in sharing? How does keeping hopes of future children to yourself really protect you from anything? The good or bad still happens just the same. Simply because you haven’t told anyone doesn't make it any less sad or hard should a loss occur. And think about the good that could come of sharing. It’s the opportunity to show strength, share faith, and empower other women who might go through the same thing one day! Our plights are not unique to us.

Overall, Calvin and I really are an open book type of couple.  We have nothing to hide and we like it that way. It’s freeing. Ask us about our finances, past, hopes for the future, food choices, or now our family planning and we’ll be happy to share. Having a secret didn't really suit us well. In our ministry we hope to serve as an example to others. How can we do that when others don’t know what we’re going through?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Happy 33 Daddy!

Daddy turned 33 and we celebrated with basketball birthday cake & lego birthday candles! The most amazing thing of all is that Kathleen helped decorate after her bath and managed to keep her pajamas clean! We then ate cake all standing together by the counter for three nights in a row. Yum!
(After the first night of experiencing Kathleen's sugar rushed silliness we had to make sure cake was served before 7 p.m. While fun, that was not a girl who wanted to go to bed on time.)

Proud of her decorating skills

Love you Daddy with all our hearts. We are so thankful to have you leading our family as a father and husband worthy of praise. We pray it is a good year to come.