• Conviction is such a strong word, but I don’t know how else to say it.  I have been convicted to start writing again.  I’m getting clammy just writing that.  There has been a still small voice persistently at my ear for the past several weeks.  I thought that maybe He just felt bad for Mae baby and the fact that she didn’t have a baby book or a birth story, so I knocked that out, and…He hasn’t left.  What He wants me to write exactly, I don’t know, but I feel too out of practice to jump back into my book and–even though I tried to tell Him that nobody reads or writes blogs anymore–He didn’t seem to care.  Here is where He has led me to start, and most specifically, setting my alarm for 5 am so that I could write something before our crazy world begins.

    I was disobedient all last week.  I kept pointing out to Him that Jay Paul was sick and waking up in the night.  This week I argued that an 8 week old still counts as a newborn, and surely I need more rest than waking up at 5 ON PURPOSE.  So I scrolled to the number 6 on my phone alarm clock, and I laid it defiantly on my bedside table… He came back with that nagging in my heart about obedience, and life with purpose, communion with Him, and blessings forgone, and even “Why do you think I gave you a baby that started sleeping through the night at 4 weeks old?”

    And so, with the thought of the perfect wonder of a newborn He has given me in Mae baby, I snatched up my phone and reset it for 5 am.

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    So here I am.  And here is MyMae, or Mae Baby, or MaeWeather–we call her lots of things in our various states of rapt adoration.  She is cooing and smiling…

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    Her generally state is going with the flow of the chaos of life in this house, but when we do stop to talk and smile with her, she always answers back with the most grateful attention.

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    And I want to swallow her whole.  I wish I could sit with her all day long–talking, smiling, and watching her sleep.  But this guy would never allow it:

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    He is bad right now.  B. A. D.  Testing all his limits, and nearly suffocating Mae in his need to hold her and be close to her.  While Mae makes me wonder why we don’t have 15 babies, Jay Paul is a constant reminder of why that would be an awful idea.  While he is hard, he also holds that spark–a sweetness and vibrancy and energy and mischief–that makes you love him to pieces even as he bangs his milk cup on the floor until he pops the spill-proof stopper out.

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    Then there’s these two. My helpers, my friends, my psychodelic dance partners around the house. A constant reminder that the baby stage, and the terrible two’s both fly by equally fast.

    DSC_0242And then you’re left with this…What is THIS Pace?  I don’t know but Mary Aplin is about to join in.

    While I’m nervous to proclaim it, because I know how hard it was to set the alarm last night, I think I’m bbbback.



  • Mae was born on August 2nd at 5:50 am, weighing 9 pounds 10 ounces!!!, and measuring 21 inches long.

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    Beautiful, healthy baby girl!

    And yes, it has taken me almost 8 weeks to write her birth story because–besides the normal overwhelming life change of adding a fourth child to our family–Pace and Mary Aplin started school.

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    Mary Aplin started Kindergarten and Pace started 2nd grade.

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    Mae is 1.5 weeks old and here I was dropping the 2 babies off with Mama B to TRY to keep Mae from being exposed to the germs as I took the big girls in for their first day…a lot of good it did me.

    Two days later, Mae came down with bacterial PNEUMONIA (that doctors think she must have contracted during birth), so she and I went back to the hospital to undergo FOURTEEN DAYS of IV antibiotics while my (poor) extended family navigated the first weeks of school with Pace, Mary Aplin, and Jay Paul.  Welcome to the wide crazy world Mae baby!!

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    This makes my heart break in two.

    Now that you know where we’ve been, I would like to write sweet Mae’s birth story as though it were 8 weeks ago and the primary event in my life was the arrival of this precious blessing.

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    3 days old, about to go home from the hospital in the dress I smocked for her.

    {Prepare yourself for a WHOLE LOT of pictures that don’t go along with what I’m writing.  Since I feel sure this is the closest Mae will ever get to having a baby book, I wanted to include all the family-I managed to take a picture of–that held her for those first days.}

    Our family recently finished converting a…tool shed, into a living space on Jeremiah’s parent’s farm.  It is currently Jeremiah’s most favorite place to be and on Thursday evening–August 1st–our family was planning to have dinner there.  I had been having slightly painful, but irregular, contractions and low back pain all day as I ran errands.  Enough so that I sent a text to my friends Darby and Lindsey that said, “Been having low back pain all day…trying not to get my hopes up.”  But since labor had never been accompanied by back pain for me, I didn’t take it too seriously.

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    “What in tarnation just happened?!”

    I’d picked up Mae’s “home from the hospital” gown from the seamstress who was piecing it together, bought a blanket and gown for her to have during her hospital stay, bought socks for her little feet, and then took my big swollen feet in for a pedicure–in case they were going to be in the spotlight anytime soon 😉

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    So proud. So relieved. So thankful.

    In hindsight, I guess I was nesting. With Pace it was cleaning baseboards and cooking a big roast dinner. With Mary Aplin it was washing, folding and putting away the mountain of laundry we’d accumulated. With Jay Paul it was taking down and putting away the Christmas decorations. With Mae, it was gathering all her baby “essentials” for the hospital. By the time we sat down at our Shack dinner table, I was paying what I thought was a major toll for lugging my body around in the Southern Summer all day. Whenever my right foot hit the floor, just with normal walking, a shock shot through my body and made me cry out. It was so bizarre. Like an electric current that gave me a literal knee-jerk reaction and gasp for air. I kept trying to help with the dishes but finally had to take Jeremiah up on the offer to just sit (and have a coloring contest with Pace and Mary Aplin) and let him handle Jay Paul and all the clean up.

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    Popon held you first.

    Throughout dinner, my contractions had grown more regular and I started to time them as I colored. I joked nervously with Jeremiah about how I was going to have to be on bed rest for the remainder of pregnancy if something didn’t change, and as he loaded the kids into his truck I told him I wanted to stay behind in the quiet for just a few minutes. They pulled away and I laid down on my side on the couch and tried to relax…but the contractions were getting worse and as I looked back over my log times I noticed that the time between them had shortened from 10 minutes to 8 minutes. I also realized that besides my relish of the quiet and comfort, I wasn’t leaving the shack because I was nervous about a contraction hitting me while I was driving. That was the point that I became pretty sure that this wasn’t a trial run, it was the real thing.  Fake contractions shouldn’t make me nervous to drive…

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    Sashey was second and she came bearing our favorite–doughnuts.

    I hadn’t intended to stay a whole hour but I had, and when I got home Jeremiah had put Pace, Mary Aplin and Jay Paul to bed. I walked in and told him that I was pretty sure I was in labor, my contractions were now 6-7 minutes apart and I thought we should give his parents a heads up that they were probably going to need them to come over and stay with the kids. At first he didn’t believe me and suggested a little rest would probably make them go away… …I told him that was what I had been doing and they had gotten closer and more painful.

    “But it is five days before your due date and you’re never this early.”

    “Do you not think I know what labor is after 3 times?” I was a little annoyed.

    “Well, I will go ahead and call my parents now so that they don’t go to bed and then we have to wake them up.”  It was as though he was still testing me.  A call to his parents would make this REAL and not a joke.

    “I don’t want you to call them now, I want to wait and be SURE it’s labor.” I grow cat-like in my secrecy about labor. It is strange.

    “But you just said you KNEW it was labor and I hate to inconvenience them. Why don’t they just come on over and they can wait with us.” Why are men so annoying and stupid as soon as labor pains begin? Isn’t that what everybody wants? A room full of people watching curiously as you breath through contractions and wondering if you really are in labor.

    “You know what, this is one time in our lives when it is OK to inconvenience people. I can’t believe I’ve told you I am having a baby and you want to talk about your parents getting enough rest!” I was escalating. I knew his parents wouldn’t care, why was he so worried about pleasing everybody but me?  This birth experience was not starting off on a good foot.

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    Your brother was 100% smitten with you from the first moment he saw you.

    We agreed that calling the doctor was a good thing to do to help us settle the debate about when the right time would be to head in to the hospital, and when the doctor said, “Why haven’t you come in already?! This is your FOURTH baby. You KNOW what labor is. These things can happen fast.” I glowered at Jeremiah and gave a triumphant smile at the doctor’s vote of confidence.

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    And would soon start calling you “My Mae”

    I stammered through the things I had to do before we could leave: finish packing, change into an “outfit” instead of the moo-moo I was sporting, clear the pictures off our fully-loaded camera card, all while trying not to panic that my contractions were now four minutes apart (Which I was having to keep up with myself, because Jeremiah was busy laughing incredulously with his parents that this was really happening, to record them properly–can you tell I was ready to ring his neck right there in front of his Mom and Dad?)

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    How are all of those children mine?!!!

    As we bumped down the painfully long driveway in Jeremiah’s truck, I had a good cry explaining (I am sure delusionally) exactly why I was so mad at him. And then he snapped, “This is my last baby too, could you please stop taking your fear and frustration out on me so that we can do this together?!” And he was right. And I pulled the last rational threads that I had left, together in my brain. We made up, just before I answered a call from Azurae (remember my friend from Seattle?) who so ironically/providentially has called me the last two times I was en route to the hospital to deliver and bathed us in prayers and Bible verses.  I was starting to feel ready to have a baby.

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    Moogie had a hard time keeping brother off of you. It was the beginning of a battle that is still lasting at 2 months.

    My plan was to have an epidural–and whatever other medications they had to offer–this time around.  I had checked “natural childbirth” off my life to-do list and had no desire to experience it again.  The moment I had, in the last hours of natural labor, gripping the sides of the toilet bowl, realizing that I had CHOSEN to go through as much pain as I was experiencing, and wondering why I was so stupid–that moment never dulled in my memory.  Natural childbirth hurts, and I love epidurals.  So at 6 cm (I was 4 cm when I got to the hospital and got to 6 within in the hour–way faster than normal for me), when I told the nurse I was ready for the pain to disappear… … she and the rest of the floor seemed to disappear as well.  Where was everybody?  I grew concerned.  Panic-stricken, actually.  I hadn’t prepared, mentally or physically, to go natural this time, and I felt like the baby was coming sooner rather than later.  Where was the anesthesiologist?! I sent Jeremiah out into the hall to find out.

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    Something about this pictures sums up Dapples’ personality.

    He came back with a concerned look. A woman had been admitted, by ambulance. She was in labor, very prematurely, and both the mother and baby were in distress–serious distress. And to make it worse, she had had no pre-natal care. No charts. No nothing. They were flying blind and trying to save them both. My epidural had fallen WAY down on the necessity chart.

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    Aunt Caroline came to visit from Birmingham. Baby Fuller is in her tummy.

    I was magnanimous at first. “Of course that’s where the doctor should be! I will be fine… Just fine.” But over the course of the next hour, my prayers for the mother and baby next door had shifted back to the self-centered kind. The commotion I could hear in the next room, coupled with the worried family members crying in the hallway outside my door, capped off by my own pain had put me in a state where I was sure I was going to have to deliver without an epidural or a doctor. I sent Jeremiah to the next room to check on the state of that Mom one too many times, and he finally begged me not to send him again. “It’s bad in there Abby. You are going to be fine.”  I am sad to admit how much I needed a perspective shift.

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    Tommy and Sarah had just started dating when Jay Paul was born. Now, they’re an old married couple.

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    Grandmama and Grandpa Sollie. Love seeing them with you-their GREAT grandchild. Mimi came to visit right after we came home from the hospital. She just couldn’t make the long walk through the hospital corridors.

    I did finally get my epidural, and I was “punished” for my lack of patience because it didn’t take on one side of my body. The same thing had happened in my labor with Pace. The pain was definitely better, cut in half at least, but still too present to let me relax. My progress also slowed and I seemed to stall out at 8 cm. The previous 2 times my labor had progressed more rapidly after my epidural, but not this time.

    I hated to call the anesthesiologist back in. I already felt so high-maintenance from the number of times I’d sent Jeremiah looking for him, but I finally decided I really did need him to give my epidural another boost and see if the pain would get better.

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    Sweet girl and sweet grandpa.

    It worked, finally. I was a happy laboring woman..until the next anxiety started. Now that I couldn’t feel pain, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to feel the BABY either if it was time for her to come out. It sounds crazy now, but I truly was scared that the baby was going to fall out on the table and nobody would know! What if she suffocated? I was in no position to be able to peer down between my legs–but I TRIED. This, I have decided, is the negative to delivering with medication. When you deliver naturally, you may be in a HEAP of pain, but you are at least in control of the show. Your body makes it very clear exactly what is going on, no wondering if it’s time to push. You KNOW when it’s time–you can’t stop yourself. Medicated, I felt very out of control of the situation.

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    Papa and Mama B had been to visit and held you long before this picture, but their first shots were after driving home from the beach in the wee hours of the morning to greet you. They are looking a little more spiffy in these shots ;)

    I will spare you any more hour by hour details. I spent a neurotic night, worried that I was going to accidentally deliver, frustrated that none of the doctors or nurses (including my husband) seemed too concerned about the situation (do they do this kind of thing every day or something?! ;)), not understanding why Jeremiah was dozing off, instead of on the edge of his seat like I was, but hating to cry wolf any more since I’d felt like Mae was going to appear any second since about 10 pm…and now it was 4:30 am.

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    Mama B took Pace, Mary Aplin and Jay Paul shopping to get ready for your arrival. They each picked out a present for you and got a new outfit to wear up to the hospital–even a dress so that you could match too! I was overwhelmed by how sweet they all looked marching into your room, matching and carrying gifts. Sweet Mama B!

    As tends to happen with these things, Mae DID finally decide it was time to come out. I reached 10 centimeters, my doctor gave me the challenge: “Let’s see how good you are at pushing?! On the count of three. One, two, three, PUSH!”

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    The trip out left your face a little bruised and swollen, but still the most kissable face I’ve ever seen!

    “Stop pushing! She’s crowning! Look Jeremiah!”

    “No! I don’t want him to look!” I grab his arm. He looks anyway. Grins to the moon. I decide it’s ok for him to look after all.  Just two more pushes and she is warm and squirmy and on my chest.  And I can BREATHE for the first time in a long time.  And the joy and relief are immense.  “Thank you Lord.  Thank you Lord.  Thank you Lord.” is playing over and over in my head and my heart.  My job is complete.  We did it together.  She is here and she is healthy!

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    Heaven

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    First family shot! Holding the presents from Mama B/your sisters and brother.

    I realize that she has not had scary heart decels, a moment where we thought I would have to have an emergency c-section, like we had experienced with every other delivery. So thankful.

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    And the rising sun is streaming through the hospital room window. It’s Mae’s birth day. August 2nd, just before six am. Her cry is tiny, but she is not. Jeremiah and I are laughing and marveling with the doctor about how big she is and I cannot stop watching the nurse as she bathes her. This is her very first bath, I think, and I ask Jeremiah for my camera. Wanting to capture everything in this moment that seems surreal and filled with love.

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    My girls. Sisters. I absolutely love this picture.

    Why had I been so anxious? Already my fear seems ridiculous, my anxiety dramatic. Of course God had been in control all along. Why did I think I needed to be in control?

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    I love this picture of my boys too!

    It feels like it takes an eternity before they place her back in my arms. But they finally do. My baby girl. Margaret Eaton Maddox. Baby Mae.

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    Keke and Watson with you and John Clark in her tummy. He will be here soon!

    Soon we let Dr. Maddox into the room to cuddle our girl. Mrs. Linda is at home getting Pace, Mary Aplin, and Jay Paul ready to come meet their baby sister. Pace was adament that she be admitted to see the baby RIGHT after she was born, and I agreed with her. They would be vitally important to each other their whole lives through–they deserved to welcome Mae into the world.

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    Uncle Josh. He had just started DO school and came to your room to see you and study with Daddy.

    Ashley arrived with two dozen Hot Now doughnuts and coffee. And I ate with relish.

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    You didn’t like the way the camera light kept shining in your face.

    Later, as we settle into the room where we will spend the next three days, Jeremiah holds Mae and says, “It’s sad to think we’ll never get to experience this again, isn’t it?” And I am so thankful for a husband who is as in awe of the miracle we’ve just been a part of as I am. And I wonder again why in the world I’d been mad at him all night long?

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    Later, Jeremiah will also coin the phrase that has come to represent Mae baby’s personality over these first two months of her life. “It feels like she doesn’t want to be any trouble, to anybody,” he says. And it’s true.

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    Loved praying for you in my tummy while I smocked this dress, then seeing it on you real life. Surreal.

    She is unassuming, sweet and to herself. Thankful for our smiles and attention, but not demanding them. As though she is asking, “What is it you want me to do? Ok then, I’ll try that.”

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    If you could just figure out where your thumb is hiding, you would suck on it ;)

    It took having four of them before I could say it, but we finally have a “good baby”. Woohoo!!! In fact, Jay Paul is still the more difficult of the two. He is sitting between my arms as I type now. And Mae baby is sleeping in her crib, with nothing but a pacie to soothe her quietly to sleep.

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    About to take you home.

    I’m amazed again at the ability we have as parents. Our love is not divided between our children, it grows with each addition–until I wonder at how my heart has the capacity for this much love and devotion.

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    In love.

    Welcome to the wide crazy world baby Mae. We all love you so.



  • I remember sitting at a table for two on Little Palm Island.  Candlelight flickered across the remnants of the last five course dinner we would share on our honeymoon, the moon danced in corrugated prisms across the water, and salty ocean air tugged at my tangle of hair.  It is usually me who asks the questions with a grand arch, but my newly married husband was trying to pull his end of the conversation, “Where do you see us ten years from now?”

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    One of the first pictures we ever took. I love that he’s rocking his Sigma Nu t-shirt 😉 I was a senior in high school and he was a senior in college.

    “I don’t know,” I stammered.  “How old would that make us?  Will you be done with your training by then?” I started adding his two remaining years of medical school, the five years of residency, would there be a fellowship?

    “I certainly hope so!” he laughed.  To him, the end of school must always remain within reasonable grasp.  I didn’t understand then that that was part of how he kept his sanity.  For me, I felt like I had signed up for eons of training.  Pushing through.  The end of training seemed as  unattainable in “real life” as the dream house and dream land we’d been planning since our third date.  All a cherished dream that helped to sustain me.  He didn’t understand then that that was part of how I kept my sanity.

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    Lunch on our honeymoon.

    “At our ten year anniversary, I will have been in practice for about two years,” he said excitedly.  “Do you think we will have any children by then?”

    “If I’m 31, I hope we will have a few children by then,” I say, warming quickly to this train of thought as Jeremiah nods his agreement.

    “Do you think we’ll come back here, to Little Palm, for our 10 year anniversary, or do you think we will want to try somewhere different?”

    “I can’t imagine us doing anything but paying back loans at that point, do you really think we’ll be able to afford to take a vacation?”

    “We better be able to take a vacation by then,” he says, and begins to throw around imaginary salaries that are laughable–giddy, ridiculous, laughable–to two people who have nothing but debt, and education, and a lot of life to live through in the foreseeable ten years.

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    Did y’all know I married a really handsome guy??

    Now, here we are.  Training really did come to an end–though as I type this we seem remarkably similar to the couple we were 10 years ago.  Jeremiah is preparing to take his oral boards–the really and truly last test he will take before being DONE.  Besides the fact that I am just about to pop–three weeks away from delivering our fourth child–I am sitting by his side tapping away at a computer much as I would have been ten years ago (in my fourth year of college).

    We are not going back to Little Palm Island, but we had planned to take some kind of celebratory vacation before this last little surprise made herself known.  Those school loans ARE still there, they just don’t seem as daunting anymore.

    There are some obvious big changes: graduating from orthopedic residency, finishing a spine fellowship in Seattle, moving back to our hometown, having (almost) four children, learning I love to write and take pictures, completing a marathon, losing my mother, helping my three sisters through their weddings and the births of their first babies, and seeing my dad fall in love again…

    And there are some equally large, though more hidden, changes: learning how to love each other, how to fight well, and how to let some fights go, learning that there are no greater joys or sorrows than the ones your children can bring and only the two of you can truly share…

    I can say that through all the external and internal changes I love him more deeply than that silly 21-year-old girl who didn’t know much except that she didn’t want to be anywhere but by his side all the days of her life.  I can say that I am still just as desperate for his time, jealous of his attention, and ready to follow him on any adventure as I was that day.  However, I couldn’t have imagined then how challenging marriage would be.  I couldn’t have imagined how much I would need to learn, and how excruciating the learning process could be.  I can stand here today, not telling you that we have figured this marriage thing out, because we have not, but telling you that I feel like we have found our stride–our pace of life and how to live it together.  We still get mad and have stupid fights and say things that hurt, but not nearly as often, because we have learned that God designed us to need each other and Him.  We have learned that in this silent dance, this push and pull,  this learning when to shoulder a burden and when to heave off to the stronger partner, that there is not enough time or energy to waste fighting your strongest ally and support.

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    Can you tell how goggly-eyed I was?

    I have this picture in my mind of us from the past ten years.  We are afloat in the middle of that moonlit ocean that lapped at our feet on the final night of our honeymoon.  There’s a bouy floating a few feet below us that we can access at any time, but in our stupidity we often forget to rest our feet on its blessed assurance.  Sometimes the waves crash over us, pushing us down and under–swirling and wondering if this breath could be our last.  Sometimes the water is as smooth and warm as liquid sunset, and we breath easily and smile.  But in my picture, whether in storm or calm, whether on the bouy or forgetting it’s power, my hands have been clasped firmly around Jeremiah’s neck and his around me.  We haven’t let go…  My biggest prayers, are that we will never loosen our grasp, and that maybe, over the next ten years, we will find that buoy has become a raft that keeps us floating easily above the tide.