Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween in Review

Every year I acknowledge that there are many controversial opinions out there regarding Halloween.  Every year I remind everyone that I am not offering judgement on your position nor accepting comments that judge ours.  And this year is no different.  Take it or leave it, here's how the 31st of October passed for the Sexton Crew:

I love the dressing up part.  I usually love participating in the dressing up but this year it just didn't work out.  I mostly love the challenge of outfitting my kiddos WITHOUT spending tons of money on pre-fab costuming.  After a look around the house and a quick trip to the thrift store, we were rolling.

I found this strange item in the $1.29 bin at GoodWill.  I had no idea what we would do with it but there were some obvious thoughts and soon enough...

one ginormous snake was crafted and became the centerpiece...

for Isaiah's "jungle explorer" costume.

Nathan loves and already has all things army so that's easy enough.

Mamoune got this snow queen dress last Christmas (75% off post-Halloween sale) so we simply added the Dollar store Christmas ornament earrings and then rubber banded the snowflake ornament to a gold headband for the crown.  She was all glitz and glitter which made her quite happy!  And that left the little people.


Bella Bo Peep required a $4.00 Princess costume from GW, one of Mamoune's old flower girl dresses worn underneath for "poof effect" and an infant hat stitched in half with ribbon to tie it on.  We decided a four year old with a shepherd's staff could be dangerous for all involved but "lamby" made for a great prop.  And lastly, all was right in the world because...

Sheriff Justus was on patrol.  Take one cow patterned pillow that two pre-schoolers have pulled all the stuffing out of and give it three snips and some stitching and you've got a perfect "Sheriff Woody" vest.  His sister's bandanna, a dollar store hat, and aluminum star and he was ready to round up some sugar-hyped outlaws.

I spent a total of $16.00 on five costumes.  Not bad.  So, costumes -success!  Candy?  Fail.  Major fail.  The rain was the first glitch.  It seemed a complete waste to get all these guys dressed up and then layer them with rain coats and umbrellas.  So, we joined some friends at the mall knowing it would be packed but at least it would be dry.  Dry, crowded, and candy-less.  Yep.  It was a total disappointment.  We walked around and sadly observed the "sorry, we ran out of candy" signs taped to countless store windows.  By 7:30, our tally looked a bit like this:

      3 hours making costumes
      1 hour dressing kids in costumes
     45 minutes driving to, unloading, parking, and getting into the mall
 +   1 hour walking around the mall

     2 pieces of candy per child
     1 spider ring
     5 "this is stupid"
     3 "when are we leaving?"
     2 "what the heck do we do now?" parents

In some small way, we (Tim and Amie) were relieved.  Every year they get bags of candy and they obsess to the point of conflict and we end up fighting and having to ration the candy before eventually just trashing it sometime around January 15th.  No candy -no conflict.  But the tiny part of us that understands our kid's excitement over all things chocolate and sugary felt bad for them.  So... we left the mall, empty target bags in tow, and made a slight detour through the KrispyKreme drive-thru then headed home to watch "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" and stuff ourselves on glazed donuts.

With no masses of candy to idolize and therefore hopefully only one sugar-hype/crash related day of meltdowns and attitudes, I'm thinking we may have found our new Halloween tradition!

Saturday, September 3, 2011


The following is a spoken word that I wrote about a year ago.  At that time, Justus was in the hospital hooked up to all kinds of crazy contraptions and I was surviving on fumes of adrenaline and anxiety.  I haven't posted it before this time because I was never sure I could handle the comments it may evoke.  It is as honest, unfluffy, and straightforward as I've ever been.  I'm still not sure I'm ready for how some of you may respond.  But I have a friend who has found herself in the same dark place and I am posting it for her and for anyone else who has ever questioned God and are willing to admit it.

Amie Sexton  November 2010

If I stand here bare-boned in naked truth
I find that I'm asking where's the proof?
The apparent evidence lacking
has me back-tracking
to a place where doubt and skepticism take root.

What are the contradictions;
the implications?
Is it that or
is it simply a matter
of time, will, sovereignty
and other dimensions my eyes can’t see?

If I ask You to heal now and You don't
or You won't
are You less faithful for your hesitation?
Or do I judge You more faithful having endured the situation?
Dare I judge you at all?
Judge not lest judgement fall.

But what of this faith that moves mountains
or drives fountains up from rolling seas,
letting thousands cross on sandy ground
while I drown in my own sea of sand sinking quick?
Do tests of faith strengthen hope
or does hope deferred make the heart sick?

When Jesus prayed in dismay, "Let this cup pass from me"
was His obedience too great
or was His faith just too weak?
If I ask will I receive?
How can I believe, if I must submit
all the while admit that He answers as He pleases?
Or has He deceived us?

"Heresy!" cries the Pharisee.
You whose eyebrows are raised in disgrace
scowling face.
"How could she?  Why would she
say such a thing?
As though God is obligated to explain."

But these questions in my mind
long to be satisfied
and even this temptation to deny
doesn't surprise or compromise
the love He bestows since
He already knows the anxiety that lies inside of me
as I strive to walk the Gospel in the midst of this reality:

That pain remains the same
and the rain is unchanged
falling on the just and the unjust
but must I be crazy
to think that maybe
I could access special favor
having put my trust in this Savior?

If a father knows how to give good gifts to his own
and when his child asks for bread will not give him a stone
How much more does our Father in heaven,
the Father of lights, know how to give us...

How does God define "good"?

Good is good, right?
A word with a definition,
a meaning that creates expectation,
the anticipation of something...well...good.

But is a child dying,
parents crying, trying to understand
what's coming from His hand good?

A million people in an earthquake
that shakes and breaks and devastates
their lives already in a precarious state;
is that good?

Cars crash, thieves dash
down dark alleyways
to easy escapes;
Innocent falling prey
to scams and schemes
Wall Street exploiting dreams
with its greed;
A child's soul bleeds under the invasion
of a pedophiles' touch.
It's all too much.
And sooner or later, we all will die
So, why shouldn't I cry

I am still in the process of answering some of my own questions and maybe someday I'll share that post with you as well.  But let's face it  --most of them will remain unresolved because only God and the understanding that will come in His presence someday can offer a complete answer.  As I shared with my precious, struggling friend: my faith may be a fragile, shaken thing at times but even when I question, doubt, curse, wander...He has never cast me away.  And that may be the greatest evidence of His faithfulness after all. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Two of a Kind

Eleven days ago, my parents pulled away from our house with camper trailing and THREE grand kids in tow.  We were thankful for a chance to be a small family.  The medium people have had a fun-filled, sugar-filled, entertainment-filled, doting grandparents-filled vacation from the 'hood.  Tomorrow they return.

One would think that down-sizing from five children to two would be a breath of fresh air and a time of rest and relaxation.  One would be wrong.  We have learned these past two weeks that parenting two pre-schoolers is every bit as hard as parenting five kids all together.  I should say RE-learned.  We did it once before when the boys were 4 and 2 but WE were oh, so much younger then.

There have been moments we lament not having more one-on-one time with each of our kids.  One-on-one time is hugely overrated.  This leveling of kid to parent ratios has meant that the 75,000 touches, tugs, pulls, jumps, and pinches normally spread between six other people have been fielded by only two.  The 642,984 requests for candy, apples, chocolate, water, orange juice, bicycles, toys, books, tv, attention to silliness, and general whining have also been divided fairly equally between the two of us.  We are worn slap out.

Justus is climbing on my back right this minute making gun noises in my ear.  I am his mom and I love him dearly.  He is the most precious little man on the planet and his smile lights up my heart.  Tomorrow night, I will pawn him off on his big brother and breathe a sigh of relief.

I have missed our three oldest but I honestly don't think the extent of how much I've missed them will sink in until I see them being shadowed relentlessly by their young, needy, active siblings.  I will think to myself that was me last week and I will be thankful for a big family!


Friday, March 18, 2011

Home School Highlights

I feel certain there is a manual that makes it irrefutably clear that mockery does horrible things to children and that parents who engage in such activity should prepare to pay mega bucks for therapy. Fortunately, there are blogs like this that our children could care less about and aren't likely to read until they are in their twenties at which point the damage is done so...

Mamoune had a spelling test the other day. The word was "were." She spelled it w-h-e-r-e. We corrected the mistake and discussed the difference between the two words in meaning and pronunciation. Rocket science? Nope. Just spelling. Her next step was to write a sentence using this word. She wrote:

Were are you going?

--which I read and promptly responded with: "Were are you from, girl? Suthern Haiti?" (deposit $25 into the therapy account now)

Later I shared this incident with Tim. He had a I Can Top That story for me.

Isaiah's spelling word that same day had been wants: w-a-n-t-s just to be clear. His sentence for this word?

Wants upon a time.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011


I've read the story of the "rich young ruler" (Matthew 19, Mark 10, Luke 18) many times and heard just as many sermons, devotions, or bible studies on this story. But at 5:30 this morning when a certain 2 year old's need for water could not possibly wait for sunrise -this is where my brain went and my pondering of it.

Here's a quick summary for any who are unfamiliar with this passage. Jesus is walking through town doing His thing when this rich dude approaches and says, "Hey you seem like a great guy. How can I get in on this?" Jesus takes a quick second to reference His own deity in a wonderfully sarcastic way that must have been accompanied by a mischievous grin before taking the question adding a healthy dose of reality, giving it a good shake and then dumping it back on the guys head. "You know the law." In other words...based on all your knowledge of Scripture shouldn't you already be "in on this"? The guy still doesn't get it so Jesus gets to the point, "You are lacking one thing. Sell your stuff, all of it, and give the money to the poor then follow me."

He doesn't head to the market. He doesn't run to the local soup kitchen. He doesn't follow Jesus. He leaves. Sad but still rich.

At this point in the sermon most pastors will take great care to point out that obviously Jesus didn't really mean for the man to sell all his possessions and we can quickly and confidently dismiss any such racical application. And while I take great issue with this statement I will not -because it is not necessary for this particular post- even harp on it. Though I could. Seriously. Like a fat-bellied-bare-bottomed-flying-cherub kind of harping. But I won't.

So, the typical focus of teaching is on this rich guy's idolatry problem. He loved his stuff too much. He wanted his stuff too much. He idolized his stuff. At which point, we would be encouraged to consider the idols in our hearts and surrender them accordingly. Not a bad plan. Not bad teaching.

Problem is Jesus never addressed it this way. "One thing you still lack..." Jesus did not accuse the rich guy of loving his stuff too much. He accused him of loving others too little. This man essentially claimed to have kept all the commandments from his youth but he lacked the willingness to help the poor. He lacked the neighbor love and compassion that Jesus lived daily -healing the broken and dying, touching the sick and diseased, and restoring community to the outcast. He wasn't merely too focused on loving his possessions, he was not focused enough on loving others.

"If I can speak with the tongues of men and angels but have not love I am a resounding gong and clanging cymbal." (1 Cor 13:1) "There is still one thing you lack..."

Okay, okay but whether he was lacking love for His neighbor or idolizing himself --isn't it basically the same thing?

Well, yes and no. If I look at my neighbors through the filter of what they appear to idolize I am tempted to pat myself on the back and strut around in a self-righteous garb. But twisting it the way Jesus did finds me on much more common ground with them. For example, I could say that my friend who's shack up with her boyfriend and knows she needs to change it but doesn't loves and depends on the guy too much. I don't have that idol. We are different. I'm not like her.

But what if I see that my friend hasn't changed the situation because she lacks trust in God to handle the fallout; because she's afraid and lacks courage? The stone I held poised for attack suddenly crumbles to a grain of sand. I know what it means to lack trust. To lack courage. To be afraid despite God's best promises. We are same. I'm a lot like her.

See the difference?

So, thanks to an early wake-up call and a fresh look at a familiar story, I know it will still be important and necessary to clear out some idols but it will be equally important to search myself for those things that are lacking.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Shout Out to Wake Forest WalMart

I know, I know...

I've offered many less than rave reviews on this giant of all stuff marts. And yes, I typically avoid the chaos within its walls at all costs. But for today I am singing a different tune. Here's why.

Mamoune and I set out this afternoon to run a few errands. Bank -check. Pick up M's new glasses -check. Walmart -and that's where it all went south. To say that Mamoune has vision issues is an understatement. She has a seriously strong prescription and having been without glasses for an absurd amount of time ('nother story, 'nother time) we were warned that she may feel a little woozy for a day or two while her eyes adjusted.

After a few minutes of shopping, she mentioned that she felt a little dizzy. Not a plea for help. Not really even a complaint. Just a mention. No biggie. Another ten minutes in and she stops and drops her head with her hands resting on her knees. "I don't feel so good." she says. I go through the range of possibilities...are you still dizzy, do you need to throw up, need to poop, etc. We decide to head to check-out and to get her positioned on a nice bench near the ladies room.

I point her toward the desired location and she immediately takes two steps the wrong direction. I pulled her back and getting a good look at her face, I knew this wasn't going to end well. She was weaving side to side and not really locking eyes with me so I pulled her closer.

Now, as I confessed in a previous L150 post, I haven't been great at recognizing God in the moment but there was no missing Him this time. As I struggled to balance Mamoune in her stupor, one of the WalMart managers (I presume based on her gear) happened to be standing right beside us. She asked if I needed help or if I thought we should call 911. I was waffling and trying to process the situation when I felt Mamoune's legs give way. She was out like a light. At that very moment, I heard a familiar voice say "Everything okay?" There stood Alphonso James. One very large, very strong, WalMart employee Alphonso James. "She's passed out Dwight (his nickname) I can't hold her."

He scooped her up and at that moment I realized how precious it is to have someone who knows your child by name coming to your rescue. We made our way toward a seating area and he was talking to her all the way. "Mamoune, you with me? Wake up, girl." We got her to a chair and soon got her back into the land of the conscious. The manager had already called for EMS and they arrived shortly thereafter. A little bit of time, a finger prick to check blood sugar, and several vitals checks later and we determined that a light lunch, dizzy glasses, and some possible anemia had created the perfect storm. Once we knew there would be no need for an ambulance ride to the ER --the paramedics stood watch while the managers opened a register for me and checked me out in no time flat. This is also when I realized that a good friend we hadn't seen in a while was standing nearby and had been praying for us while waiting for a chance to check on us verbally. Meanwhile, Alphonso retrieved our van from the parking lot and drove it to the front door.

And so, laying price wars, consumerism, and the annoyance of big box warehouse marts aside; when it counted the most the Walmart crew was on their toes. Maybe it was emergency training and protocol or maybe it was just good ol' fashioned customer service. Either way


and paramedics and firefighters and everyone who made haste and cleared the path for one frantic mama! And thank you God for putting friends (old and new) right where we needed them to be.

btw, Mamoune is feeling much better after a snack and some rest. She was pretty shaken up but I'm thinking the 11 year old embarrassment factor will be the longest part of her recovery. =)