Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Retrospect 17'

As the year comes to a close, it is a tradition on this blog to take a look back before beginning anew. 

Instead of starting in January and working down, I thought I'd start where we are and travel back down memory lane.  December is still here, after all, and I'm trying to relish in the season.  While there are lots of chores I could be doing, I spent the morning baking cookies and have spent a lot of time by the fire catching up on Christmas favorites time hadn't yet allowed.

Just because it is no longer December 25th, doesn't mean the festivities have to end.

I'm a little sad to see our new elf friend, Blitz, get packed away.  He was an interesting way to count down the days to Christmas.  Though Noah changed his name every day and liked to pick fun, I think he actually enjoyed seeing his shenanigans each morning. 

This holiday was a mix of old and new traditions.  Our table is still littered with board games, where we'll sneak in a game or two each day over break.  Christmas Eve we attended our yearly candlelight service.  And a few new outings included a home tour date, snowmen painting, as well as a day trip to see dancing lights.

November...a month that will forever be bittersweet for us.  One I try to face with gratitude instead of sorrow.  Celebrating our thankfulness always leads to joy. 

For the first time in my adult life, I got through a holiday season by losing weight instead of gaining.  Thanks to a new way of eating, November would see the milestone of 40 pounds lost.  Though I still have miles to go, I am confident this transformation can continue into the new year.

Sugar-Free Me!
October - We kicked off one of my favorite months with our annual trip to the Nut Club festival, but we quickly realized our stomachs couldn't hold what they used to!  And we went camping, something we had forgotten how much we missed!  It was so nice to disconnect from the outside world and reconnect with those who matter most.  Maybe an RV is in our future someday!  I experienced my first escape room and quickly discovered a career as a detective is definitely not in the cards.

Noah and I had a very impromptu senior photo shoot, when the photographer had to cancel last minute.  With a working teen and fallings leaves, I knew another pretty day might not happen so we made the most of it.  In the end, I'm thrilled with his photos and even more the memories we made.

    

September - a time for slowing down before the busyness of the season speeds up life, although most of my free time that month was spent preparing for a women's retreat our church had.  I was in my happy place though, planning and sharing with others how to find moments to Be Still.  

August - back to school with my baby becoming a Senior.  Writing this, I count that nearly four months of his final year have passed.  I knew the time would quickly pass but goodness, how it flies.  

My sugar detox would send my body into an itchy rash, as it tried to revolt and, ironically enough, I would spend a weekend baking cookies for our Operation Inasmuch event.

July - what little bit of summer we had left to enjoy, we tried to make the most of by cramming in a trip to the drive-in, visits from littles, and an afternoon or two fishing.  My new hobby, rock painting, would also inspire a special way to remember our oldest son on his birthday.  



June - in what is normally a relaxing, carefree time of year, where we traditionally escape for an anniversary trip, we spent most of June in the hospital or confined indoors.  The past year has been difficult for Tim, health-wise, with random but serious respiratory events (that in my opinion we still have no good answers over.)  In the end, all we can do is give it to God and make the most of each day.  

May - Noah's first prom.  A surprise Mother's Day trip and step back in time.  The start of boating season, though it would be a short-lived one. And a focus on self-care, I didn't realize then I would need so much for what lay ahead.  

April - the promise of Spring! A sweet nugget of a nephew comes to visit.  A powerful message from my momma that refreshes me each time I read it.  

March - Mortgage burning party!  How quickly 15 years goes by and how thankful to not have that monthly payment looming over us anymore.  First butterfly of the season and longer days to enjoy the sneak peeks of sunshine.  And a memorial tattoo years in the making.  


February - Hearts Day and lessons on love.  A shift to complain less and celebrate more.  New red doors that still have me smiling each time I arrive home.  

January - Choosing my one word, that I'll be honest, I forgot about until just now.  Maybe I spent it more selfless than years prior but I know I have still work to do.  A new study Bible that by year's end would be worn, dog-eared and scribbled down most sides, marked with blessings along the way.


2017 has been a year of ups and downs.  I'm thankful for the experiences, memories, and milestones. 
Yet, I'm hopeful for the year to come.  Here's to much JOY in 2018... 




Sunday, December 17, 2017

Fa La La La...Ha Ha Ha

I'm a momma big on traditions, always have been.  Traditions are our connection to family; they give us a sense of belonging.  But nobody prepares you for when those traditions change. 

With a near-grown teen, I've had to shift and adjust our annual customs the past few years.  Some traditions ended, some altered and along the way, new ones added. 

A missed tradition; however, has been driving around to view the Christmas lights.  When the kids were younger, we'd load up the car with blankets and pillows, a thermos of hot cocoa, and wear our snuggly PJs.  Favorite CDs of the holidays would play in the background as we toured the sparkly scenes. 

With a teen who works weekends, the past couple years this tradition has slipped by.  Time seems to go much quicker the last month of the year and before we knew it, the holiday would pass.  When I realized Noah had this past Saturday night off, I decided to make plans for us to revisit this favorite pastime. 

Now, we could've just ridden around our county but I selfishly wanted to soak up as much family time as possible.  So, I opted for a drive a couple hours away that promised a one of kind show with dancing lights.  It did not disappoint, even after waiting in line an hour, but I think what I enjoyed most was hanging in the car. 

It's not often I get my towering teen in the same vehicle, since he normally prefers to drive his own car.  He drove most of the way up and played chauffeur and DJ to Mom and Dad in the backseat, his best friend shotgun.  On the way home, we switched. 

As it was daylight on our way to the light show, we viewed the scenery and some amazing houses.  It was interesting to hear the kids talk about their dream homes for the future and what they would do.  After passing a mansion that made our home look like a shed, one of them said they would love to live there if a rich uncle just gave it to them.  When I asked how they would afford utilities like electric and water, they promised to be frugal.  This made us cackle considering how long of a shower Noah takes and the fact that I'm always going behind them and turning off lights.

On the way back, Noah scrunched into the backseat and played games with his buddy.  I loved hearing them joke and snicker back and forth.  It was reminiscent of old times.

In fact, the ride home was so full of laughs from the many you-had-to-be there scenarios that I can't even write. Honestly, there isn't a story to share, as I can't recall what even made us start laughing.  But it was the kind of side-splitting, snorting, feel good all over laughs that make you giggle each time you remember.  I needed and relished those laughs and thought it was fitting, as today marks the Advent week of JOY. 

That's my wish for you, friends.  May you have the kind of JOY that fills you with laughter from head to toe and keeps you smiling all week long!

"Do you want to build a snowman?"

One of the songs during the light show was from Frozen and we were roaring that Noah's male friend knew
 ALL. THE. WORDS.  And sang along passionately.  So obviously, Blitz had to pick on him this morning!




Monday, December 11, 2017

Speak Kindness

A tongue has no bones but it has the power to break a heart.

I've been appalled lately at how cruel people can be.  Maybe it is ignorance, perhaps they are just rude; but truly, I think most don't realize how hurtful their words are.  At least I'd hope that about adults.

As someone who has been on the receiving end of hurtful words throughout my lifetime, I guess I'm more empathetic or in tune to another's pain.

I've struggled with weight my entire life and some phrases have stuck with me even back from childhood.

"You could be such a pretty girl."
                                                       "lead butt"
              "It's way too big on me maybe you can squeeze in it"
    "Are you sure you can fit in that size?"

So, I know how much words can sting and settle in the soul.


It's especially upsetting though when someone makes fun of something outside of one's control, like a disability.  Someone near and dear to me seems to be attacked as of late for a condition they were born with that worsens with age.  In the past month, I can recall multiple instances where different people made snide or hurtful comments to poke fun of or question their ability.

One this weekend was even more shocking considering the person who commented also has someone in their family with an impairment.

I simply do not understand.  

It breaks my heart each time I see or hear about it happening.  In reflection, I believe people just don't think before they speak.    But they should.

I'm not sure there is anyone who could say they've never been hurt by words.  If everyone would dwell on that feeling and remember it before they said something maybe it could make a difference.  If by chance you stick your foot in your mouth unexpectedly, apologize.  And mean it.

The world could do with a lot more kindness these days...


Here are a few helpful tips from mindbodygreen to speak with love and kindness.
1. Before you speak, THINK. Always ask yourself: Is this True. Is this Helpful? Is this Inspiring? Is this Necessary? Is it Kind?
2. Stop complaining. Complaining has no use. When people experience a problem they seem to complain to everyone other than the person who can resolve the issue. Rather than complain, try to calm down and then go directly to the person who can improve your situation.
3. Don’t mix bad words with bad moods. We have all said something that we regret. This is why you should not mix bad moods with bad words. You can transform your mood but you can’t take back words.
4. Go out of your way to be kind. Always be kind and be polite. It makes you feel good and others feel good as well - it’s as simple as that.
5. Speak only words you wish to have engraved above the doorway to your future. The words you speak reflect who you are. We are not only a result of our thoughts but also of our words and actions.
Sending you love, joy and kindness this season...





Sunday, December 10, 2017

Day-dreaming Date

For many reasons, my hubby is a keeper.

He's supportive and selfless, funny and kind, loves me unconditionally and is my best friend.  But he got major brownie points yesterday when he accompanied me on a holiday home tour.

I thought it would be a fun date out together but we realized early on that he was about the only man coming and going through the houses unless they were the owners.  He got glances of shock and surprise and a few "man points" by the women we met.

I'm sure he would've rather been in a tree stand but we enjoyed our day touring some beautiful homes decorated for Christmas.  It was interesting to see how others decorate.  I'm always one to browse a person's tree and view all the ornaments if I'm visiting for the holidays.  My trees have a story with every decoration that is hung.

This tree reminded me of my childhood.  Growing up, we always had a giant real tree slathered with handfuls of icicles.  This tree was in the childhood home of Bill Monroe, a legend of bluegrass music.  A sign hanging outdoors noted that the home had so much music played through the years it literally changed the composition of the wood, making it somewhat a living instrument.

Going into each home and experiencing the sights, sounds, and scents of Christmas certainly put us in the holiday mood.  What added to the atmosphere was that we were greeted with a dusting of snow.  At points, it felt like we'd stepped into a Hallmark movie.



Sadly, we didn't capture any photos of one of our favorite houses.  Nestled in the country, a dream cabin with a wrap-around porch, with every nook and cranny filled with holiday spirit.  I think we just got caught up in the beauty of it all. 

However, we did manage to take a selfie on the way out.



Once back to our humble house, I giggled at some of the photos my guy took.



He was most enamored by the "man cave" at one of our last stops.  Honestly, I think the basement was bigger than our home!  Giant gun racks flanked the entrance, at the bottom of the steps.  Leather and stone, a private entrance and a grand fireplace would make any man drool.  Actually, this home ended up being our favorite, as I even had him snap a pic of the kitchen.  A girl can dream...



Though it was exciting to imagine and pretend, back home and snuggled by our small fire in our well-worn chairs, I was thankful and content.  Our walls may not be lavishly adorned but they are covered in sweet memories.  While there is no grand entrance, you'll always enter our house with a warm welcome.  My decorations may not be stylish or new but instead chipped or smudged from little handprints who wanted to help.  The ornaments not color-coordinated but rather a timeline of our live's together.  And I couldn't imagine it any other way.  






Thursday, December 7, 2017

Snowmen & Snickers

We're only seven days into December but it feels as if the month is nearly over!  I'm pressing in the brakes as much as possible and trying to pause in the season, to enjoy each moment.  But the days seem so busy that it makes time pass even quicker.  

In the past week, I've been to two parties, with another engagement planned for tonight.  

The first was a paint party, something I've always wanted to do.  

My mom won a free entry so she came along, although a little hesitantly.  When I'm crafting or creating, I'm in my happy place but the day was filled with even more joy watching her experience a first.  

To see her step outside of her comfort zone made me one happy girl.  She did a wonderful job.  Each time I see the frosty guy on my door, I'll remember our day together.  And, since I keep my snowmen around all winter long, that's a lot of sweet memories!

One of our favorite traditions was visiting a local church for their drive-thru Christmas scenes.  It takes maybe 15 minutes but is always a highlight of the season.  Taking a step back in time, you drive through the story of the birth of our Savior.  The past several years, we've brought someone new with us.  This year, one of Noah's best friends came along.  It was a little strange though to be in the backseat, with the boys in the front.  

The sky was amazing that night, with a brilliant moon almost shining a spotlight on the church. 



We've also been visited by a cute little elf each morning this week.  It's brought the whole family chuckles but I think my husband has enjoyed his antics the most.  I love hearing him snicker as he walks in the door from work.  

Here's a few of the faves...
Blitz had to copy his favorite Elf on Day 2

Sundays are for naps & bubble baths!

Yikes, that's a lot of black ink

Midnight snack...Noah threatened to turn on the burner!

In this first week of Advent, my HOPE is that you experience all the joys of the season but most importantly know His peace!




Friday, December 1, 2017

There's an Elf in the House

If you've been around here long, you know that my baby is nearly grown.  Now a senior, he'll be 18 at the first of the year and soon out of the nest.  This momma bird is not quite ready to let her guy fly so she sometimes clings on with both feathers.  Especially when it comes to the lasts of his childhood.

As this Christmas is his final one as a kid, I decided to do something special to celebrate it, with a little help from an elf.

I've known for a few weeks I wanted to bring in an elf to help us count down the days to Christmas.  Somehow it is a tradition we never began, maybe because Noah was older when they came out.  And while most who do this have younger kids, I thought it might bring some extra joy for my towering teen.

However, when I noticed the price tag of Santa's tiny helper, I almost ended up the naughty list for the choice words that wanted to escape my mouth!  Yikes, I can stuff a few stockings with that kind of dough.  But, after a few searches, I was able to find a much more frugal - and in my opinion, cuter option.

Introducing...Blitz!

I can't wait to share with you all the funny ways he'll be surprising Noah this season.  And I'm excited to add this to our family's Christmas memories.

Here's the letter he brought this morning.


What are some of your treasured traditions for the holidays?




Saturday, November 11, 2017

Thanksgiving JOY

Christmas seems to start earlier every year.  While stores are focused on sales and quick to replace pumpkins with pine trees, people also appear to be yearning for the season a little sooner.  Maybe because Christmas is a favorite holiday of many, but maybe also because people need more joy.

On the road, the hodgepodge of the holidays hits you with each passing mile.  Ghosts, pumpkins, harvest wreaths, inflattable Santas and giant penguins are scattered from house to house.

Thanksgiving, a celebration of gratitude for our blessings, has nearly been replaced by the countdown to the ultimate shopping day.  Families no longer linger over pie and coffee but are out the door and off to the mall, while the dishes soak.

When I was a little girl, the wait for Christmas seemed unending.  Now that I'm older, time passes much more quickly.  One can sit and almost watch it slip away.  No matter how much you will it to slow, there is no stopping the ticking of the clock or ending of another day.

It's already the middle of November.  

The busyness of the holidays are among us and, before you know it, another year will be gone. 

Choosing to pause in gratitude is how I welcome the season.  Focusing on thanksgiving each day keeps me from getting swept up in the chaos that can become christmas.

Recognizing my blessings is the best tradition I can think of to celebrate the birth of my Savior.

Because, to me, Thanksgiving isn't just a day - not even just a month -but something I hope to encompass every day of the year.

Gratitude = JOY 

In the search for the perfect season, slowing down in Thanksgiving might just be the unexpected gift people are looking for - and one that can never be found in the store.


Psalm 100
A psalm. For giving grateful praise.

Shout for JOY to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his[a];
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with Thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.


Saturday, November 4, 2017

Little Lies…Big Trouble

Many years ago I took a few classes on writing for children.  It has always been a dream of mine to write a book and this was a way to practice the art.  Going through old files I found a few of the short stories and thought I'd share one with my readers.  If you have kiddos, maybe it'll give you a new story to read to them.  Stories like these remind me of the Highlight magazine I used to read as a kid.


Little Lies…Big Trouble


“But I don’t want to live in this dumpy old trailer!” 

The walls were so thin, I could almost hear the tin rattle with my scream. 

“Jeremiah, I know this place isn’t great to look at but I’ll fix it up.  I can’t pass up the chance to live somewhere free, work is hard to find,” Dad said, exhausted from the arguments we’d been having about our new move.

“What do I tell kids at school?”

I didn’t hang around for an answer but huffed down the tiny hallway, my elbows banging against the dingy walls, to grab my backpack.  It was my first day at a new school, which is never easy, but when you move around as much as me you get better at it.  Dad lost his job again and he’s decided that moving in next door to an old lady, Betty, is the answer. 

We live in ugly, rundown trailer for free and he gets paid to work at her house and farm.  I guess the good thing is that the trailer sets far enough off the road that nobody can see it from the bus stop; besides, the walk lets me think up my new identity.

The roar of the bus alerts me, as it comes down the gravel road, and slows in front of Miss Betty’s house. I notice it’s already full.  So much for finding a seat early and trying to blend in! It’ll be obvious I’m the new kid now.  I scan the rows for an empty seat up front, but no luck.  The only empty seat is at the back, and of course, it is surrounded by boys my age, at least they look about 11. 

I can hear the whispers and feel their stares on the back of my neck.  I wait.

“Hey kid, are you new?”
            “Where’d you move here from?”
“Did you all buy Miss Betty’s house?”

Looking down at my ratty sneakers and last year’s jeans, I know the story of buying that house would never fly.  I had to come up with something – and fast.

“Uh, no.  I’m just staying with Betty for awhile.  I ran away from home and she found me in her barn.” I lowered my voice to a whisper. “Said I had to go to school or she’d call the cops.  Name’s Jeremiah.”

All their mouths dropped and the boys huddled in, ready for more.  They hit me with a dozen questions like why and how and when.  I didn’t want to give away too much at one time.  After all, a run-away needed to have his secrets, be mysterious.

“Listen, my dad is an undercover cop.  I didn’t really run away. I just had to get away from the trouble.  Dad will come get me soon as things cool down.  Can I trust you all with this?” 

I locked eyes with each of them, hoping they’d buy it.  I explained that we were running from a bad gang my dad was trying to bust.  If they wanted to help in this secret operation, they needed to keep it quiet.

“Well, who do we say you are?” one of the boys asked.

“Just say I’m Jeremiah and that Betty is my grandma,” I explained as we pulled into my new school.

I hopped off the bus. I could feel a line following me.  The good news was they believed my tall tale; the bad news was it was a bigger lie than I had planned.  I made my way into the office to find out what class I needed to be in, hoping my new fans would disappear.

As I exited into the main hall, most of the boys from the bus were gathered, waiting.  Maybe I’d get lucky and I wouldn’t have class with any of them so the questions wouldn’t continue.

“Who has Mrs. Tichenor for a teacher?” I asked, hoping.

Only one kid raised his hand and the great thing was he was kind of shy.  Maybe I could escape this lie; or better yet, they’d all forget about it by the end of the day. 

It was so busy that I actually didn’t have a chance to talk much to other kids, this was good because I felt like my little lies were growing bigger on their own.  I worried about the bus ride home and the questions I knew I’d get.  I tried to make it to the bus early so I could pick my own seat, but I was one of the last on and again had to make my way to the back.  The boys didn’t waste any time.

“So what kind of bad guys was your dad chasing?”
      “Was there a gun fight?”
“Did you go on the bust with your dad?”

I tried not to go into too much detail, using the excuse that it was all top secret police stuff and telling them would put them in danger.  As we neared my stop, one of the boys, I think his name was Gavin, bounced next to me in the seat.

“Hey, I live pretty close to you.  Maybe I could get off the bus with you and we could play ball or something?” he asked.

I gulped. “Uh, no.  I don’t think Miss Betty would like it if I just brought company home without asking.”  I slid out from around him and headed for the door, eager to get home and over this crazy day. 

“Hey kid, how was your day?” Dad asked soon as I walked through the door. 

I shrugged it off, “Ok. I’m pretty tired and I have lots of homework.”

That would keep him out of my way for the day.  Maybe I could figure a way out of this lie before it hurt my Dad.  I wish I had told the truth.  Now I was in too deep.

During the next several weeks I avoided questions about my hero-cop dad.  I used to love making up stories because they were more fun than real life. But this lie was too big – too heavy to carry. 

When I had a day off from school, I looked forward to exploring more of Miss Betty’s house.  As shabby as our trailer was, Betty was a great lady who made terrific cookies and let me look through her old things.  As I stepped onto her porch, she met me at the door.

“Jeremiah, one of your friends called for you this morning.  Good thing I wake up with the rooster’s crow or I’d not been too happy answering” She held her arm out from the screen door so I could duck under and go inside.  “Don’t really remember who it was, but he said he’d come by sometime today.”

I froze in my tracks.  I’d tried to avoid having kids come home with me, using every excuse my mind could invent.  If they showed up, they’d want to see my room, which was not in Betty’s house. Worse yet, they might run into my dad and start asking questions.

“Uh, thanks Miss Betty.  Sorry about that.  Listen, I forgot something back at the house so I gotta go,” I yelled on my way out the door.  As I made a turn for the dirt path that led to my trailer, I heard voices at the side of the house.  It was my worst fear.

“Hey, are you Jeremiah’s dad?” Gavin said to Dad, trying to keep up with my dad as he worked on the yard.  “Jeremiah didn’t say you came back home.  You sure don’t look like a cop. Are you still undercover?  It’s ok, you’re secret is safe with…”

By this time Dad’s eyes locked with mine, and I could see the pain that my lies had caused.  He didn’t say anything to Gavin, just made an excuse to go to the shed.  I didn’t even care about being in the trouble I knew was coming.  It was punishment enough to see how much I’d disappointed him.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Lois and Eunice

Reading 2 Timothy the other day, I stumbled across two names that, in the past, I've probably overlooked.  Sometimes I tend to skip over names, assuming they may be insignificant.  Yet, there are no filler words in the Bible and every name in the book has a purpose.  

It was only one sentence  of scripture but had a profound effect and has stuck with me ever since.  In fact, it took me back to my childhood and replayed a favorite memory of being with my Grandma.

Remembering your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy, clearly recalling your sincere faith that first lived in your grandmother Lois, then in your mother Eunice, and that I am convinced is in you also.    2 Tim 1:4-5

My maternal grandparents were my faith foundation.  Grandpa, a Baptist preacher, and Grandma, his devoted wife, both taught me what Christian living was all about.  They were role models and examples of what it meant to love and live for Jesus.  

I remember as a child, going with my Grandpa on the weekend and playing at the church while he prepared for his sermons.  How I miss seeing and hearing him in the pulpit.  It was into his arms that I was hugged, as I came forward and found salvation.  Although that has been thirty some odd years ago, I can still vividly see his smiling face as he welcomed me into the family of God.

The childhood memory that came to me from 2 Timothy though was sitting by Grandma in the evenings, both of us in dusters and nightgowns, smelling of soap and lotion, Bible in her lap.  

As I grew older, she let me either search for scripture, read the devotion guide, or passage for that day.  This simple act taught me how to find books of Bible, not to have a fear in reading aloud, and the importance of being in it daily.  

When it was time for bed, she would go with us to our rooms, kneel on the floor and pray with us before we drifted to sleep.  Above my headboard now is a wooden sign with the words, "Now I lay me..." and reminds me of those childhood prayers.  

Grandma and Me at her surprise 85th party

In this month of gratitude, I chose to honor my Grandmother today for her diligence to instilling faith in my life.  Yesterday's sweet memory of growing up with her Christian influence, made me thankful for the role she played in my beliefs.  Her persistence, prayers and example helped shape the woman I am today.      

As a little girl I would play dress up in her shoes and dream of what I could be. My feet have since outgrown her size, but I know her shoes are too big to ever fill. 
Thinking of her witness and how she has been a role model for our family, makes me realize the eternal responsibility we have for our future generations. May I continue to press on with the foundation she's given me so that our family tree grows in faith with each new branch.  

I'm grateful for the "Lois" in my life and hope to continue in her footsteps as the best "Eunice" I can be.  

#justbreathechallenge  Day 2: Childhood Memory

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Love My People

After a loss, one of the most common phrases you will hear is "if there's anything you need, call me."  We say this because who really knows what to say in the midst of someone's grief.

In reality though, it would be rare for someone grieving to call out for help, even if it were for something simple.  Grief holds you hostage and normal, everyday tasks can seem overwhelming.  To think in advance or even know what to ask for may feel impossible.  And even if you do, it feels like you're imposing to ask.

I remember a few people who were very specific with help when we lost Austin.  One asked if they could go to the store for me.  With casseroles running out our ears, you might think this seemed like an odd suggestion.  But stores carry more than groceries - and it was the last place I wanted to be.  Public places made you vulnerable.  Well meaning people, even if they just glanced pitifully your way, could send you spiraling.  I sent her for random supplies that I needed - hair supplies, toilet paper, stamps, paper goods, and it was so appreciated.

Others asked how they could help with Noah.  Did he need someplace to retreat to when/if the funeral home became to much.  What was his favorite snack, or movie?  Could they take him out or let him play with their children?  Pick up his homework?  Siblings are often forgotten in loss so this meant everything to me.

Austin passed the day after Thanksgiving.  A few special friends sent flowers or keepsakes weeks later, right on the cusp of Christmas.  As holidays make it extra difficult to be grieving, this hugged our broken hearts.

Of course, so many prayers were offered and lifted up for us but some asked me exactly how they should pray.  Being able to vent, even if electronically, and share unique burdens in the journey of child loss was an unexpected relief.

Prayers are appreciated, coveted by those in grief.  But sometimes - often - prayer is not enough.

A few weekends ago, we were wakened with the news that my husband's friend since childhood had suddenly passed.  I began cooking, my go-to in condolences, as Tim made calls.  On our drive to their home, we thought of the many times since his illness we'd meant to stop by and visit.  He was a private man, not wanting anyone to even know he was sick, and so it made it difficult to know what to do.  Instead, we frequently prayed for them.  Now, we're saddened that he didn't see him in the end.

His wife said something that has stuck with me since.  We'd exchanged thoughts about how life gets busy and both sides meant to connect sooner, hindsight-wishes now.  She was realizing what she should've done for us, in our loss, even the midst of hers.  She told a story about helping others.

"Jesus said, 'Love my people' and often we just don't."

How true.  It is so easy to say or post that we're praying for a situation.  Or to give the standard "call me" response when tragedy strikes.  But we need to be moved to react.  We should be His hands and feet and literally love on those who are in need.

I began writing this post before his funeral but received a God wink when one of the pastors spoke on this very thing.  He read scripture about Jesus being questioned on the greatest commandment and challenged everyone to love God, love people.

Our friend was the epitome of a true servant.  He served God, his country, his community - even in his battle with his health, his service to his family was that not much changed during his illness.  The  rows of people and longest procession I remember ever driving in, showed the vast number of lives he touched.  When I think of him, I always picture him doing, never one to sit around.

We could all learn from his example to serve more, unselfishly. And be reminded to not just think but do, especially in times of grief or great need.








Sunday, October 15, 2017

Camp Connection

One of my favorite parts of travel is searching for the perfect spot and planning the trip.  For our mini fall break getaway, I had a wish list in finding our home away from home.  We wanted to camp but indoor plumbing was a must.  Since we had a small window of days, it needed to be realitively close so we didn't spend all our time driving.  Something near the water and promising views, since we enjoy being outdoors.  And my hope was to be tech free, though being more than a request to my guys was an added bonus.

In the end, we chose to rent a camper in Cumberland Falls, Kentucky.  It was a state park we haven't visited, even though I'd traveled near there for work a few years ago.  I knew from driving it before, the scenery would be amazing this time of year.

It did not disappoint.

We purposefully set the GPS to take us there via back roads and avoided the interstate as much as possible.  For me, in a road trip, getting there is half the fun.  I love spontaneous stops and finds along the way.  The photo above was actually called Haunted Cave Road, as peaceful as it seems.  Noah noticed it, and much to his surprise, I said, "Let's go down it!"

Through the curves and winding roads, we talked and laughed, while Noah took turns between being DJ and helping me drive.  Tim, ever the trooper, worked the night before we left so he napped in between raising up to view the scenery or see why we stopped.

Noah realized, as we entered Daniel Boone forest, the cell service became sketchy.  Luckily, his phone was pre-programmed with our route.  Truly, that and taking photos were the only thing we really used our phones for the entire trip.  I knew the camper didn't have a tv, which was fine by me, and my plan was to invoke our "no tech" rule we have on similar vacations.  Much to my delight, the area took care of that for me, as the only way you could get a signal was to turn your head just so and point your arm at an angle while walking uphill.  

Being disconnected from the world allowed us to connect more deeply with each other.  

In fact, apart from the scenery, my favorite memories of the trip are of the time we spent playing games, cooking over an open fire, and sitting around talking/laughing/telling stories.  When I replay this trip over in my mind, I smile over scenes of us at the table playing cards, singing along to classics on the camper radio, and enjoying amazing meals together with no outside distractions.  
We had so much fun in the camper, we plan to extend our next camping trip - wherever that may be.  Even my techy-phone always in his hand-teen enjoyed the time being unavailable and not receiving constant notifications.  All three of us decided we could easily handle a week of nothing but togetherness.  Not being instantly available is a peaceful freedom, circa 1996.

Of course, one of the special moments of our trip was our day spent visiting Cumberland Falls.  I've had this place in my "go to" folder for years, always trying to coordinate our breaks with the moonbow that happens there.  Even though we missed the moonbow by a matter of days, it did not diminish the astounding beauty of the place.

I could've stood for hours marveling at this landscape.


To get to this particular spot, took walking down several sections of steps, something I might have opted out of even a year ago.  With my knee injury, steps are not my friend, but I decided the memory worth any temporary pain that might come.  

Life is too short to sit on the sidelines.


Although I wasn't as adventurous as this duo, who had me randomly stopping at any rocky spot that seemed interesting throughout our trip.  Besides, somebody had to stay with the car and drive to a signal, provided a bear jump out - or an ankle twist!

However, they were pretty proud of how well ol' mom hung on the trip.  
I'm pretty proud too...
even if my hamstrings still feel those hills!

We packed a picnic for our visit to the falls but just happened upon our spot.  It was just up the road, nestled by the river that fed the waterfall.  With only one other family there, it made for a quiet and beautiful place to dine outdoors.  


As do all vacations, the end came before we were really ready.  But this area and the memories made will always hold a special place in my blessed and joyful heart.










Monday, October 9, 2017

Fall Break Festivities

Fall break began this weekend and many of our friends headed south, so they are dodging hurricanes and torrential downpours.  We are headed east and hoping the rain-clouds steer clear!

Saturday we spent the day festival hopping.  A yearly tradition, we began at the Nut Club, a foodie lover's dream, full of food trucks as far as the eye can see.  Nearly every booth has unique items, such as brain sandwiches, centipede suckers, and snails. 



Some years we strategize, some we are spontaneous on our choices.  Though I had a few stops in mind, we ended up just eating what caught our eye.

I've been low-carbing for a couple months but planned to cheat this day with a "one bite rule."  What I quickly realized is that my belly has significantly shrunk in capacity so, after a few bites, I was full.  It didn't help that one of our first stops was the giant turkey leg booth.  Tim bought one, feeling it was a safe choice amidst the freaky fried delicacies, and I shared it with him. 

By the halfway point we were stuffed, hot and inching toward being miserable, so we cut the trip short.  Noah decided we need to come twice next year, once at night and once during the day.  Sounds like a plan!

We made it home in time for the tail end of our hometown fall festival but rain saw many of the booths close early.  Since it was a record year of vendors, I was a little disappointed to not browse but my hubby's wallet was relieved. 

Noah had entered the chili contest though so we hung around for the results.  He placed 2nd.  This momma is biased and isn't sure how he didn't claim 1st, but we're proud either way.  Added bonus is we got to enjoy the leftovers!

We're unplugging the rest of the week and going on a mini camping retreat. I cannot wait for some family time around the campfire and surrounded by God's beautiful landscape, especially this time of year.   I'm sure there will be a post to update you, once we return.

Wishing you and yours a blessed and JOYFUL Fall Break!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Be Still...and Write!

I am still over-joyed from the experience of our first ever women's retreat this past Saturday.  Event planning is my jam so when I discovered this on our church calendar this girl was all about helping!  Aside from getting a nerdy fix on all the registration details, what I loved most was the opportunity to share with women about self-care.

The overarching theme was to learn how to better "Be Still" before God and to not let the distractions and worries of this world take us over.  My session was on prayer journaling, self care, and a little of my testimony mixed in for good measure.

Self care is something I talk about with young moms on a daily basis but having the opportunity to tell how God is the best source of our care was amazing.  As I shared with them, if you aren't going to Him daily to get renewed, refreshed, and refilled, everything else is just a band-aid.

My mornings start out in a quiet spot from the center of our home.  With a steamy cup of coffee, I nestle in to dig into God's word, spend time being still before Him, and writing notes in my Bible that speak to me.  There is no outside sound or distraction, other than the birds chirping awake.  This simple act and shift from what used to be a chaotic rush of a morning has changed everything for me.

I wake up craving this time with God and it sets the course of my day.

Going through old prayer journals in preparation for the class, I had many "Wow, God!" moments.  I was reminded that often when we journal or make a note it can mean something totally different years later.  There were so many entries I would read and know - this is why I experienced that, I understand this season now, etc.  Looking back gives us the ability to see how much we've grown in our walk with God and the lessons He's taught us along the way.

Prayer journaling can be stepping stones in our faith.

How often have we whispered a prayer and moved on, not even really giving thought to the end result.  Unless it is a major prayer, sometimes recalling those answers are even difficult to do.  Recording them in a journal gives us a history to look back on.  They show you how your relationship grows with God.

Love letters to Jesus, I like to think of them as. 

If you aren't currently journaling, I encourage you to try it.  Any notebook will do but there's nothing better than a really good pen.  One that flows with ease and glides across the page.  Or, you can join the world of virtual journals and start a blog.  Even if nobody but you reads them, I promise you'll be changed by the process.

Here are a couple I found online and shared in my session.  So, now I'm sharing with you.

Easy template (see #9)


Your journal can have a theme, like finding joy or giving thanks.  It can be focused on a specific scripture, book of the Bible, or use a different scripture each day.  Or you can dedicate pages to prayers about different people or needs in your life.  The choices are endless!

Don't spend a lot of time trying to create the perfect journal, just start writing.  Your journals will change as you do.  

In the cusp of the busy holiday season approaching, a first entry might be how you hope to Be Still before God and let Him calm the crazy of this world within you.

Joyful Journaling!








Monday, September 18, 2017

Something about September

September  - an interlude between summer and fall.  Warm days and cool nights.  Butterflies among falling leaves.  Where daylight is slower to disappear.  Golden hues adorn the landscape, under a blue canvas.

Outside my kitchen window I see the faintest turn of color in my trees.  Early mornings greet me with a foggy sunrise.  Crickets still chirp as darkness stretches into night but there is a coolness in the air. The last of summer with hints of autumn mixed between.

There's just something about September that makes me want to linger.  As if time stands still for just a moment more...


"By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer’s best of weather
And autumn’s best of cheer."
-   Helen Hunt Jackson, September, 1830-1885

Fall is my favorite season.  This Friday officially welcomes it in but I've seen signs for a few weeks. While October steals the spotlight, with it's patchwork quilt of Autumn leaves and pumpkins galore; September is silently sweet.   

The pause before the busy holidays swirl and fill every empty space.  

Maybe I'm more sentimental as this is my baby's Senior year.  Every moment and memory has an invisible stamp of "last" attached, though I'm trying not let it.  Instead I'm making an effort to live in the present - and be fully present.

Perhaps that is why I've realized how special September is and am willing it to slow down.  The month is half over already.  It seems that after Labor day, you blink and find yourself in the new year. 

So I'm purposefully hesitating the quick passing of each day.  Soaking up the simple joys.  

Pastel skies said hello against an amber sunrise today.  Normally, I'll shut the blinds soon after waking, as it is difficult to read with the sun beaming in the window; but this morning I let it be and sat quietly watching the world awake, coffee mug steaming beside me.

I'm pulling over to take in the changing countryside or pausing in the warmth of the day.  Too soon, I know colors will fade and cold weather with seep in.  Storing up the smiles of this season before it goes away.

My wishlist for fall includes crunching through leaves and a caramel apple.  Picnics in the park. Bonfires and blankets under the stars. Picking pumpkins and mums.  Lazy country roads and colorful trees.  Hot bowls of soup and hayrides.

What's on yours?...

  




Monday, August 28, 2017

Hairy Adventures

When I was pregnant with Noah, I suffered horrible heartburn.  Every. Single. Day.  There's a wives' tale this causes your baby to have lots of hair.  In Noah's case, it was very true.

He was born with a head full of dark hair.


As a toddler, he had the sweetest curls and his hair began to lighten a bit.



Though he was blessed with good, thick, curly hair he was cursed with a double crown. When he was younger, he called it a "double crayon" and would pout when I'd lick my hand and force it to tame.

One year, as I was cutting his hair, he asked if he could have a "real person" do it.  That ended my days trimming  -but not styling.  Through all the years, he's asked me for help with his hair.  I too have thick curly hair and know what a pain it can be.  You either cut it short or learn to work around it.  As a boy, he doesn't have the patience but he likes having different hairstyles.


And like most with curly hair, you always long for something different.  He played ball with a boy who had slick straight hair that flipped when he dribbled across the court.  Noah wanted his hair.  Much as I tried, his tight curls wouldn't give.  So we had a chemical straightener applied at a salon.  Though we pulled it off, those mornings were torture.  He was convinced I was going to burn off his ear with my flat iron.


As he grew older and started to drive, he began to branch out more on his hairstyles.  In the summer, he's usually more adventurous and tends to let it grow out.  Which in his case, can become pretty hairy.


This is a version when the curls are "tamed"...


I love running my fingers through those curls.  Though these days, the older her gets, I wonder what other girls might as well. 

This summer, he shocked us by coming home with a mini mohawk.  Though it startled me when he first came in, I quickly fell in love.

             

I wish I'd taken photos since the start of the school year because almost every day he asks me to do something different with his hair.

We've slicked it back old school style, straightened to the side, let it be curly, afro-like, and this morning it's grown long enough to full spike it.

He kept his eyes closed the whole time and was shocked it got so high.  He's already so tall but with the spike it makes him seem even bigger.  I love how it turned out but, most of all, I love his confidence and willingness to be himself.  In a world of copycats, I'm proud he marches to the beat of his own drum.

 

And I'll happily be his stylist as long as he allows because our mornings bring me lots of JOY!








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