February 25, 2010

prelude to growth

French Quarter... Joan of Arc statue

I don't know why they chose to ask us. A young couple, new to the church... with two small children. Perhaps the offer had been made to others and they had turned it down. Perhaps we had sucker written across our foreheads. Or maybe... God led them to us. Regardless... Eric & I became the youth group leaders. It wasn't a large group, but the kids were great and they seemed to like us. And our kids. (We even got some babysitting out of it.)
Of course, it was so much more than that. We had an official place in the church and we had responsibility to these kids. And pizza. A lot of pizza, along with our fellowship. We played wild and crazy games, we talked about Jesus. We travelled to Disney for Night of Joy, and to Detroit for Acquire the Fire. We must have been doing something right... for these parents to trust us with their kids. But we were just babies ourselves... learning more about our faith right alongside these teens. I loved the desire I saw in the kids. Their fire for loving Jesus. And it kept me on the path to my own growth.
Before we knew it, the church decided to send us to a conference. In New Orleans. The site of the 2001 National Youth Gathering for the Lutheran Church. The plan was to attend the conference, get to know the city... and bring our youth back the following summer for the Gathering. On that trip, we fell in love with New Orleans. We walked everywhere, taking in the city. Around each corner there was something new and different. And while the city is known for the too wild Bourbon Street and Mardi Gras, there is so much more to see and experience... if you are willing to look beyond the surface. A little hotel in the French Quarter. Beignets at Cafe' du Monde. A street car ride though the garden district. Pecan waffles at Camellia's. And barbecue shrimp at Mr. B's. Yes... New Orleans filled us up with their food... but also with tools to bring home to our youth. And a fire within for the Gathering.
We headed home... bellies full and plans in the works.
The fundraising took center stage as we prepared for July 2001.

to be continued...


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February 24, 2010

sick can drag you down

It is no secret that I have been struggling. My smile and my laughter have been playing hide and seek with my heart, and it has been harder and harder to be the seeker. I figured I would feel better once the antibiotic kicked in and banished the sinus infection... but still, I fought to keep my head up. Turning to the words of the Lover of my soul helped. I prayed and begged to be me again... and while hope filled me, I wondered if there was something more. Eric has tolerated my whining with love and humor... and he has sopped up tears with his shoulder. Over the weekend I sensed a change in my breathing, and wondered if I was still not well. Still, I kept on wrapping myself in God's loving words. And the more I read, the more I felt cushioned by His mercy.
Yesterday... I gave in and headed to the doctor, even though I felt pretty okay. I half expected the doctor to say I was just fine... lingering cough. But instead, I found myself half covered with a flimsy gown waiting for a chest x-ray... to rule out walking pneumonia. Although I didn't really think pneumonia was a plus in my column, I was relived that I was not crazy. I usually wait to visit the doctor. Until I am sure I am really sick. Too sick. But not this time... I am trying to take better care of myself and know that I am worth a trip to the doctor now and again.
The verdict? Bronchitis. Again. My doctor, she looked into my eyes and said You were right to come. You needed to be here. And I wheezed a sigh of relief.
So here I am... being thankful for a bout of bronchitis. Feeling hopeful that the medicine will do its job. And certain that I won't even have to seek that smile... it will come out of hiding all on its own.


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February 23, 2010

thirty seconds

I have never believed that medicine is the answer for everything. But once my daughter was diagnosed with ADD, I had to take a chance. A wise and wonderful friend explained it this way... when the doctor told you your daughter needed glasses, you got them for her. It seemed to make sense from that perspective... and we gave it a try. And I was thankful... for her words and for the change in Laura. It made the next experience much easier. I could see the same signs in Camden. But Camden... he was not a medicine-taker. He gagged on every liquid variety and wasn't able to swallow pills... but I so wanted him to have the benefits that ADD medication was giving Laura. And so I researched... and found a medication delivered by a patch. And it was just the thing... for this boy who gave his all and could not get ahead. He excels through his ADD, and we are so thankful... for this little clear square of science. Each morning we stick the patch on his hip and he knows... that it will help him get the most out of his effort. He is probably at an age where he could apply it himself... but it has become a ritual for us. He trims the package with the scissors and I peel and stick... for thirty seconds. And for those thirty seconds, we put our arms around each other for a good morning hug. And it is just one more reason to be thankful...

Even in the midst of my mess... there are gifts to unwrap and cherish. Thanks, Emily... for providing a place for my soul to breathe.

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February 22, 2010

stepping closer

Last night... there was rest and contentment. And tacos. Our family of four... catching upon two tv shows... laughing together. It went a long way towards filling me back up. Having his arm around me and my head nestled on his shoulder... I had been missing him all weekend while he worked. And although I had the chance to catch a movie with friends Saturday night, I really wished I had stayed home and snuggled into his arms. They keep my heart warm.
But last night, there was another step I had to take. One that required wiping a thin layer of dust from the cover, and flipping through a couple pages to find the day. And there was Jesus. He had been calling to me... but I put too many obstacles between us... as if lifting and opening that book was too strenuous or time consuming. I shake my head in wonder... because all of the procrastinating took far more effort than the actual doing. And the doing? The first line of the devotion? Trust and thankfulness will get you through this day. Hmmm... I wonder what my day would have been like if I had started it out with this. And I read on. And on. Hungry to hear His voice and have it fill me up. To overflowing.
So today... I am going there first. I'm going to start the day on the right foot... and keep on walking.
(The first line... You need Me every moment. Yes, Jesus. Yes, I do...)

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February 21, 2010

the mess of less

She asked and I said No. I'm actually doing really great. But here I sit... two weeks later, reflecting and thinking, Maybe I am. Because I am dragging. Maybe I am not quite out from under my cold... and maybe I am just dwelling in my mess. But either way, it tells me that perhaps I am in a crisis of sorts...
I certainly am feeling like I am not enough.
And too much, as that number on the scale taunts me and reminds me again that I am not giving it my all. And I let it define me... as less.
I wanted the cheeriness of the Valentine decorations to brighten my mood... but even the sun shining through pink glass hearts did not pull my smile all the way up through my eyes.
The other night... Camden crawled under the entertainment center to turn the white twinkle lights on for me. Yes, the ones that are strung in my paper snowflake garland. I had added some red heart doilies. That light? It brought me joy. Today it brings along a realization. The Light. It is missing from me. I have let too much distance grow in between me and that Light. And in this moment it comes to me. Jesus is the only one who can stop the less and bring the more... and I know just what I need to do.

In your ocean I am ankle deep
I feel the waves crashing on my feet
It's like I know where I need to be
I can't figure out
Just how much air I will need to breathe.

I just want something beautiful to touch me
I know that I'm in reach
I am down on my knees
And waiting for
Something beautiful.

-lyrics from Something Beautiful, NeedtoBreathe

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lessons


Sometimes I feel as if there has been a slow shift in the universe. When life is the same, but different... slipping quietly into a new normal, with barely a thought or notice. One day everything just seems... different. A slight change in a level of kindness. Something more, or less, in a friendship. A change in attitude. A new level of aloneness. For no reason at all. And sometimes I long to flip back just a few pages of this life... and return to the way it was. To recapture those tattered memories and remember to hold them just a bit closer. But the road leads us on ahead... and all I can tuck into my pockets are memories and lessons...

Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.
-anonymous

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February 19, 2010

it's been 20 years...



It was a day just for us. Mother and daughter. And even the heavy sky, that was threatening rain, could not keep the joy from the day. To have a summer day off... was unheard of for her. But with her oldest daughter graduating, Bob insisted. The mood of the day was light and fun and full of celebration. I don't recall too many details of the day... but there was lunch... and laughter that such a fancy restaurant would serve potato chips in a bag. And there was conversation and love and more laughter. And a beautiful watch. The one with the diamonds. (Thank you, Bob!)

I think I floated through graduation... with amazement and a smile on my face. But I'm sure no smile rivalled the one of my Mother. Her girl... wearing the gold tassel, and accomplishing another step along the path of life.



These are two of my very favorite pictures in the world. All my growing up, all I ever wanted was to make my Mom happy. And here... her happiness and mine collided in a most beautiful moment of joy and grace.
(sorry this last one is so bad! a scan of a scan...)

Jo's Flashback Friday is all about school today... and while I may not wanna go to school... I'd never pass up a chance to visit Jo!

February 17, 2010

it brings me back...

My friend Kathleen knew just the girl to share her news with... me. And her news sent a delightful chill right up my spine! Kathleen had just purchased her daughter's first set of Mr. Sketch markers. Yes, the scented ones. To borrow an expression from Erin... Squeee! Do you remember them? (Right now my Mother is nodding her head and shaking it all at once... and saying, That's my daughter!)
I didn't even know they still made Mr. Sketch markers. I thought they were long gone... a blissful memory. But no. Kathleen said Staples. Well, guess who has a coupon and a gift card? Me!

Oh yes. I stopped on the way home. It was all I could do not to open the box on the way home and breathe the beautiful (non-toxic)scents of my dear old friends. But I resisted. Until now.


Just like I remember.
The tree trunk? Cinnamon.
The leaves? Apple.
The hollow that I believed to be in every tree? Licorice.
The dress that led me to believe I would be an artist? Orange.
It almost covers that little bit of disappointment over the packaging.
Because I was really hoping the markers would still be nestled in that styrofoam tray... and I don't really recall Mr. Sketch to be a watermelon.
But I'm pushing those thoughts aside... and am going back to drawing... and breathing in yesterday...

our custom tees


Once upon a time I was looking for a crafty camping project...
Somewhere on the Internet I found the "recipe" for what would become our traditional camping craft. T-shirt souvenirs... custom made by us.
The original recipe called for a mostly cotton tee, a spray bottle, some bleach and some lovely treasures plucked right from nature. The kids went out on a nature hike and came back with bags of items... and while I was expecting all sorts of shapes of leaves and flowers, what I found in the depths of those bags were mostly sticks and rocks.
On our next trip... I collected the treasures... at Walmart. A box of foam stick on letters. It was the perfect addition to the original recipe!

So, here is the how-to...
-Choose plain t-shirts that are mostly cotton. It is better to wash & dry it first.
-Find a spray bottle... one that mists instead of streams. I use an old hairspray bottle.
-Bleach. It goes in the spray bottle. I add a little water to dilute it... but not too much. Maybe 4:1?
-Foamie stick-on letters... or any other shapes you might like! (the box of letters was maybe $8)
-You can add some items from nature if you want... but this doesn't have to be just a camping craft! Our Valentine shirts are nature-free.

Once you have gathered all of your supplies, lay out your shirt and get creative! If you are camping, then no table cloth is really needed... but if you are on your back porch, you might want to cover the table with a vinyl table cloth. Make sure the foamie shapes are fully pressed down into the shirt... so the bleach cannot seep under them.

Once your design has been laid out and stuck down, it is time to spray it with the bleach. Try not to soak the shirt... but it takes more than a mist, too. It is kind of fun to watch the bleach in action. The longer you leave the bleach on, the more dramatic the color difference will be. Once the shirt has faded to your liking, peel off the foamie letters or shapes. They will probably be a little puddled with bleach, so be careful!

Next step... rinse your shirt with cold water and wring. Toss it in the dryer or hang it to dry and... voila!

This is really a favorite for our family and the friends we camp with. Even the adults have joined in the fun on the last few trips... even if it means pulling a shirt out of the duffle bag on the spur of the moment. We have had times when the shirts did not work. We have blamed it on not enough cotton in the shirt, or the shirt being too thin. We have blamed it on too much bleach, or the sizing in the shirt that didn't make it porous enough to absorb the bleach (which is why we try to wash them first now.)

I hope you'll give this really easy craft a try!
(and Jennifer Juniper had some great tee ideas, too!)

February 16, 2010

mardi gras



We celebrated Fat Tuesday tonight.
Pancakes for dinner... and King Cake.
Laughter and stories.
And I remember how much I love New Orleans.
After Mardi Gras.
Way after Mardi Gras.
When the craziness ends and real life resumes.
It is where my faith grew by leaps and bounds.
The most ever. Ever.
And soon...
I'll revisit the experience...

tuesday

Tuesday means Chatting at the Sky... finding the beautiful in the messy. Well, there is plenty of messy around here...

So much, in fact, that I missed last week. No. I really missed it. Because Tuesday is not just about the gifts... it is about the friendships. And I missed the interactions... but I could not get it together. I thought a million thoughts... but not one led me to words. Worse yet... none led me to even be able to see the gifts in my life.

They were there...
-pajamas in the afternoon under my warm quilt just urging the germs away...
-a snuggle with my son, just moments after I had come to the realization that he might not want to snuggle now that he is the big 13...
-Valentine decorations trying to disguise the lingering Christmas, even after the Superbowl...
-the beautiful air that reminds me why I love Florida in the winter...

...but I couldn't seem to get to them. My heart was all clouded with germs and dark clouds... and I had that sinking sadness all around me. A mess so messy that I couldn't sweep it under the carpet.

But then, there was this...
It's a bleak, rainy Tuesday here in North Carolina. No matter. I love Tuesdays, even if the weather is awful. But one of my favorite things to do on Tuesdays is to read your Tuesdays Unwrapped post. I miss you today!

And some of the gray shifted enough so that the sun beams could light a corner or two of this heart.

And a few days later, there was this...
Are you fine? Are you well? I mean it--I miss you. Your words always bless me, and I've missed you a lot this week. I'm hoping that you're doing great, just taking a little break from frequent posting.

And I am reminded again of these real bonds that reach beyond what should be... and just are.

Thank you, Richella... for your friendship and your care. Just seeing you in my mailbox made me smile. Your words? Beyond grace...

February 14, 2010

xoxo

It was a happy Valentine's day.
With plenty of heart...



and love.
Oh, I love the love that lives here...
It lives in the little things. The quick kiss. The hands that brush each other as we pass in the hall. The dish scrubbing. The laundry washing. The smiles. The laughter.
I love the love that lives here... everyday.

February 13, 2010

instead...

I'm not sure I could quite express how excited I was to camp this weekend. Biking. Hiking. Geocaching. Relaxing. No laundry...

We were all set to go. Car packed. Groceries purchased and organized... but it just wasn't meant to be. A rain storm leaving puddles rivalling the "big puddle" of my youth and a bluegrass festival that meant every other part of the park would be closed. So home, we are. And it is okay. I felt a twinge of regret when the day dawned sunny and bright with an uninterrupted blue sky... but the pancakes on the griddle were delicious. Just as good as the ones over the campfire would have been. Well, perhaps not... but we'll never know.
We spent the day... together. Our vacation weekend quickly turned into a working (around the house) weekend... but the atmosphere was relaxed, and we carried on as if it was the plan. We stopped to watch some of the recorded Olympic opening ceremonies, and we took the time to make our Valentine camp shirts...


Tonight the stew is bubbling away in the cast iron pot... in the backyard instead of in the park. Cornbread and apple crisp is yet to come. And maybe some s'mores.
Fun is what you make it. And sometimes... the view from your own backyard is just as nice as anywhere else. As long as you are together.

February 10, 2010

when all is fair


With just two hours until fair time... the rain began to fall. In buckets, it seemed. And as the puddles spread, kids heart began to break. Plan B seemed all but impossible... and our eyes focused hopefully on the radar. As the raindrops slowed their fall, we decided to brave those few last sprinkles. And it turned out just fine.



There is just something about wandering the county fair... hand in hand with the boy you love. The darkness alive with lights blinking a million colors. The air, sizzling with aromas, savory and oh-so-sweet. And somehow... it is that much better when your eyes are upon your kids spinning and swirling on by at dizzing speeds... and you catch the sound of their laughter as they whirl on by.

February 07, 2010

it all comes down to dessert...

In just a few hours... there will be some guys running around on a football field making millions... and trying their darndest to make their most treasured dream a reality.


Someone will win... and someone will lose.
But does it really matter? Not to me.
Not as long as there is dessert!
But since the TV will be blaring, and the rest of them will be watching...
I may as well root for someone...
And New Orleans is one of my favorite places on earth!

February 05, 2010

two


There are only two people in the entire world who know... just what it was like to grow up in our home. Only two... who have our history... our particular version of childhood happiness, heartbreak and glorious joy. Only two. She says because she only had two hands... one for each of her girls.
Two.
Dawn and Tina.
Blue and green.
December and June.
Coca-cola and Sprite.
Barbie and Cindy.
Black and white.
Miss Piggy and Gonzo.
Quiet and loud.
Sentimental and not.
Good and...

Well. There is no one else I would choose to share a history with. We have always been our own... I would be surprised if anyone ever confused us. But we got along, and I knew... have always known... that to have a sister is to have a friend. At all times. Cracking nuts for breakfast on the morning after Thanksgiving. Rocking on the "green thing" in the backyard. Pumpkins in the fair. Camping out in the hallway in those copper-colored sleeping bags. Playing with Strawberry Shortcake and Apple Dumplin'. Sharing a room with twin pineapple beds. Riding bikes and laughing in a garden cart. Singing a few special songs. Consoling tears. Walking miles. It is always better... with your sister by your side. The one who knows you... and knows all of your whys.
Two.
Dawn and Tina.
Then... and now.
I love you, Tina...




Oh Jo... thank you for this Flashback Friday. You have stirred my heart... and I am thankful.



February 04, 2010

thursday

This morning I stayed in bed until 6:31... as if hiding under the covers would stop the day from its course. I wish it was Friday. But it isn't. And all day yesterday, I thought for sure it was Thursday. But it wasn't. And all of the wishing it the whole wide world isn't going to change that... but still, I closed my eyes and snuggled deeper into the warmth. Maybe I'm under the weather, or maybe just in a mood... my own personal pity party. Table for one, please.
But the sun rises into a blue sky, and the hot tea nudges me from where I sit... and the day begins. Today. Thursday. And that pity party? I guess I'm moving on... because there is nothing to keep me down but myself. And I feel a sense of shame... because there are people who deserve to sit there and aren't. They are just putting one foot in front of the other... not even pausing to take a glance at the menu.
The deer are not on the hill this morning... and I feel God's hand turning my face. Gently reminding me that is not where I need to focus my eyes. The music plays... and the words start working on my soul. His words... to a jammin' beat.

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it! Psalm 118:24

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February 03, 2010

my very own...


Just having this in my possession makes Africa seem that much more real...

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February 02, 2010

true colors


The sky was heavy with gray clouds... leaving our corner of the world covered in a soft layer of mist. Our boys were heading home from overnight camping-without-sleeping... and we were starting to come to life after a full yesterday. But we were warm. And cozy. Inside our safe haven. I feel like coloring she said... and off she went to print a coloring page. Hey... print one for me, too I called after her.
We sat amongst the crayolas... and shared laughter and silence and shades of green.
Fifteen minutes... or so... just us.
She.
And me.

I knew in a flash that this was my Tuesday moment. A scrap of time to treasure... because I cannot turn back the clock...






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