December 31, 2013

honey badgers and his seventeenth...

On this very last day of 2013, I am still in my pajamas mid-morning.  I have two cakes in the oven for tonight, and a to-do list spinning in my head...but I can't seem to motivated beyond the cake.  I made a cake yesterday, too...

Yesterday my baby boy {I know I shouldn't call him that}turned seventeen.  If I think too long about it I might cry.  {Did I say that last year about him turning 16?  Yes.}  We spent the day together and laughing, which is just what a birthday should be.  And then there was... cake.


Our visit to the zoo was fantastic... I love watching my Mom interact with the people and get so excited about "her" giraffes.  It is also such fun to hear Laura's chatter about this zoo and her school zoo!  Cam was most excited to be at the honey badger keeper talk.  They are his current favorite animal and it was really fun to see the three run around and interact.


And just before we left... the lioness started roaring {loudly and with her whole body!}, surely wishing Camden a very happy birthday!

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p.s...and next year?  when he turns 18?  i really am going to cry. 

December 30, 2013

the days of december...

I have passed and failed December... caught the moments and and enjoyed savoring them, but have failed to share them, or document them with words.  As I look back through the beautiful days of this month, the memories come back, fresh to my soul.  December may come humble, but oh she sparkles with glory as the days are filled with light!



I hope to go back and tell some stories... relive some of the beautiful.
There is so much stored in this heart.

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December 19, 2013

what remains...

I was almost out the door when I felt one of those nudges... so I turned back, gathered up a small gift, and headed back out.  It seemed funny to be going to the doctor for a physical, when I had been there every week for almost three months for bronchitis.  I was glad she knew I was coming for a well visit though, and when I was standing on the scale, she walked by, tapped my arm and smiled.  I am so thankful for this doctor who takes time, who listens, and even laughs along with me {because oh laughter is so much better than tears!}

Before we got too far into the appointment, I passed her the little drawstring bag and shyly wished her a Merry Christmas.  Surprised and smiling, she asked if she could open it...

Carefully, she untied the bow, and tumbled out the first few pieces.  Her mouth made an "O" and she began lining them up, one by one.  As she drew out each remaining piece she squealed with delight and her eyes filled with tears.  My kids will love this, it will be part of our family tradition!  She confessed to having several other sets, each one so loved... and I know, because I have, perhaps, too many of my own to count.


When each piece of this little nativity was lined across the counter, she shared that she really wanted her kids to know that this is what Christmas is all about.  I'm glad this truth is growing, because when the magic of Santa has faded, Jesus is still shining bright, and Christmas is still a celebration of love and life.

I love Santa.  I love, and believe in, the spirit of Santa... the giving and the surprises and the traditions.  This year we will once again set out cookies and milk... because I want my too-grown-kids to hold on to the believing.  And who couldn't use a bit of magic in this season?  But this story... this baby who came to save the world, He is the focus of our days, our waiting...

She picked up that little baby Jesus again for one more look before tucking her small treasures away, and it made me smile.  I was thankful for not second-guessing that God-nudge.  Thankful, for passing along a piece of my heart... the part that shines and loves like Jesus.



**and while I am really posting this for the story and what it meant to me, there are a few sets left...**


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December 17, 2013

surely the presence...

Last Thursday we crossed the finish line of a marathon week.  Extra band practices. A parade. Work. Weary. Laura on her way home by bus. And a band concert.  I was thankful that my parents agreed to get Laura, especially when we found out the bus was late.  When I finally put my feet up after the concert, I took a breath, thankful for the weekend, and only four more work days until Christmas vacation.  And then I noticed a beautiful box under the undecorated Christmas tree. Cam reported that it had just been outside when he got home... and that it was twelve days of Christmas, for us.

The past few years I have been quietly delivering advent gifts to friends.  The very first year I was so touched by the reaction of my friend... she said it carried her through the season.  The next year I tied up little packages for Ann, because... well, I think I knew.  And last year, I tried to surprise Suz, but she knew the gifts were from me almost before they were dropped off.  Though I've been stashing little gifts all year for this December, God laid something different on my heart.  As a family, we chose two other families to surprise... one who especially needs the love and care this year.  It has been a joy to do this together, so much fun to see the excitement on my own kids faces as they leap back in the car so we can make a quick get-a-way!

Once I opened the beautiful box under the tree, I had to correct Cam.  It was for me.  And isn't it just like my sweet friend to out-do me at my own game!!!  Everything is tied up in beautiful ribbon, and her cards make me laugh out loud... just as if we were sitting across the table from each other.  Today I even spotted a bonus in the bottom of the box... and that she labeled it such?  More laughter...


I know Christmas is not really about the presents... but when they are given in love, sweetly and unselfishly, the presence of God draws near.  It wraps around our hearts, stirs our spirit, and prompts us to keep on giving.

Today when we dropped off one of our secret gifts, to this family that is aching like I cannot fathom, there was a gift waiting for us.  The card simply said you have touched our hearts.  I am thanking God for the gentle nudge to follow through... to share just a little bit of Him in this season of Love.
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December 16, 2013

it is all coming together...

We finally put ornaments on the tree yesterday.  After church, and between a late birthday lunch, a nap and a trip to Outdoor World.  When Eric went out to get the boxes, and asked what else?  I said that's it.  I hoped that the stockings were in the top of one of the ornament boxes, and was relieved when they were. Just for fun, he dug down into the next box, to see if there was something easy to bring out... and he pulled out our tree top angel.  I thanked  God for the easy find, and was reminded that He takes care of even the smallest details.


I accomplished much this weekend.  Some organizing of gifts, wrapping, and creating the short list of things left to do.  Laundry, picking up around the house... and we even had time for family fun.  I feel like the to-do's of Christmas are all coming together, and I'm thankful to not be racing or stressing.  Because I just want the beautiful...



I've been preparing my heart for this season for months instead of weeks... and it feels right.  The video devotions we watched with our youth group introduced me to Joseph and Mary in a different light, and when I hear a song about them, { here, and here } my heart aches and opens in a whole new, wonderful way. Sitting by candlelight and reading The Greatest Gift, I find myself gasping and nodding... pieces coming together to create this beautiful portrait of all this season and this life is about.  And even in the sanctuary, running through the Sunday School dress rehearsal again,  where everything is loud and kids are rolling on the floor and rounding up their neighboring shepherd with a crook, the smile sneaks in...

It is the story I love, and long to hear, again and again.  Messy. Marvelous.  And so full of Wonder.  Still.
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December 12, 2013

by the light

December comes humbly, last in the line of twelve.  Her days are short of daylight and heavy on weary.  It has been a long year.  And yet... we have waited on her, anticipated her, and we are counting on her joy to carry us through.


We string the twinkle lights, decorating each corner, stretching them as far and high as we can reach.  Their glow seems to possess a magical power, bringing warmth and love to the cold and the dark.  As I stumble into the living room in the wee hours of the morning, my first stop is to light the tree, and weary turns towards joy.

My tree may still be bare of ornaments, but the lights are enough for now, and even just-right for a few minutes of morning reading.  Also enough?  A few nativities here and there, that I moved from one place to another.  The only other decorating I've done is to rearrange the piano top, setting out my nativity hurricanes.  Only... I can't seem to recall where I stowed the nativity rings last year.  But coming home to flickering candles (electric, on a timer) has brought a smile to my face, even without the shepherds praising and the wise men approaching.  Maybe this weekend there will be more...

Oh, December, you may be last, but maybe it is a true case of saving the best for last.  My house may not be decked out and ready, but my heart is open and already full of Christmas joy.  Christmas joy and light.

How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.
-William Shakespeare
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December 02, 2013

capturing december

It seems elusive... rushing along while you are trying to savor every moment.  Even as you are counting down the days, you sneak in a wish for one more hour, one more week.  But when the to-do's are finally done, and you think you might be ready to rest, the days are short and this month of hope has all but passed.   I have lost October, and most all of November... but I am hoping to capture December.  I want to celebrate the small, drink in the joy, and worship the King.



For once in my life, I planned ahead. Friday night, before our trek north, I laid out my plan.  To come home to it yesterday was a breath of relief, a promise not to just let this pass.  I've actually been planning since September... celebrating Advent with our youth group through October and November.  Because sometimes even church just becomes to busy to take time to wander through the wonder of Advent. And now, I feel ready... open to receive Him.  Truth be told, the story has already drawn me in, captured my heart, perhaps in a whole new way.
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If you want to peek in on something so special... click over to the Skit Guys and their First Christmas series. I'm not a video kind of girl, but this series of six short monologues drew me close and brought me to tears. Joseph standing in awe of Mary.  Elizabeth filled with wonder and joy.  Mary, just a girl from Nazareth.  An unlikely hero in the Innkeeper.  The chosen Shepherd, and the Wise Men, listening... seeking the signs, a star.  You can click over and watch each story {only Mary's is longer than 3 minutes!}... and I promise, you will be blessed.
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December 01, 2013

the first of december

We had walked in once before... before she was settled, before she had made it her home away from home. We were timid and searching, but the arches that reached to the heavens took us in, reminded us of our first family church home.   On this morning, the first of December, the arches were graced with evergreen, banners and candles sang out of this waiting season, and the altar was covered in hope. Advent.  It filled me in a way I have not felt in months.  Filled me to overflowing.


Maybe it was the way the liturgies wrapped around my soul, a long lost memory that reached the surface and felt like home.  It could have been recognizing her voice among the others in the choir... that sweet high voice that I know by heart.  If I close my eyes I can still hear her small vibrato in the notes... and it almost does me in.  It is still a balancing act, having her there and here, and knowing she belongs in both places.

There are many that have helped her carve out her place... offering rides and lunches, knitting lessons and friendships... all the while just loving like Jesus.  It is no small thing to wrap someone's child into your heart, as if she were you own... and it was so special to reach out and thank them today.  It made the trip worth every mile.  
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November 30, 2013

november thanks...

These past Novembers haven't received many words from me... just six posts each!  I didn't want to let this November pass without at least one though... and in the middle of the dark night, the words began to come. I hope I can remember some of them...
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My first thankful Thanksgiving thought this year, as I was gathering up my morning doses,  was I'm thankful for medicines and doctors.  Yes, I am still sick... on the mend, but still not well {but let's save the details for another day!}  And my second, as she stumbled out to the living room bundled in a blanket, was that all of a sudden we were back to four.  It is good to be whole again, if just for a few days!  Even though our four weren't around one table for a meal on this day of thanks, the day was beautiful and special and full.

Eric headed out the door for work before first light, and three gathered on the couch for the Macy's parade. There were congo squares in the oven, high flying balloons and the Rockettes on the television...my favorite way to celebrate Thanksgiving morning!  I missed more of the parade than usual, but enjoyed a little more time in the kitchen with Eric as he stopped by to prepare some side dishes for the shift lunch at the substation.  Sweet potatoes and stuffing... and a special cup of gluten-free gravy just-for-him!  {Someone else made the turkey!} As we headed out to my Mom's for dinner, I took one last glimpse at the kitchen, piled high with mess, I hoped it would be a slow day for the police and that I might come home to clean...

The Ice Cream Man carved the turkey, but the day was less about the food and more about being together... and it was perfect.  The afternoon and evening were full of laughter and the people I love {and knowing Eric was having two dinners made him not being there okay!}  Games were played around the table, children squealed as they ran though and around the house, mothers and daughters spent time, and we celebrated a little birthday.  Seven.  Sweet seven!  Ice cream sundaes instead of pie.  Congo squares instead of brownies. And since we passed on veggies with the meal, it seemed we had plenty of room for dessert...


Though there was not conscious list, my heart was full of thanks... the kind of full that simply cannot decipher one moment from the next, the kind of full that just is.  For the day, the people, the love. And after two months of feeling crummy, it was just what this soul needed.

I hope your day was a lovely celebration of  love and thanks!
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October 15, 2013

where the breathing is easy...

It has been a mess of days and I wonder if I can even think about reclaiming this ordinary train of thought. Weeks of words coming and going, getting lost in my aching head, with not a lick of motivation to trek back and find them.  This morning, my words are bubbling through the fog of it all, but I am unsure if they will tell a story at the end, or just be a splattered mess.

Even this... is ordinary.
This sick that lingers.  My breath gripped with bronchitis.  And a list of medical to-do's that rivals the grocery list I can't seem to put together anyway.  I can't escape this season of sick, year after year, and just do my best to catch it early.   Even then, it is a tough, long road back to easy breathing... and not just in the healing. So much gets pushed to the side, and that stack of what waits, weighs down my heart.  And my guys... oh they put up with a lot!  Too much whining, too much serving, not enough me.  I am anxious to turn that corner to well, where the breathing is easy... and I'm hopeful that in itself might be a good sign.

But even in this... life moves forward and I can see the cycle of a beautiful life play out before me.  Morning goodbyes while the light filters in the window,  steamy coffee,  and a cozy spot to rest.  When the clock teeters past noon, I know it won't be long before Cam walks in the door... and even though he ends up buried in homework across the house, just knowing he's there begins the full of evening.  The bustle of dinner in the kitchen nudges me from my weariness and the golden light streaming in makes me smile.  A full house. It is what I like best.  And while I'm battling my way back to well, it is those little bits of ordinary are light to the dark days...

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October 06, 2013

sunday photos...

It was the kind of week that is not easy. 
It is hard to celebrate sick and lost and blah… but my heart kept seeking, because if I let it stop, I could sink.  And there is really such comfort in ordinary…


the mess of pens I keep in this beautiful bag... along with my bible and a fun notebook
 
 a pattern of light that dances behind me... sometimes the reflection of that light is as beautiful as the light itself. 
 
this little flip in my hair that comes from standing out in the humidity too long... sometimes I think I want to style it that way...
 
the motion of the open road, miles after mile racing by...
 
 and a beautiful afternoon walk at the park down the end of safari road. 
 
Yes, the ordinary does bring comfort and a smile... even in the blah moments.  
*linking up to Ashley's Scavenger Hunt Sundays... I've been missing it!*

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October 05, 2013

open road...

Three hundred miles of ordinary road stretch between us... 

 Most days it seems just right.  But there are other days... when a five hour drive just isn’t practical and you wish for arms like Mrs. Incredible.  Arms that could reach across the miles,  and wrap her up, hold her close.  Those are the days that break my heart, but somewhere within, I know they are also the days she needs.  I want her to fix it herself, but I’d like to be holding her hand, for courage, while she tackles it.  I know she can do it, but oh I’d love for her to look into my eyes and see that I believe she really can.   This growing up is messy… and when she grows, so do I. 

 We did manage to cover the distance this past weekend… and even though she thought she didn’t want us to come, she was really happy to see us.  Some day I’m going to have to really grow up, but in the meantime, I think six weeks is just about as long as I’m willing to go between hugs…
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October 03, 2013

just an hour...

For years, late afternoon has been our time.
Me, home from work, and them, from school... a time for catching up on the day, sharing tea, sitting close, just spending time.  But life is different now with Laura away at school, and Camden sifting the through workload that his junior year has brought.  His homework spills over to the weekend and it all boggles my mind.  Too often I shout across the house I miss you, because truth cannot be held.

Missing Laura is different.
Five hours away is a mix of reaching out and holding back, seeking the best balance and not always succeeding. It is a work in progress, a long distance love, uneasy wonder and ache.


I am seeking a new ordinary, not quite sure where to start.
More than two months into a new school year and I am still marking time, still exploring my options and seeking courage to let go of that one golden hour. The possibilities are endless though...  and maybe, just maybe, a new ordinary could be something to celebrate.


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October 02, 2013

unexpected...

The text buzzed through while I was stacking groceries in the back of the car.  When I saw her name I expected an update on our super-secret-grandma-shower-plan, but instead...


It was just lunch and laughter between two people who have known each other for years, but have never had the chance to dig deeper than the pleasantries.  But sometimes deep can happen over chips and guacamole, and as layers are uncovered by conversation,  you realize there are experiences that tie you together at the heart.  One person's story flows into the revealing of another, and soon your whole messy life is laid out between the place settings.   Friendship might begin with a smile, but it grows in the mess...

It seems more often that not, blessings rain down in the sharing... the opening and offering of our hearts. Sometimes we pull ourselves so together that we forget... the cracks in our soul let the Light shine in.  But they also let the Light shine out... and in that, we just might be the blessing in someone's ordinary day.  

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September 30, 2013

tears for two...

Some days they can collide.  Sorrow and joy. 
I was thankful I had tucked this into my pocket... because my heart was churning and I could feel the tears coming...


Those tears of sorrow caught me during church, where I am stripped raw of me and all that remains is the thinnest skin... so open to God and what He has to teach.  Cam leaned over and smiled about one of his favorite songs... Shine, Jesus Shine.  And that was what did me in.  One year away from this earth, and I am so missing her.  I see her face in photos and smile, and oh I know she is home... but some days I wish for her perspective and grace and light... and the way that she could shine Jesus into this messy life.  My voice was caught up in silent sobs, but I followed along, letting Jesus shine through my smile as I caught those tears in the hankie I carried then...

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With a flurry of planning and whispers of excitement, we caught her totally off guard.  Only home from her Macie Kate travels two days, we surprised her with a Grandma shower.  I don't even recall if we yelled surprise when she opened the door and her mouth fell into an "O."  I was so filled with joy at her arrival.  The tears slid down my face as she made her way around the room, hugging the women who had helped hold her up, prayed with her and for her... and for her family.  Oh there was joy in that room!  For hours we laughed and listened to stories... and enjoyed our grown-up tea party.  And later, when she called me to say thank you, a tear or two more slipped on by that embroidered hankie as we relived the day...


 His favor is for a lifetime;
Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.
-Psalm 30:5
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September 27, 2013

friday letters...the mcmiracle edition

Dear Friends,
Do you remember this story?  I promised you it would be worth being a part of... and as I prayed, from miles away, I saw God's goodness and grace unfold in one of the most beautiful love stories.  For any and all prayers you offered along side of me, thank you... from the bottom of my heart.

Father God,
Thank you for orchestrating such an amazing story for this family, and for blessing them with such a precious gift.  Along this journey's path, my faith stretched and grew, my soul ooohed and ahhhed, and again, I am totally in awe of you.



Dear "Kim"s Arizona Crew,"
What a community this was and continues to be!  I am so thankful for technology and the "groupme" app and the opportunity to ride along in Kim's pocket.  Your prayers for this family encouraged me along in my own, and as we waited together in the virtual waiting room, in prayer and on our knees,  we were second in line to watch this miracle (mcmiracle!) be celebrated.  It was an honor to be there with you, and I look forward to meeting more of you in real-life!

Dear KK & John,
I continue to be in awe of your faith and your courage.  From here it seemed you never wavered in that faith that this sweet baby girl would be yours... and I hoped it for you with every bit of my own heart.  I love the little pieces of this story that some might see as coincidences, but we saw as gifts and reassurances, God writing another chapter.  The respect and grace you showed to your birthmom and her daughter reflect your manta... to Love like Jesus. And I am so, so glad that this sweet girl is yours... forever.


And KK, this part is for you...
The time will come, when you are sitting with a group of women, and they will share their labor stories. Sweet friend, you have one, too.  It is as unique and beautiful as you are.  Your labor was of the heart... seventy-two hours of wrenching heart-labor, as you prayed, waited, hoped and wondered... will she be mine?  I hope you tell of the prayers coming from the waiting room, and the 35-plus women praying in your Mom's pocket.  I hope you tell of how love was instant, and the look on your husband's face when he first saw her.  I hope you share that first text She's here, she's perfect! , and that your whole world cheered with laughter and tears when the papers were finally signed and she was truly yours.


Dear Macie Kate,
Oh sweet, beautiful baby... you are so loved.  You are the gift we've been praying for all along.  And you were born into one of the best families on God's green earth.  Yes, it is the truth, and I am so thankful to know them.   I cannot wait to meet you!

And if you want to read Macie Kate's birth story, written by her Mommy {make sure you have tissues!} complete with pictures, click over to Inloveness Photography!

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