Monday, June 25, 2012

Bits: Stowaways

Blurry travel journal makin'

The first time I crashed one of Joe's business trips was awesome.  As a non-profit attorney such experiences are not the norm, but occasionally a training or unique opportunity turns up and we're all over it.  I was pregnant with Hope when we got a practically all expense paid trip to the Ritz Resort in Laguna Niguel, CA. Something we would pretty much never do on our own.   No better place to have weathered some intense morning sickness, to be sure.  After the work part, we extended the trip and explored from Santa Barbara to touristy Hollywood and all the while I tested many a barf bag.  Still... so much fun.

Another time an eleven month-old Hope and the tiniest dream of a Maddie made our way out to Arizona for another fancy-schmancy stay.  Again with the awful morning sickness, but I braved it so that after the business stuff we could stay in the Grand Canyon.  A majestic snowstorm was my reward, and just like that-- one off the bucket list. 

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More recently, with Alysse quite ready to make her entrance to the world, we busted up on a work trip to Atlanta.  Oh boy, that time was a mix of fun and seriously crazy but again it was practically free.  And we go to go to Ikea.

I love Memory Lane.

That brings me to this past week when we found ourselves at another happening hotel smack dab in the middle of downtown Washington, D.C.  It's amazing to me as the girls grow, even just by a year or two, how much more they are capable.  I was really proud of my little city slickers 'cause we trucked it all over those h-o-t streets  while Joe attended conference sessions.  I'm sure I looked quite un-citified with sometimes both the double stroller and the baby backpack, but it didn't stop us.  We read our maps, we toured this and that, we had us some adventures in an element so totally unlike our usual.  With very little crazy or cash out of pocket, our memory banks are pretty wonderfully full.

Bits of the latest stowing away.
 :: Day One-- Road trip!!! Traveling artists firing off loads of questions; Jubilant hotel arrival and bed jumping; Big city subs before bubble baths, a movie in bed, and lights out-- all of us in a row across two double beds and a baby crib.

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:: Day Two-- Sought after smoothies before the sweltering heat cut short the morning exploring; A big rest before our memorable trek to the White House; Fro Yo and more long, cool baths as our rewards for the sweaty endeavors. 
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 Thanks Boy Scout troupe, who watched our big 'ol stroller so we could go get our frozen treats. Hope you earned some sort of badges for that one.

 :: Day Three-- Oatmeal and apples over morning cartoons; Braving city traffic for a fun day at the National Zoo with Auntie Ellen and Cousin Julia; Incredible Italian dinner. Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket
:: Day Four-- Breakfast overlooking city streets; Huge trip highlight, of all things, feeding fountain ducks; Enormous animals and wonders at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum; Lots of miles on stroller wheels and legs made for a necessary ice-cream truck pit stop; Worn out babies those last blocks back as we passed the Washington Monument and other landmarks. 
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 :: Days Four and a Half and Five-- Family time!  Christmas, yes Christmas, finally at cousins' house; Trampolining and basement shenanigans; Sundae bar at 10:45 pm; Lots of funny fun and catching up.

Who knows what will happen the next time we stowaway?  A mix of family and adventure made this one rank right up there with the best of the best.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Bits: Charmed

A wonderful woman and encourager from Liberty came to our house this week and prayed over it and us.  She filled us up with good or, rather, the Lord worked through her to do so.

And, I'll be honest.

The Lord has been working a lot lately--  on me, on my heart, on priorities in the middle of all that. 

I have been torn up in the best kind of hard ways-- over the state of the world, over what my children need to really learn, over the love and redemption I want for all people.  It's easier to tuck away these feelings sometimes, to pretend that I'll get to such things later.  Then, suddenly, truth hits me in ways that cannot be neatly boxed up and ignored.

Books like Billy Graham's Storm Warning or KP Yohannan's No Longer a Slumdog make me dig through my Bible or even throw one of the books down and say, "I can't do it! I can't read about these things!"

But, that doesn't keep them from existing.

So for today, as I turn such ponderings over in my heart and in my mind and as Joe and I talk about little and big changes to be made-- I know this; I have a charmed life. Even with my meager hardships, which sometimes have felt pretty tough over the years, I have a charmed life.  Almost a guilty amount of charmed, to be perfectly blunt, should I not believe I am to use it for good.

Today I get to cut up fresh foods for my family to eat for three solid meals, we have a strong roof over our heads, there are clean clothes and sanitary ways to keep us healthy, no one is forcing us to do unspeakable acts just because of where we were born or who we were born to. This list could go on and on and on...

I also know this; This small collection of memories is nothing if it does not glorify the Lord.  It is meant as a window into family history for us, for the clouded memory time will no doubt deliver.  It is also a way of saying thank you to Father God, for each little beautiful memory He sees fit for our family to have.  Each week I sit down to reflect and write my bits and it is a precious time for me. To everything there is a season and a purpose under Heaven.  I know things do not always stay the same, and I have always felt that these quickly passing days will one day be a great source of joy to have recorded.  They are not perfect; they are real.

I love them for that, patience testing and all.

So with every picture I take, with every story I tell, with every memory I try to etch in our hearts I hope to remember the people who do not have such opportunities.  I hope to make a difference to the ones of those people I am intended to help.  I hope to practice true religion and teach my girls that such religion is NOT about just us and our family.  In it are not a long list of rules or tyrannical demands; in it lies a tremendous amount of freedom and purpose.  Lord willing, they will come to know and I will better come to practice:

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." ~James 1:27
Just a few of this past week's blessed bits.

:: Getting to hang out with friends.  One of my days spent among five girlfriends, five and under.  Another morning spent taking cookies we baked for a walk with six girlfriends, seven and under, to the park. Photobucket 
::Showing off dance skills.
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:: Slowing down our busting the moves to hug on stuffed animals.Photobucket
:: One moment we're dastardly pirates.  The next we're juggling baker chefs.  Talented.
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The girls' favorite bedtime story these days is the idea of three grown up sisters, Princess Maddie and Astronaut Hope and Baker Chef Alysse-- all smart, beautiful, and kind and all ready for adventures of every sort.

 :: This girl, this hammy girl.  Ever the fashionista, ever the hilarious. Photobucket
She makes up Proverbs like this one: "The girls are to brush their hair and jump up and down." ~Proverbs 16:16.  She stumps her older sis who, in an effort to get the bigger wooden heart to paint at craft time, tries to remind Maddie of middle sis's love for small things.  Maddie quickly retorts, "That's not always true.  I love God and He is really, really BIG!"  And she writes stories.  Oh, I so remember making those swiggly lines as first attempts at cursive.  I find her tummy down on her bed scribbling away and she says, "Quiet please. I'm writing a story."  After the pages are successfully filled she holds it up and announces, "This is a very important story! It's 'The Girl Who Loved Her Mommy'." Photobucket 
Love you too, Maddie Girl. 

:: Though I lament age from time to time, I do think it's so fun as my girls ages start to even out a bit. This becomes especially apparent when I'm prepping things to do. It's rarely things for just the big girls now. The things come in threes.
 ::This scene should always make me hit my knees, that I have never had to see my babies go hungry. That we can light bunny candles and eat under a gentle breeze, at the direction of those same children.

Thank You, God.  Thank You, thank You, thank You. 

:: Ah well, I guess I'll lament a minute more.  How did we go from one of these to the other? Anyone?? 

::Daddy got a special day and, boy, does this Daddy deserve a special day.  We let him sleep in but then bumrushed him with, "WAKE UP... It's Faaaaaather's Day!  WAKE UP!"  Surely little girl picked and wrapped gifts, painted cards, and homemade breakfast is worth such an alarm clock?  We aimed for relaxing this Daddy's Day, for this Dada who works so hard.

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One of Hope's gifts-- "The Adventures of Astronaut Joe."

Grateful to have charmed days, longing to do more, believing in a God who knows my heart and will show us the way.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Bits: Refreshing

The day before I got in the car with an iced coffee, a new CD, and five hours of road in front of me I had a last rendezvous with my typical girlfriends.  The same ones who tearfully bade me farewell with hugs and hearts.
A thoughtful friend rocked it out when keeping them on Friday and Super Dad seriously rocked it out all weekend.  They were bubbling over with stories when I got home! So very grateful.

We've been doing this Girls' Weekend thing for a while now, and I cannot tell you how thankful I also am that these women came to the little Bible Study we used to have in the "Blue Lobby" of my undergraduate dorm. It's so good to be with friends who knew you when you were young{er}, who have walked through everything from crisis of faith to crisis of boys, from births to weddings to first jobs to sickness and even death, plus more.  We've learned to let go of the petty and make friendships work through thick and thin. Used to be that after we arrived at our mountain retreat, we might dress up and go out.  Now we know that the most important thing is quality time.  So we stay in our pj's, sip coffee, talk, eat good food, watch girly movies, craft, laugh our hineys off, cry some, share devotions, eat more good food, hot tub, shower for as long as I'd like, and change into another pair of jammies after all.  The best.

We have a theme verse for this little gathering, and every time I say or read it I smile because it's true.
"A sweet friendship refreshes the soul." ~Proverbs 27:9

My forever friend Marcie and I were in charge of planning for this year.  And so my refreshing, hilarious, sweet weekend.  In just a few pics:
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Gah, I love them!  So much so I will refrain from posting the outtakes, but I really should.  Just so you could laugh a fraction of how hard we did during these jumping photos.  For the record, my spontaneous herkie above captured brilliantly by my friend (since middle school!) Brooke, inspired this series of goodness.

Another warm coffee, my new CD favorites on repeat, a stop in Knoxville to see a new baby of another sweet friend, and five more hours in the opposite direction led me back home.  Hard to believe it was the first time in nearly five years I actually traveled alone, the first time I hadn't brought along my own little girlfriend-- in my belly or on my hip.  Sometimes both.

Hoping these bits of refreshed continue to rub off on me and those wee girlfriends of mine as I bottle up these memories along with some welcome home hugs.

And count down the days 'till next year.