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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Everybody has to have a "BT"

My mom grew up an orphan. Her mom did of a few different cancers (claiming breast took her life), and her father ailed for quite some time before he past, though she and her three brothers went to live in the orphanage in Clinton, SC before he actually died. When she got older, she decided to venture to college, and that's what took her to Rock Hill at Winthrop and ultimately where she met my dad on the basketball courts. Though she only spent over a year in school, she became incredibly close with one friend, Belinda Thomas, who was affectionately known as "BT" to those around her. Later, she became "Aunt BT" to us. No matter how far away they lived, or how many months (or even years!) were between them, they remained life long friends until mom's last days on earth. Mom always said "everyone needs a "BT" in their life, a friend who will tell you like it is no matter what, someone who will tell you like it is, someone who will always support you, and someone who will remain close to you no matter how far you are apart."  
I am so very grateful that mom prayed so hard for sweet friends to enter my life and even more thankful that this girl is my own "BT"
We are freshman and sophomore roommates in college and then we split to do some different things....but we have grown SO MUCH over the last 15 years. 
The highlight of our winter is having them visit us from MS for New Years every Year and we are on our second summer of road tripping to be with them in their home. Last year I went alone with the girls but this year J was able to get a day off work and go with us and we HAD A BLAST (truly and understatement!!!)

Foodie Friday was so awesome in Tupelo. We also revisited Elvis' birth place.



 The last time we were here was November 2009, in memory and celebration of mom. She was such an Elvis fan. I was also living in a bit of depression at the time as we were struggling to conceive and having fertility issues. Before we left on our road trip I had just been given some heart breaking news so that trip back then did me good-and I remember we took a picture with this exact same pose on this exact same swing. Here we are, 6 years later with two kids in tow....
Then on we went to grab lunch at Cafe 212 in downtown with great sandwiches -yummy chicken salad of course-and headed just a block down the street to a great splash pad (these things are everywhere in MS!!). The kids loved playing in the water!
 While they dried off, we walked across the street to Rosie's, which had some AWESOME cupcakes and cookies. I had run a strong and fast hard run that morning so I could tell I needed a bit of sugar to pick me up and this was just perfect! And so cheap!!!!
That night, one of Kimberly's friends offered to keep the kids so we could go on an adult double date. So more foooooooood!!!

Kermis Outlaw Kitchen (K.O.K), a farm to table AWESOME restaurant served us four delicious fresh meals that would amazing!!! J and I even got some local brews! Mine was a MS draft from some of their friends and J got a Nashville brew. So delicious, all of it!!
We walked around downtown a bit more before grabbing dessert at the biggest newest hit, CRAVE. it's a dessert bar only open Friday-Sunday and has a special menu each weekend but carries a set of their favorites, one which is the skillet chocolate chip cookie, which is what we opted for!! The sweetest ending to our calorie filled night!!!

Saturday was a great day for canoeing on the TennTom, buying local pottery, playing at the park, and eating pizza at our favorite pizza joint out of town. We love making memories with our best friends!!!



Possibly one of the best weeks of the year so far!!! We already can't wait until next summer's road trip, but until then we are counting down the days until the next time we get to see our sweet friends, which will hopefully be sooner than later. GREAT things are ahead for both of our families, and totally worth celebrating!:)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

4 weeks in...


Summer is flying by, as it always does, and we are loving every minute. We've got such a variety of summer plans there's no reason for us to be bored or really too busy-just perfect. 
And thankfully, the girls love the excitement of being outside and doing simple things that we normally can't do during the school year. So between our four weeks of being IN school this summer, a few weeks at the beach, and our mountain trips, we have a great summer bucket list- the ABCs of summer!!
We're already making headway on our list and having loads of fun making great memories. 

New friendships growing in the neighborhood
Firefly catching one night
Just Dance party prior to family wedding selfie

We go outside to explore almost everyday....this particular day we met Tommy the Turtle
Donut dates with the Ghent girls 
Our first Porch Popsicle event of the summer, though this happens several times a week!!!
Quiet times together with our favorite new ESV Bible

Spending as MUCH TIME at the lake as possible. While not on the "bucket list" officially, it's a given. And by the way, don't let the floaters fool you. m is a master swimmer these days. It's just jumping off a 5 ft pier into 12 ft of murky lake water over and over and over isn't so calming for this momma. 

Our next big to do on the list: MISSISSIPPI OR BUST!!!



Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Mountain

I went up to the mountain
Because you asked me to
Up over the clouds
To where the sky was blue
I could see all around me
Everywhere
I could see all around me
Everywhere
      -Patty Griffin
I'm at the end of week three of training for my fall "whatever I'm going to do" event. While I haven't officially committed to whatever it is, I've got my sights set on a sprint triathlon at the end of August, a spartan race in mid-September, or a 1/2 marathon in mid-October. Since I haven't really trained for anything on what seems like a decade, I'm trying to figure out my limits, but I've set some sort of goal and I've really enjoyed getting back in to my old passion. 
Since J is full-on committed to the Spartan race, we decided to trek to Crowders mountain and run up the Pinnacle Trail on #nationalgetoutdoorsday yesterday. It's a 4+ mile strenuous hike round trip and of course, elevation involved since its up the mountain. And fabulously so, we conquered it (minus that one time running down the mountain it almost conquered me because a tree root jumped up to stub my toe and it took about 10 steps to regain my footing and I'm pretty sure I thought I was going nowhere but down....). Nonetheless, I'll keep training, running, swimming, cross training, etc and see what happens. 

But once we got to the top, we took a few minutes to pause and take a gaze out around us at the NC/SC ridge line and the Queen City view. 
At the moment of seeing what was before, a flood of memories rushed over me from my last mountain summit, just over a month ago when I hiked up the mountain in Teguc the day we were heading back home. I was an emotional wreck that day, for deep inside me I longed to stay with my new found friends, though I knew my return home was inevitable. 
I remember standing at the peak looking down at the valley of the city and feeling "the tug." God placed a desire in my heart that I just haven't been able to shake. There hasn't been a day since my return that I haven't thought about the people, prayed for each of them and dealt longed to be with them. If I'm being honest, a moment of each day, I just want to be there. 
There, on the peak that morning, God revealed a great promise to me-I WILL return to that very same spot to be with those sweet people as soon as the Lord allows. With this promise I have prayed daily for God's will to be done and for the patience to wait on His timing for my return. How and when, exactly, that will be accomished, I'm still unsure. But I am hopeful and trusting in the Lord in all of these things. 
Until then, I'll continue to teach my children the importance of caring for the widows and the orphans (James 1) here in my own home so that when we are in a different place, they will be stirred up to continue doing just that. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Oh the places you will go (MRG)

You're on your way!
Tomorrow is your great big day,
We'll celebrate and have lots of fun
We all can't wait for preschool to be done! :)

It's 3:00 pm on Wednesday, the day before the preschool graduation day and I'm EXHAUSTED to say the least. I've run on all cylinders since Sunday morning, dragging the girls along with me for everything I've had to do. Meanwhile, we've somehow managed to bake 15 dozen cupcakes, have a friend for Taco Tuesday, shop for all of our teacher friends, celebrate the ending of a great year with the coworkers, blah blah blah blah blah. It really all just starts to run together. All of the busy just starts to sound boring. Ha. 

Today, thankfully, there's a brief part of the afternoon that I knew we could come home for a break and so both girls were sent to their rooms for a nap. Lydia has no problem wanting to rest but I have to coax Miriam only when I know she needs it most. So today I just sat with her.  She looked at me for a long time. I could tell she was getting tired so I turned my back and within moments she was fast asleep. 

Tomorrow my oldest daughter will graduate from preschool. The daughter I thought I'd never have. The daughter we thought we lost. The daughter we prayed for and tried to conceive for so long. The daughter we had to take medicine for. The daughter who decided to come on her own timing. The daughter who spent the fist three weeks of her life in daily medical care. Her first moments of life were so wobbly I'm not sure I considered thinking about what time would look like on the day she would be done with preschool. And now, here we are. So many great things are ahead of her, with her wit, spunk, and room to grow on learning in obedience :) God is so gracious in teaching each of us about forgiveness, love, humility, gentleness, and peace through this special child!!! We love her so. 

To my dearest Miriam my prayer for you is this:

O Lord, you have searched Miriam and known her!  You know when she sits down and when she rises up; you discern her thoughts from afar. You search out her path and her lying down and are acquainted with all her ways. Even before a word is on her tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem her in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon her.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for her; it is high; She cannot attain it. Where shall she go from your Spirit? Or where shall she flee from your presence? If she ascends to heaven, you are there! If she makes her bed in Sheol, you are there! If she takes the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead her and your right hand shall hold her. If she says, "Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. For you formed her inward parts; you knitted her together in her mother’s womb. I praise you, for she is fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Her frame was not hidden from you, when she was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw her unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for her, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and she is still with you.

Search Miriam, O God, and know her heart! Try her and know her thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in her, and lead her in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:1-18, 23-24 ESV)

Broken sea shells by the seashore

Our first full day of vacation and it has certainly been perfect in every way. The weather, the company, the snacks, the activities, everything. All of what I imagine and built up in my head and anticipated for this week all year has already culminated into awesomeness. 

My run this morning, although accompanied with some intense and excruciating IT band/knee pain, was gorgeous. My prayers were in harmonious solitude with the crashing waves. Our breakfast was large and filling. We played with cousins in the sand. We ate some sand with our sandwich. We already discovered the places where we missed sunscreen on everyone's body. We've had the perfect ratio of beach time:pool time. And most fantastically, there are no diapers nor swim diapers this year. HOLLA!!!

The girls have rekindled quite quickly their love for the ocean and the sand, and are a joy to watch playing together as best friends. I treasure these seasons because I know soon, they will be old enough to want to bring friends and that will bring a whole knew dynamic to our time together. Even better, they are now old enough with which to play frisbee and catch. And today we did the fantastic family seashell walk thing. Some of our treasures:
We versed only about a quarter mile strip south of our spot but it took nearly 45 minutes because we had some INTENSE searching for the perfect shells. I realized quickly that MY idea of perfect was far beyond what the girls saw as perfect. And it typically involves me saying "nah, that one is broken," or "ewe, that one isn't that pretty," or "we already have one sort of like that one."  Before they could get frustrated with me (I think) for rejecting all of their precious shells, Something changed my mind. M had just found this shell 

and the words "this used to be gorgeous, but now it's not worth anything. We don't need it" actually came out of my mouth and without stopping she tossed it. I then stopped dead in my tracks, turned around and picked it up. And thought about my own, broken torn up, jagged edged self that once wasn't worth anything. 

How grateful am I that I have a loving Father who isn't like the sea shell pickera we were today. He doesn't pick and choose us because of our current beauty.  He doesn't rescue us from being washed away because we are completely whole and put together. He doesn't save us and mold us because our edges and corners are so neatly rounded and shaped. Clearly. 

Instead, we are ugly, broken, messed up, missing the goodness in our life, have sharp edges that need filing down, habits that need to be broken, sins that need to be confessed, and DAILY repentance from a disobedience to the law of LOVE that we are called to. We are continually being molded and fashioned into a beautiful piece of artwork, a masterpiece for the Creator himself, who delights in the joy of seeing His very creation desire after him. 

May our hearts and bodies seek to serve Him, in our busy AND in our rest. 

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6 ESV)



Monday, May 11, 2015

Why I didn't cry for my mom on Mother's Day

It's quite odd actually. Perhaps it's still the adrenaline and emotion and reflection coming off of the Honduras trip and still living in a Zombie-like life, but Mother's Day this year just seemed a bit off, in the sense that I didn't set aside moments of sobbing for my own mother. About midday I wondered "what's wrong with me? Won't I cry for her? Don't I miss her?" 

But instead I was overwhelmed with emotions and thoughts that wouldn't escape me of dear friends who weep for their own mothers and mothers themselves who were struggling to celebrate the day, and those women who simply longed to be celebrated as a mother. My mind wondered all day in thoughts around my dear friend from college who lost her mom to brain cancer in August and then upon disbelief, her father passed just days before Christmas months later. Yesterday, she tried not to weep, as it was the first Mother's Day she would endure without her precious mother by her side. I was also reminded of another girlfriend whose mother passed away 4 years to the day from ALS. She was one of the most influencing and loving women, especially when it came to babies. And it just so happens that her two daughters had to remember that the day she passed fell on Mother's Day this year. And my sweet friend from church who is so in tap with the big picture of New Life in Christ, but still aches when she remembers the beautiful life her mother lived until the very day she passed just this February. This day of celebration without her presence was probably so different in a few ways, as I remember the first Mother's Day without mom and how I almost tried to ignore it (and how that really didn't work...). I've got about 5 other girlfriends who also tragically lost their mothers to cancers or heart health problems over the last 5 years since my own mother died. It's a reality for so many young women. 

And then I also thought of those friends I met last week. C├íterine in the jail, who will soon be a mother herself but won't be able to celebrate Mother's Day in the most common way because she is in jail, and she, too, is missing her mother her passed away from cancer. I thought of all of those 120 new mothers that I saw all of their smiles and scared faces ("what do I do wth THIS thing?!?") and celebrate with them now for their first Mother's Day with their new babies. And I think of the five or 6 women that we met that are still grieving the loss of their babies even today. Their is no celebration for them, they didn't have cake or balloons or flowers brought to them. They still have tears flowing from their eyes. And I think of another dear friend we met who is still remembering the death of his mother as if it were yesterday because he was right present when his mother was hit by an oncoming bus in the middle of the street. So. Much. Pain. 

Now I did think about mom yesterday. That sweet, crazy lady. I get it honest.  I think about her almost every day. I can't help it-i have her mini version living in the form of M. But I was filled with so much thought and emotion and prayer for all of these other friends that the tears I normally cry for my mother....there just weren't any tears of my own to cry for my own. None in fact. My hurt and loss seemed to be so minimal compared to the pain my friends around me have and are experiencing. Compassion went into overdrive and for once, the tears for mom were all dried up.

Oh how I'm challenged more and more that this is how we ought to love our brothers and sisters in Christ-that our tears should not be those of our own, but we should weep with others as Paul tells the Romans, let your love be genuine....
"Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep." (Romans 12:15 ESV)
Thank you Lord, for revealing such a lesson!


Saturday, May 9, 2015

La calle

If I were to be completely honest, which I can be now since the time has past us, I had the most fear of the entire trip about our last ministry which happened Thursday night. 
But first, meet Bessy and Carlos. Bessie is one of the girls that has grown up with the family of Nelly and Alvin.

 She is married to Carlos and they take care of Bessie's younger siblings, one of which is Brittany (the SWEETEST little girl that Erin and I absolutely fell in love with...when I bring the girls back to Honduras M & L are going to have such a blast with her!!!)
This is sweet Brittany. 


Anyway, Bessie buys food on Wednesdays and she spends Thursday's preparing all of the food and packaging it. For this week, she prepared 186 plates of tortillas filled with beans, cheese, basically like an enchilada. 186 of them. 

After we finished our dinner as a team, we piled in our van and headed toward downtown around 730.  Alvin said there were about 9 stops he COULD make but we would just have to see. We stopped at the first place along the river and some children came out. They all knew Alvin and they were grateful for the food then they went away. While we drove to the next spot, there were a few homeless folks sleeping on the streets that we would stop and hand food to then be on our way. The next stop was a little difficult, because we saw several young people with bottles and cups with glue...they were drinking that. They were certainly not in their right mind. But they were grateful for the food as well as the visit from Alvin and the American people he had brought to give them food. One of the men there, 22 years old, told us he had been seeing Alvin on the streets since he as 7 years old. (Alvin has been doing this ministry for about 19 years.)  we piled in the van and what we were about to see I could never have prepared myself for nor will I ever be able to erase the images from my memory. 

We traveled to an intersection from the downtown area where at the top of a hill where two roads met was a dumpster. Here, the Wendy's, Little Ceasars, and the fast food chicken joint sent their garbage. And in the garbage, were little kids, digging, as if they were flies swarmming, and filling bags. It was here that we actually ran out of food. And we were unable to feed anymore people. 186 people were given food this night....and yet in just 45 minutes there were many many many more who remained without. We saw one girl who crawled in after the pizza place dumped their stuff and she found a whole pizza. I'm not sure sure if she cried tears of joy or what, but she sobbed. There were other children who walked up to you, and looked into your eyes, and you could look deep into theirs and see the hurt and the need. 
For a moment we took a minute to chat about what we were looking at and some of the children ran up to us. The poverty was striking. The need was large. And we had basically done all we could do to help for the time being. While talking I starred at a little boy who meticulously gathered chicken bones and put them in a plastic bag that would be his meals for the week while another boy gathered breadsticks from one bag to another and carry them away. This, friends, began the water works of my tears that I have yet began to control.