February Friday Favorites

handsmug final
The longer I write the more I realize how much I love random.

Often, my favorite posts come out when I plan absolutely nothing. I just sit down and dash off words…because that’s the best way for me to be me, exactly as I am. And that’s where I am today.

As I’ve started to write a few more words this year…and we’re getting there…I’m realizing how at home I am with my keyboard and my thoughts. And, of course, my coffee.

Can I just confess right now that we have exactly enough Indonesian coffee to make ONE MORE POT, and I’m heartbroken. I literally can’t bring myself to use it up. And so I sit here, drinking my random, donut shop blend. And it’s still ok, but it’s definitely no Aroma Kopi, which is the best there is. Ever. (Can we just go to Indonesia? Seriously, I’m headed back next year for a visit…I’d love to take a friend along!) :)

So I love Crystal‘s Friday Favorites linkup at the end of every month…just a chance to share some favorites. It’s fun, it’s one of my favorite ways to write and share, and so I’m jumping in and hanging out at her space today. I love it. :)

And now, I bring you some of the current faves.

And I’m sorry there’s no giveaway this month, but I AM giving away something completely awesome on God-sized Dreams in a few weeks, so keep your eyes open for that one. (You WON’T want to miss it!)

Read

I haven’t done much reading lately. I’ve bounced around several of my favorite blogs and caught up with some dear sisters. That’s probably been my favorite reading for the month. Here are two that spoke to me so deeply.

My friend, Gindi, was featured at Kristin Schell‘s blog this week. I completely adore her story of community and how God is weaving that into her heart and life. I’m also completely jealous that it is warm enough in Texas to have a turquoise table in her front yard, year-round. I have to wait until spring, but I’m hoping there will be one in my front yard soon, too! Gindi is one of my dear friends, and I hope you will stop by to read her beautiful words.

This post really got me. Hard. God has been working on a lot in my heart lately…I haven’t really talked about it here because there are times when there just isn’t a way to process it all. (I did just try to process it and just ended up with a tangle of words. So we’ll talk later.) :) But you should read it.

And maybe the most reading I’ve been doing lately has to do with my Bible. I’m really trying to be in the Word more. Oh, I fail sometimes. But the times I do spend there are so sweet. So precious. So needed.

Watch

I pulled out an old favorite series and shared it with Mae a week or so ago. I was completely impressed that she sat through two episodes and laughed at the funny parts. (And she also continues to talk about the time that Sara smeared a cherry pie in Felicity’s face. Ahem. I don’t think that was exactly the takeaway.) 😉 I’m a bit of a goof, but I love older tv, the good stuff, when I know I don’t need to worry about what my daughter will see.

Also, anything remotely related to Anne of Green Gables always. wins. Always.

You can watch the first episode free here…which is all kinds of awesome. :)

Wear

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My favorite thing to wear right now, hands down, is my heart necklace. Since last summer, I’ve been looking for the perfect necklace…a sweet way to remember the babies we’ve lost and to honor our precious daughter. I looked everywhere and finally settled on this one from Etsy. It has Always Love stamped on the outside and Maelie’s name with the initials of our two little ones in heaven, I.M. and C.K., on the inside along with a stamped dandelion and their three birthstones. The dandelion was part of the original design, and I thought it was the perfect hug from God since a dandelion was the image that came to my mind just days after we lost our sweet Carly.

I wear it every day, and I honestly can’t imagine a day when I won’t.

I’ve also been wearing more workout clothes. Two weeks ago, I just decided it was time. Time to eat better and work out more, and it’s good. It’s amazing how drastically reducing sugar (it helps that I gave up dessert for Lent) has also made me want healthy food. Case in point? It’s 8:30 a.m. and I want grilled chicken and avocados. (No lie.)

Ok, that was random. 😉

I also vowed that this month I would wear a pair of earrings. Um…I bought a pair and then chickened out of wearing them in public. I promise I will wear them this weekend. And, of course, I’ll document it for next month, too.

Listen

One of my favorite things is to have coffee with a friend…just to chat and listen and be. Not kidding, if I were given a choice of anything, that’s what I would choose to do with a free hour or two. (If I were given a day full of coffee dates for my birthday, I would completely be in heaven. Just fyi.) 😉

I love this song, too…I’ve basically decided it’s the soundtrack of my season. I’m working on it in voice lessons…not sure I’ll ever do anything with it, but it’s beautiful. And a reminder I need every day. So have a listen and then download it at iTunes if you so want. (I may or may not play it on repeat often.) :)

And that brings us to the end of the favorites, at least for today.

What are some of your current faves?

Happy weekend to you all. Hugs. :)

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Lessons From Indonesia: On Being Brave

Bandung traffic finalOh.

The things I could write about today.

Of course, you know there will be an Indonesia story at the end of this…because, yes, it is Monday and there is coffee. (And that’s all I’m going to say about those things today…feel free to be shocked.) 😉

I was also down with…the flu. a bad cold. a headache. a fever. potentially all of it…all weekend and so coming back to my blog sort of feels like I’m crawling off the couch and back into humanity. And I’m starting to feel better and can actually talk now without squeaking.

Oy.

I really hate to be sick, but since I know y’all don’t want the details, I’ll leave it at that.

However, Valentine’s Day happened this weekend, and I found myself grateful beyond words that we celebrated last week with friends so I could fully enjoy my day(s) of crashing on the couch and trying to sleep and rest and diffuse this thing out of my system. It sort of worked. And to save the weekend, hubby made red velvet cookies yesterday, which I ate for breakfast this morning.

Life just feels a little better after those plus coffee.

So let’s get to Indonesia, shall we?

I’ve sort of been in homesick mode for the last week. I think part of that is because I’ve done so much reflecting and remembering…and I’ve got friends in Indo who know how to make me miss this place and these people with just a photo or two. Seriously. One of them posted a photo of the crazy that is motorbike parking in Indonesia…aka: a SEA. OF. MOTORBIKES. And I totally found myself wishing for my cute pink bike once again just so I could zoom it up and down Wisconsin Street once. Or fifty times.

However, my husband has forbidden me from having a Vespa here, my dearest motorbike wish, despite multiple moments of begging, therefore I’m sure this would not go over well.

But I do miss my bike in all of its cute, pink, I-can-drive-this-thing-in-flip-flops, glory. I kind of miss it a lot.

And so I bring you the saga…and it IS a saga…of how I learned to drive a bike. So let’s all shed a tear for Mel and her bike-missing that’s happening over coffee this morning.

And feel free to smile, too. Especially during the part when I run into a bush.

:)

As always, thanks for being here. (And if anyone would like to buy me a Vespa, you know where to find me.) :)

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We have to be braver than we think we can be, because God is constantly calling us to be more than we are.
Madeleine L’Engle

Anyone who lives in a big city knows that having some mode of transportation is necessary for sanity.

When we arrived in Bandung, our immediate needs were close enough that we could walk or take an angkut (minibus) down the hill. Therefore, for the first several weeks, we survived just fine without a car or motorbike or even a bicycle.

But once we had been in-country for a month or two, we had the itch to get out and explore more. Public transportation was doable, but not our favorite method, and the day a stranger sat on me on the angkut, I knew it was time for a motorbike!

I sent Tobin to pick it out because I was down with Bandung Belly, (that’s another story for another day…) and therefore, not going anywhere. I told him I had few preferences other than I did not want a manual transmission and that I’d give him bonus points for a unique color.

He did great and came home after ordering a semi-automatic (yay for multitasking!), orange (woo hoo!) bike.

I was thrilled!

And I was actually the first of us to drive it. It was delivered to our school a few days later, and I hopped on, started it up, and drove it right home from school…AND without killing anyone, though I did have to stop at an intersection to yield to a group of school children. I’m pretty sure they sprinted across the road in utter fear of the newbie bule who, most likely, had no business driving.

Over the next few days, we enjoyed our new-found freedom, even if it just meant having a quicker way to get to and from school. I loved driving that orange beauty, and my confidence grew quickly.

Maybe too quickly.

After we’d had the bike for two weeks or so, I hopped on it to drive myself to school. Tobin was going to walk there later, so I decided to go ahead and leave early to get some things done in my classroom before the day started.

I’m still not sure exactly what happened. The satpam (guard) saw me coming, and I just assumed he would open the gate wider than he did, mostly so I wouldn’t run over him. Well, he didn’t, and being the brave girl I was, I gunned it…right into a bush.

It was one of those humbling moments where I had one of two choices. Laughter or tears…thankfully I chose laughter, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt so completely uncoordinated (and stupid?) in my life.

And it took me almost a year to have the guts to try driving a bike again. For that year, I was content to ride around on the back of it while Tobin drove. Yeah, I was a chicken, but it was also good for me because I was able to learn the city…which streets went where and how to navigate the multiple one ways that seemed to dominate the art of transportation there. I probably learned Bandung better than Tobin did because I spent so much time watching, scoping out the good shopping and coffee places…

…and getting lost, because we did a lot of that, too. 😉

After that year, once I had gotten into the groove of Indonesian life, I knew it was time to try driving again. I needed the freedom to meet up with friends (and to go get coffee!) and so we went out one random day and bought me my own motorbike.

Oh. My. Goodness.

It was pink and soooooo cute. It was an automatic, meaning that I only had to gas and brake with my hands, which was better…less to distract me as I navigated the streets of Bandung on my cute little scooter, which I almost always drove while wearing flip flops.

I did well in the neighborhood around our house but knew I would eventually need to dig up the courage to actually drive in the city…among the cars and motorbikes and angkuts and buses and trucks and bicycles and carts and horses…you get the picture.

I was terrified.

It took every ounce of courage I had to venture out that day. I drove, my hubby followed me on the other bike, and we weaved our way in and out of traffic, going all the way to one of our favorite shopping centers and home again.

And I didn’t die.

Not only did I manage to stay alive, I also learned a very important lesson about bravery. It’s so easy to get caught up in the big picture of a situation and let fear take over, when, in reality, all I had to worry about while driving were the vehicles around me. The one rule of Indonesian driving was that I was responsible for what I could see in front of me. And that was it.

Once I understood that, it was much easier to drive the city…and I got even braver, making trips all over town on my own.

We sold our motorbikes once we bought a car and little M was on the way, and a part of me was sad. Those motorbikes were only things, but to me, they represented an important part of our lives as we learned to really live in Indonesia.

They were also great reminders of a lesson I learned in being willing to do things that seem more difficult than they really are.

Here’s to bravery and to doing more than we think we can.

Anyone for a Vespa ride? 😉

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The stories I’m sharing are about a place and people who are in my heart forever…I never want to paint a negative image of them or their amazing country. Therefore, I ask for your grace over each word and story. I pray that I share these words well.

The above is an excerpt from Lessons From Indonesia: On Life, Love, and Squatty Potties. All words and stories are my own and are copyrighted through Amazon publishing. Feel free to read them, but please ask for permission before sharing them. :)

Thank you!

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January Friday Favorites {and a GIVEAWAY!}

early morning coffee final
Ok, seriously, y’all. I win.

It is 3:40 a.m. and my eyes are W.I.D.E. O.P.E.N. so I win something.

I’m not sure what that is exactly…perhaps an extra cup of coffee? Because I’m definitely going to need it. 😉

And you can definitely believe that the coffee is flowing this morning, thanks to my new, awesome-and-slightly-obnoxious-aqua-colored, Keurig. Yes, friends…dreams do come true in the form of coffee makers. I finally have my Keurig!!!

Cue happy dance at 3:45 a.m. 😉

So I am completely in love with the Friday Favorites linkup my awesome sister, Crystal, is hosting at the end of each month. I just HAD to participate! Plus, it’s always fun to share my favorite things with you anyway. And I love to give things away because giving gifts is my love language times about a thousand. (Ok, ok, yes cake is my love language, too. And if you’d like to send me some, Please. Do.)

Here ya go…my current favorites. And, keep reading for a fun giveaway at the end! :)

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Read.

I love books. A little too much, perhaps, which I would realize if I took take the time to count the number in my house or on my Kindle. I guess if I’m going to do something with my free hours, (haha…free?!) reading is potentially the best thing I could be doing. Or, one of them.

The Best Yes (Lysa TerKeurst) is the book my Thursday Morning Moms’ Bible Study is going through. It’s good stuff, and I love the discussions we have. I feel like that book choice was a God-thing as I’m really trying to have better priorities.

Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet: Tasting the Goodness of God in All Things (Sara Hagerty) Oh, good grief, I have cried more than I haven’t cried reading this. (I even broke down in front of the neighbors’ dog during the first chapter and freaked her out a little. Not kidding here.) I’m about halfway done, and it has been a process…each chapter leaves me feeling wrecked and it takes a day or two to be able to pick it up again. And, yet? One of the best I’ve ever read. I can’t put it down even when I can’t pick it up.

The Hardest Peace (Kara Tippetts) I’ve had this book for a few months, but it’s honestly taken me awhile to begin. It’s just been a hard season, and I knew this would be an emotional read. I’m not too far into it yet, which means I’ll need to give you an update next month. Also, would you say a prayer for the author, Kara, and her family? You can catch up on a bit of her story here. Also, the Kindle version of this book is just $2.99.

Back Home (Michelle Magorian) I loved the Disney Channel movie in the early 90’s and can’t find it anywhere on DVD. So I figured the next best thing was getting the book. (I’m a sucker for the used books on Amazon that cost a penny plus some shipping.) Good book and it gives me a change of pace. I normally prefer nonfiction, but occasionally I’ll pick up a fiction book. I like this one.

Watch

I’m not a big TV watcher…I’m just not. Sometimes I’ll turn on a movie just to fill the empty. (Yeah, I’m an extrovert and noise is my friend.) But other than a few guilty pleasures that go in spurts, I’m pretty out of it most of the time when it comes to TV.

Also, Tobin and I have been discussing the kind of things that happen on our TV screen, and we want to be careful and show integrity whether our daughter is in the room or not. We have seen a couple good movies lately, though. :)

The Impossible was a really intense movie we watched early this month. It’s about the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and a family that miraculously survives it. It’s powerful and a tear jerker and makes my heart pinch because you all know how SE Asia holds such a special place in my heart.

The Good Lie was a powerful one, too. I watched it twice in the span of 24 hours because I wanted to get my money’s worth from my Amazon rental…and because I wanted my hubby to see it, too. (I watched it alone the first time.) It’s one of those that made us stop and remember how blessed we really are. There is suffering in the world that we cannot even imagine…it made me look at some things differently. Just be warned…I’m pretty sure I cried all over the couch the first time. (You’ll need tissues.)

Also, I’ll be watching the Super Bowl. With friends, and I honestly like that part more than the actual game. 😉

ipsy final JanWear

One thing I’ve really started loving lately is eye makeup, and Ipsy has helped with that.

Ipsy a monthly subscription for $10 (free shipping!) and you get a beauty bag with 4-5 items, some sample-size and some full-size. My latest bag (picture above) was awesome…and, actually, I haven’t had a bad bag yet. They sent me some gel eyeliner and an eyeliner brush…those were my favorites this month, some eye shadow, eye cream, and some sheer glo cream. (That was the only product in my bag I was a little meh about…I’m not exactly sure what to do with it. But it was sample size, so I didn’t care too much.) 😉

To sign up, you answer some questions about your preferences and are sent the items from a pool of 20-30ish different options, based on the products available for the month. You don’t get to choose, but honestly, the items are so awesome that I’d be happy with almost all of them. And for a cool $10? What’s not to love?! (But be aware that there is a wait list for this. There are things you can do to bypass the wait list, but I chose not to and waited about two months.) And if you sign up through this link, I get some bonus points for freebies. If you feel so inclined. 😉

Also, I’ve been eying this dress…but alas. I don’t really need another dress. It is cute, though. (And maybe my hubby will read my blog today, too…size M, darling.) 😉

Listen

I’m a music girl, and there are a lot of songs that have resonated lately. This one is probably one of my favorites…and I need the reminder on a daily basis, too. Have a listen. :)

And…A GIVEAWAY!

So I kind of love to give gifts. I just do. Plus, it’s been a long time since I’ve given anything away here.

So…leave me a comment and share one of your current favorite things with me, and I’ll enter you to win a $15 Amazon gift card so you can order a new book or watch a new movie or find some new makeup. Something fun. :)

I’ll email the winner on Monday. Good luck! :)

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In the Fog

fog at river final
I’m sitting here, on an early morning, with my cup of coffee and words swirling around in my brain…words that have yet to make it anywhere else.

I might also be thinking about the scores of Christmas cookies we have left from our neighborhood party on Sunday and wondering if frosted gingerbread cookies qualify as breakfast. I mean, ginger is a root which totally means it’s in the vegetable category, right? Therefore, the cookies = veggies.

I love my reasoning.

So it’s almost Christmas, and other than sending out a card, I feel like I’ve been sort of bah-humbug about the whole season, even if I’m really not. I truly do love Christmas. However, I’m also blaming the fact that there’s no snow…and while I don’t always love it, it doesn’t ever feel completely like Christmas without a blanket of white.

LET. IT. SNOW. Dear God, please let it snow. (Ok, y’all. Write this down. Take a screenshot. Do SOMETHING. Because those words will probably never be uttered from my fingertips again. Ever.) 😉

So…life. Where we are. What’s up. It’s heavy, but I want to talk about it today…I guess because I’m finding that sharing what’s on my heart is one of the most healing things right now.

To say that it feels like we’ve been in a fog the last few months feels about right…so we’re gonna go with that this morning and see where it takes us. :)

I love where we live. I’ve talked about this before, but how we ended up in this house was a total God-thing. He really worked out every single detail for us to randomly end up looking at our cute, two-story, blue home on the last morning we were in town looking for a place to live before we moved. We were sort of on a time crunch and it wasn’t in the plan, and we had another house we thought would work…and yet Tobin just had a feeling that we needed to drive over and take a look. I said no…but we can all see how well he listened to me. 😉

And we walked through the front door, looked at each other, and knew. We were home.

And there are a lot of reasons we love it here. The neighbors are the most awesome ever…truly, they are the best part of being here. It’s much of the reason why we chose to buy after we rented. We want to raise our girl here, in a neighborhood where the kids still ride bikes and go fishing and the neighbors talk to each other beyond a hello.

We love the house, too. It’s a bit on the small side, but it’s also full of charm, it’s quirky, and it’s old and oozing character…and it doesn’t look like every other house on the street. We’re not really cookie-cutter sort of people anyway, but I think everyone already knows that. 😉

And? We love, love, LOVE that it’s a block from the river. When I’m washing dishes, I can look out my back window and see a beautiful view, no matter the season. We’re blessed and we know it.

A few weeks ago it was a rainy, not-too-cold-for-December, morning, and I looked out to notice a somewhat-thick fog hovering over the field near the river. It was the kind of fog that gives you a glimpse without seeing the whole…and it was strangely beautiful.

And I thought about how that’s what our lives look like right now.

We are thick in the fog. Some days just getting up and getting through and not looking forward too much are what we can manage. Not wondering about the next Sunday and how hard it will be to sit through church without crying. Not thinking about whether there will be two lines at the end of the month or not. Choosing to live in the moment…however it looks…and not imagining life too far beyond that.

He’s teaching us to embrace what He gives for the day and not worry about tomorrow. Sounds a little familiar, huh? 😉

The truth is that it’s been a horrible year. I don’t say that lightly.

My heart aches…physically. Still. Babies still make me gasp for a breath, a pregnant belly is even worse. I dread March and all that might have been…and how hard it will be when her due date comes.

I see a picture of my sweet doggie, and the tears spring to my eyes and I miss the sweet way he would rest his nose on my leg and wait for a chin scratch. He’s still so much a part of us, and we miss him more than I can even express.

Loss…it’s what has summed up our year, a year that held so much hope twelve months ago. A year that, now, leaves us wondering where that hope has gone.

And while I don’t feel like hope has died, I do feel like it’s been buried for awhile in the grief and the wondering and the waiting. Especially the waiting.

And maybe waiting is what He wants me to embrace now more than ever. Being content with just the piece of the picture that is today, no matter how unclear it is.

I kind of think that’s how Mary must have felt. It was no small task to carry the Savior of the world…and I often think of the fear and wondering that must have encompassed her heart, day after day, as she waited for her baby to be born. Yes, she sang her praise and she chose to trust…but she was also human and imperfect, and I think we sometimes forget that part of the story. And I wonder if, on those uncertain nights, she was scared of what the whole picture looked like. I imagine she may have felt like she was in a fog at times, too.

But she trusted and she obeyed…and a Savior was born and he brought Joy and Hope and Peace and Love…those things our world desperately needed and still needs.

We may have to choose to see them some days and to believe that they are there even when we don’t see. I know He has good things for us, no matter what 2015 looks like…and I’m going to choose to own that.

We might be in the fog during this season, but I can’t wait to see the picture when it lifts.

I think it’s going to be beyond what we ever could have hoped for.

Merry Christmas, friends! Wishing you all a wonderful celebration of the birth of our Savior. Thanks for being here. :)

Love,
Mel (& Tobin & Maelie, too!)

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Deep, Not Wide

Allume 2014-0730(1) final

I made a mistake last year.

Well, to be fair, I make them every day. 😉

But this one…it was the kind that grated on me for a year. I just couldn’t get it out of my head. And I knew things needed to be different, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what I had done wrong. And, really, it took twelve months to process.

But this morning, as I sit down with my coffee and pour my heart out to you, I’m starting to see.

And, oh…it feels good to finally see.

So one of my dreams has been, for a long time, to “make it” in the blogging world…to become the next big blogger, whatever that looks like.

And what that DOES look like…well, I still haven’t quite figured that out. For a long time, I had it in my head that it meant tons of followers, comments, a platform the width of the world, lots of recognition. And, of course, a book deal to follow.

In reality it sounds like a lovely, perfectly-ordered dream, doesn’t it?

And there was a time…a span of about a year…when I chased that dream hard.

Too. Hard.

Today I’m over at God-sized Dreams telling a heart-story, one that’s tough to share with the world. Will you join me there?

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Please Use Caution When Opening Your Drink…

smilebooth2 final I should have titled this post something more along the lines of…

Allume 2014.

Family Reunion 2014.

Lessons From a Really Great Weekend.

On Meeting With an Agent and Other Things That Whisper Hope.

A Weekend of Blessings.

Or, all of the above.

I flew in late Sunday night after a glorious five days spent in the beautiful city of Greenville, South Carolina. Seriously, y’all (do you HEAR me getting all Southern already?!) I heart this city. I have plans to bring some of you TO this city. If I didn’t love where I live so much, I’d be tempted to move my family down there so we can eat fried green tomatoes and sweet potato cake for the rest of our days.

Maybe I love it for reasons like this…

cupcake quote finalBecause, YES. I do want to live in a city that has signs like this on their sidewalks.

Or, this…

cutepuppy finalMel walks into cute, upscale boutique.
Is greeted by cute puppy.
Immediately trades browsing for puppy cuddles and a picture.

But chances are, I love it most of all for this.

allume4-1024x768 finalMy heart sisters. They are forever that.*

When I started my blog back on that lonely, cold morning in January 2011, I had no idea it would turn into Community. Family. Sisterhood.

These are my people…

The ones who stay up late and chat deep and laugh loud with me when I totally explode my drink mid-flight. Yes, yes I did.

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The ones who, when you finally meet in person for the first time, are just as wonderful and sweet and encouraging as you knew they’d be.

AmyB&Mel final
The ones who take the time to hold my hand, share a hug, and whisper Hope to me in a season that doesn’t feel like there’s much to hope in.

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The ones who pray me through a knee-knocking meeting with a literary agent, the kind in which I hand over my proposal. (aka: My. Heart.)

Laura&Mel final
The ones who don’t count how many cupcakes I eat in one weekend.

DelonnaGindiMel&Kim final
The ones who will sit and drink coffee and share life, even just minutes before they have to leave.

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The ones who make me smile just because they’re near me.

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The ones who will stand by my side as we worship our Father and trust that He is good in ALL.

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The ones who share their dreams and stories…the pretty parts of them and the not-so-pretty, too.

Meetup finalLoved the God-sized Dreams meet up!*

Yes, I went to Allumeand it IS a writing conference…an amazing one. Logan and her team did an awesome job, and I’m so grateful for the prayers, sweat, and tears they put into it for all of us.

But it’s also so much more than a writing conference. It’s that place where I find so many of my friends…sisters. It’s a place where we just get each other. It’s a place where we raise our hands and praise Him…completely…even when it’s hard and the tears flow. It’s a sweet, precious gift, and when it’s over…well, it takes more than a few days to process it all.

I didn’t know how much I needed to be there this weekend…how much I needed to just go and cry and laugh and beand then find some healing. And there was…it wasn’t the kind of healing that makes it all go away. It was the kind where God used people, over and over, to remind me that He still loves me so much and that there are so many blessings still to be had. Even in loss.

There were some cool God stories…and I’ll share those someday. Stories about how God opened up seats BOTH TIMES on full flights so my sweet sister and I could sit together and share life and eat cupcakes at 20,000 feet for a bit longer. Stories about how God brought two precious women…now friends…into my life to bring some Hope to a heart that has just begged for a glimpse of light.

MIssy&Mel finalI love this girl…she has such an amazing heart.
And she makes some of the most awesome jewelry ever.
(See Mel’s necklace.) 😉

Dawn&group finalWith my friend, Dawn, in the middle next to me. LOVE her, her story, and how God planned our meeting.
(And we’re with two super awesome women who I wish I’d had a chance to talk with longer!) :)

Today, though, just think of this post as the scratch-the-surface-and-dump-my-photos kind. Feel free to share some smiles or grab a picture. One of the whole twenty…maybe…I took. 😉 And if you’d like a copy without the watermark, just let me know and I’ll send it your way.

To the wonderful women…friends…sisters…who were part of this weekend. Thank you. You mean so much to me…and though it’s hard to put into words, I think you understand just how much that is.

Until we meet again. And I hope it won’t be too long.

*I’m not sure which of my GSD sisters get credit for these photos. But, thank you!!! :)

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On Friendship and Celebrating

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A story:
to preface the celebration. :)

Four years ago, we moved here to this strange land. Ok, ok…it was strange then. Now it’s pretty normal.

Well, as normal as Illinois can be. 😉

And it might be safe to say that I didn’t want to be here at all. I had to be, but I sure wasn’t choosing it, and I sure didn’t have a happy heart about it either.

The first few weeks were a blur, thanks to the teeny-tiny baby we had at the time. I rarely left the house except to go to Target. And Starbucks…I did find my way there a few times, too. Because, um, sleep deprivation. Yes, it must be countered with multiple shots of espresso.

Our neighborhood remained a mystery. We had a cute, blue house on the corner, but we didn’t know the people who lived near us. And during those weeks, I was more than ok with that.

Until. The night. When my husband forced me to walk across the street.

A neighbor had stopped by, one he had already met, to drop off a note for me. It was a sweet, welcome-to-the-neighborhood/would-you-like-to-come-to-Bible-study, letter from a woman across the street.

I smiled and went back to feeding Maelie…and sort of forgot about it.

But Tobin didn’t, and he made sure that we ALL marched across the street to say hello, meet her and her family, and give me a chance to accept her invitation.

My heart might not have been happy…but by then I was warming up to the idea of life here. I kind of had to.

And that night, I met Kris. From our first conversation (which lasted well over an hour) I knew we were going to be friends and not just neighbors. I saw the way she looked at my daughter, the way she genuinely wanted to know about us and our crazy lives…and when she offered me a ride the next morning and then went out of her way after Bible study to show me around town (I really hadn’t been out…) I found myself breathing thanks that, maybe, I finally had a friend.

And over the weeks that turned into months and then years, a friendship grew. It started off with little visits across the street and chats after Bible study. Then it turned into double dates and coffee dates and sometimes just chats on a porch…hers or mine.

A friend in Minnesota had told me, before we moved, that she was specifically praying that God would give me a good friend. I saw the answer to her prayer in Kris.

And in the past four years, it’s been such a sweet friendship. There have been ups and downs…for both of us. We’ve walked and prayed each other through some hard days…and we’ve celebrated a lot, too.

And today…well, it’s a celebration. A BIG one…the kind that starts with a 5 and ends with a 0.

😉

Today my beautiful friend turns 50…and though she might kill me (but only just a little…) for this, I think she deserves to be celebrated. She’s pretty fantastic…and she’s been a gift to me and my family…and a lot of other people, too.

She’s been such a big part of why we call this place home. And why we’re happy to call it that.

The happiest of birthdays to you, sweet friend.

Fifty looks pretty amazing on you.

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You Are Four

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Dear baby girl, the one who’s not so much a baby anymore…

My Maelie Naomi.

Today you are four. FOUR. As in, years old. Wowza, where did the time go?

I was telling a friend tonight, through a stifled giggle, about life exactly four years ago. I was so enormously pregnant that I refused to even take a picture.

And yet I knew, somehow, that the little person inside me was worth the hugeness…that she was going to burst into my life and change it forever.

That, my sweet Mae, is exactly what you have done.

Each year, as I take the time to look back, I realize just how much you have changed me. Just how much better my life is because you fill my days.

I hear your howling and singing, the first things to alert me that you are ready to greet each new day. Sometimes I ask you to turn down the volume, but the truth is? I love your exuberance. And I love YOU even more.

Howl away. Really. :)

I see the joy you find in the simplest things…in playing outside, in a new little pony, in jumping on the bed only to leap into my arms for a hug…you see the beauty everywhere and you embrace it completely.

I love that about you.

We’ve watched you grow and change so much in the last year…your first year of school already behind you, several haircuts and jeans sizes (quit getting so tall already!) passed, many new skills and words, too. OH. You are just soaking up every piece of life around you.

It’s amazing.

You talk about wanting a baby sister. Sometimes you pretend you already have one. And often, we’ll stop what we’re doing to pray for one.

Sweet girl, I would love to see that happen for you. For all of us. And watching your faith grow as you kneel and ask Him for such a deep desire is something that melts me and breaks me all at the same time.

You are learning lessons, already, in resting in God’s will and trusting Him. It’s not easy but it’s worth it.

But I really, really, hope that this is the year you will get to be a sister. Because I think you’d be an amazing one.

There are so many people who love you…when I pause to look around at this community, I see just how blessed we are with the people who love you…and you love them right back.

Please, sweet girl…never stop. Never stop loving people.

It’s a bittersweet night for me…the last night of having a three year-old in the house. I stroke the hair away from your face, watch your chest rise and fall as you sleep, and I know these days are numbered. This doesn’t last forever.

But I also know something else…I know a lot of somethings, but this one thing sticks out more than anything.

God gave us the most precious blessing in you…and every day is a gift.

I’m so glad I get to spend this life with you.

Dream big and love even bigger, my sweet girl.

He’s always got you. You are His forever.

All my love,
Mommy

MelMae600

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Less Words…

This might be the kind of day when I heart-spill a little too much.

So if I do, forgive me. :)

It’s 5:45 in the morning, and I’m up early because…well, because I’m trying to get into a good routine, and as much as I’d love to sleep much, much longer, this is my time to get things done.

I have to admit to you that I wish I were drinking coffee right now. We’ve got a big ‘ol container of Bailey’s Mudslide Coffee Creamer in our fridge right now (it was the only size they had) and OH. Yes, it DOES make me want to drink coffee all day. (As if it takes creamer to do that…) 😉 But, alas, I am not drinking coffee.

YET.

See, I’m also trying to be better about getting up to run early in the morning. I’ve been good during the last few months about doing lots of strength training and cardio/strength, but I need to get back to running more often. And my rule? No coffee til the run is over.

I know. Oh, I know. ‘Tis a bit brutal. 😉

I’m pondering life and love and the fact that my sweet three, almost-four, year-old finishes PK3 today. It has been such a good year for her, and I’m finding myself thinking back to the times when I would finish a year of school; especially when I was younger, I would always be devastated to say goodbye to my teacher. Clearly that emotion has been passed, straight on, to my girlie.

She cried yesterday when she told me she had one more day. I don’t WANNA leave Mrs. H! Or Mrs. B!

And, oh, how there is that piece of me that would gladly let her remain there forever…but we go forward anyway.

And with a few tears because that’s how a lot of us roll, I think, whether we’ll admit it or not.

And along with the whole finishing PK3 thing comes other milestones to remind me that my little girl is growing up so fast. A ballet recital on Sunday in a sparkly costume with her hair all pretty and MAKEUP. So not ready for this one…

Maeballet
A real, kid birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese to celebrate the BIG FOUR. Not ready for that one in a completely different way…

Swimming lessons to come. That one I’m excited for…she’s been asking, and I want it for her.

So many changes every day…the pants get shorter and the cute little shirts don’t cover her belly anymore. Her aqua toenails peek over the edge of he flip flops, and I realize it…

…I wasn’t looking, and she grew up.

So time marches on, and while the snuggles and kisses remain, the I-love-you’s are a daily thing, and we laugh and dance together because it’s just what we do, I know it’s going to change.

That’s the part I don’t want to come.

I think back to the things I’ve always wanted so much for her…

To know that she’s loved so much…

…accepted as she is…

…and beautiful. SO beautiful.

Those things…they start with me.

And God has been doing some things in my heart when it comes to my daughter.

I was in Houston a few weeks ago with some pretty awesome sisters, and during our time there, a friend and I took a little break outside for a bit to sit by the pool in the glorious, Texas sunshine. (You know, that thing we haven’t seen much of in FOREVER here? Yep.) 😉 We were chatting up life…the two of us are in different parenting seasons…and I was soaking in all she had to say. The mama of four daughters, she gets this…

And I admitted to her that I felt like the blog was wearing me down and all I wanted to do was just be mommy. (But please, my readers, don’t run away.) 😉

As we continued to talk, I confessed that I felt like the time and energy I’d spent trying to build and comment and connect had depleted me more than filled me. That was a hard confession because I love…LOVE…this community. I want to be here…writing, sharing, doing life together.

And God isn’t saying to give that up…but He IS saying to step back a little.

That’s why it’s been so quiet in this space. It’s been a word battle anyway lately, but I also haven’t spent as much time at the computer. The majority of my day is spent with my girl…how it should be anyway. And nights are a little different, too…I used to spend them commenting and answering comments and reading blogs…and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But you see, I have a husband, too. He and I are desperately trying to find our dance again. We’ve both kind of forgotten how that looks, but it definitely doesn’t involve computer screens.

It’s such a confusing place to be…knowing I’m meant to be a writer, but being aware that to everything there is a season. And I think it’s my season to write less. A lot less.

I miss connecting with my community as often. I miss the twitter parties and late nights…and while I may show up once in awhile, it’s no longer the commitment I sprint out of praise team for. It’s an added blessing when my day allows it.

And so, for this season, the rough draft still sits. The blog is a bit quieter. And the words flow through my heart more than they do through my fingertips.

But I’m good with that because it’s where I need to be.

And now I need to go…because four miles, a pot of coffee, and a sweet, three year-old princess await me.

Life is so incredibly beautiful…and I don’t want to miss any of it.

20130820_082827

 

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Here

bike canvas

I was walking through Hobby Lobby the other day and I came across this. And I had to have it.

Bonus? It was 50% off…I think I paid $7 for it. (I really, really, loooove that store.) 😉

Yes, it’s a bike and not much else. No inspirational words, no deep thoughts to ponder, just a bike.

A bike.

And yet, it somehow struck a chord with me.

So we’ve been home from Indonesia for about four years and back from our visit for 38 days.

38 times I’ve woken up in the morning, most days with at least a smile because this really is such a good place. I love it.

But there have been more-than-a-few days, too, where there’s that ache in my chest followed by a quick, whispered prayer. Father,  I miss it. Why?

That’s a hard thing to admit to y’all…that my first words of the day have sometimes been of wondering and questioning, instead of trust.

It seems that the theme of my life, the story He has for me right now, revolves around the word, Here.

I. Am. Here. Deep, I know…but a concept every single one of you can relate to, due to the fact that you are…well, you are in your here, whatever that may look like, and wherever it may be. 😉

When I was little, I dreamed of another place…anywhere but my small town, where belonging never did happen. I didn’t want my here.

In college, I longed for a place with a bit more freedom.

I got married, and I longed for more because being married is tough stuff and a continual, day by day, process. Still.

In those first years of marriage, it was a longing for His Great Big Plan…wherever that took us.

And when that plan took us to Indonesia, we longed for home…far too often.

And now, here…well, sometimes we long for there.

It’s a jumble of always being Here. And, often, wanting there.

And it’s been a slow process…to accept that where He has me is always what’s best. It is because…well, because it is, and because it has to be.

My plan isn’t better than what He’s got…you’d think I’d have learned that a long time ago.

So if He’s got me here…well, here is where I should be.

And so I wrestle…and surrender. Wrestle again, surrender some more.

The truth is that my heart is torn between countries and continents, the crack separated by an ocean. It hurts…some days more than others and a few blessed ones, hardly at all.

In all of it, though, there’s been that reminder. Mel, you are blessed. And no matter how you’re feeling, and no matter where you are, there are always blessings. And you need to count them.

And so I count.

The sunny days, the rainy ones too. The days when Mae and I dance together and the days when mama and daughter struggle. The times when the adventures abound and the moments when they don’t. The living room picnics and the pony-playing. The sweet days and the hard ones, too.

All of it.

And maybe that’s what that bike meant to me, the second I saw it…Life is an adventure waiting to be lived. Here. Where I am. (<====Click to Tweet!)

How can I live it today?

Well, I doubt I’ll be riding a bike, but I think there will be some dancing with my girl. Some coffee drinking. Some playing outside. We might even take a walk to the park.

And maybe I’ll find a place to hang my new picture, too. :)

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