On August: Smiles, Messes, and One Really Big Shark

changing leaves final

Somehow the calendar page turned today and I found myself staring at the month of September.

September is one of my favorite months. It’s that strange one that flips between summer and the promise of sweater weather, the one when the pool is still up and used even if there are acorn shells and crunchy leaves covering the ground. (It’s also the only time of year that I feel like I can reasonably pull off wearing shorts with long sleeves. That’s just weird and probably not very trendy, but I’m not sure I care too much.) 😉

I could lament forever that I can’t believe August is over, but now that we’re staring at this month…I guess I’m good with it. We survived transition, we made it through some hard days–the kind when we cry while we remember, and now life is falling into a bit of a routine. A bit…we’re still finding normal somewhat, but it feels more settled.

I haven’t been very good at keeping track of my favorites the last few months…but I still felt the bloggy urge to write about August somehow. So here we go.

Random, to be sure…but here’s the good, the bad, and what just was. Is. I love my life and the blessings God has given us.

I’ve been working my way slowly through Wild in the Hollow. Everyone I know who’s read it has devoured it in mere hours. I’ve been wanting to devour it, but Amber’s words hit so close to home that there are times I need to close the pages and find a quiet corner for soul processing. It’s such a unique read, unlike anything I’ve ever opened. I recommend it so much. (And actually, one of you is going to get a copy of it if you make it to the end of my ramblings.) 😉

Wild in the Hollow final

I think my daughter is completely adorable in her school uniform. Who knew that khaki, blue, white, and red (and the shades that fall into those categories) could create such cuteness? She’s just growing up and stealing my heart a little more each day. She also started soccer last week, had her cheerleading debut with some of her BFF’s on Friday night, AND there’s a LOOSE TOOTH in there, too. Hold me. T’was a full week and such a turning point in her life. I feel like she’s really a growing-up girl now…full of wonder and change. It’s fun watching her become.

1st day cute final

We saw War Room on Sunday night. I have to be honest and tell you that the weekend in our house was not full of peace and oozing with kindness. Hubby and I…well, we just had a few of those days. We didn’t so much like each other those days, and I know Satan was just dancing all over our hearts. It was horrible. How ironic that we’d made plans to see the movie with friends…and even up until the moment we walked into the theater, I could feel my marriage being attacked.

But we stayed and we watched (and I cried–more than once) and the movie was SO. GOOD. And I’m praying the truths from it will seep into our beings as we walk this road. Marriage…it’s no fairy tale. But it’s still beautiful, and I love him and I love my Father. We belong together forever, even on the messy, ugly days.

It’s been almost a year since we lost our sweet Andre. Sometimes I feel out of place and wrong for still grieving a dog. He was my sweet boy, and we still miss him so much. If you think of us on the 19th, will you whisper up a prayer? I think we’ll probably need to go away that day because I’m not entirely sure I’ll be able to handle being in the house where he spent his last hours. Golly, I miss my boy.

Andre-final

I’m a mess. It’s just been a messy month. Do you ever have those? I’ve had ugly cries in the church balcony, angry words with my Father, and too many moments of bitterness. I’ve beaten myself up over it all…but then I come back to the promise that He can turn this mess into something beautiful. I’m waiting for the beauty He’s promised.

Oh, and I got a tattoo. Yeah, you read that right. I’ve actually had it for a month, but it wasn’t something that I knew how to write about, so I just didn’t. Instead, I just kind of let it be seen sometimes and if people wanted to ask I told them the short version: I wanted a tangible reminder that my Father makes everything beautiful. Someday I’ll tell you more of the story. :)

tattoo final

I signed up to run a 15k. I have exactly 68 days to train for it, which is only slightly scary. My current distance sits at about a whopping 3 1/2 miles. Oh, boy…good thing I just bought a new pair of running shoes. 😉

For about a month I have been telling my husband I need the beach. I just love it…I miss my surfing days and the sand between my toes and the sound of the crashing waves and the soul peace that comes from breathing deep and feeling small in the vast. We’ve been teetering back and forth on possibly taking a long weekend this fall and going, but we honestly haven’t been able to make a decision. So, wishing for the beach…I am. Completely. Not sure it will happen this year, but a girl can dream, right?

And you would think that a video like this might change my mind. Alas, no. I still heart the saltwater sea. I swear it calls my name. (Though I can’t get enough of the following 42 seconds. Seriously…cracking up.) 😀 AND potentially praying that I don’t get eaten by one of those ever…

And that…well, that’s life for us now. It’s good and full of blessings…and writing like this reminds me of just how blessed I am.

And I feel like giving away a copy of Wild in the Hollow because it’s just so beautiful. (And it’s going to find a spot on my bookshelf forever, I think.) To enter, leave me a comment…either here or on facebook…and share a blessing. That’s it. :) I’ll pick a winner on Friday and shoot you an email/Facebook message to let you know you’ve won.

Happy Tuesday, friends. Make it a beautiful one. :)

Sig

Lessons From Indonesia: Why We Probably Won’t Ever Rescue a Stray Cat Again

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo I decided that a sunrise photo from the upper floor in our Indo house was a much better picture for you today than one that actually goes with this story. I loved seeing this so many mornings…what a reminder that His mercies are new every single morning.

Oh, late-March Monday morning in the Chicago burbs.

You sure got me.

SNOW. Really?!

Ok, I might need to confess that my brain has this thing where when the calendar turns to March, I suddenly think that life should be daisies and green and NO. MORE. SNOW. (I realize that it IS still March in the Midwest.)

And alas, spring is not to be just yet, and here I sit looking out my dining room window, watching the inches of white fluff pile up onto Mae’s swing set, the same one she was finally able to play on in the last weeks after a frigid winter.

But I’ll get over it because there’s coffee and I’ve got words to share.

First of all, I took sort of a little unplanned hiatus from Indo stories the last two Mondays. My heart needed a break to process life, and it was time well spent.

Life is good, it really is, and I’ve got things to share. Soon. (AND they’re already written which is, like, a miracle.)

But today I want to keep doing what I said I was going to…sharing my stories and giving you a glimpse into Indo life. :)

This story is one that came up in a conversation with friends who were visiting last week. I warned hubby that I was going to share it…complete with maybe a little drama. 😉

His response? I’d expect nothing less from you.

He knows me well…and I love him. Truly.

And when I read this story, I’m reminded that I’m really blessed to be sharing this life with him.

Thanks for reading. :)

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36

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:28 (NIV)

Tobin and I laugh now about a lot of things that have happened to us…and not just the Indonesia stories, though those adventures do seem to provide quite a bit of entertainment for people even a few years after our return to the States.

I’ve come to accept the fact that adventure just seems to find us…something that I have truly learned to appreciate and value.

Because hindsight is 20/20, it’s always easier to look back and smile. For one thing, my husband is here, home with me, and our family is safe and healthy and happy.  But there were a few days in March of 2008 where every possible scenario ran through my head…the kinds when I feared a life without him.

So, it’s no secret to anyone who knows us that we love animals.

We brought home a golden retriever puppy when we’d barely been married a year. We had nothing but instant love for the newest member of our family…love to the point of, less than two years later, purchasing a one-way plane ticket to Indonesia for him. (Scoff not…at the time, it cost more to get him there than it cost for both of us. Combined.) But that’s just what you do for family.

Less than a year into our Indonesia life, we adopted Sammy…our other golden. Our lives were suddenly full of happy puppy days and tons of golden retriever love…we love it that way still, even now that we have a daughter, who only just makes the love overflow even more in our house.

Neither of us had ever been remotely interested in owning a cat though we have nothing against them. But in Indonesia, it almost felt like it made more sense than it didn’t. At our first house, especially, we had quite a rat problem that, thankfully, the dogs were able to somewhat keep under control, but we thought a cat might help keep them out of the house completely. Still, we never pursued actually getting one.

And then one Thursday night, my husband came home from the high school boys’ Bible study he co-led and immediately came to find me. Almost out of breath, he told me that he’d found a cat about a block away, huddled on the side of the road. It had been there for hours, just bait for another, bigger animal. He said it looked sick, and would I be okay if he decided to bring it home so we could take care of it?

I was a bit shocked that he asked, but I quickly agreed.

If only we had known what was coming.

That night we noticed, almost immediately, that there was something severely wrong with this cat. It could barely walk without falling over and would twitch almost constantly. We set it up with a litter box, food, and a blanket in a box in a spare bedroom and closed the door for the night.

I secretly wondered if there was a point to even trying to help it. The cat was in really bad shape, but we figured it wouldn’t hurt to see what happened for a few days.

Oh, a few days…we truly had no clue what those “few days” would actually look like.

The next morning Tobin was up early, checking on our new friend. He was sitting on the bed, holding the cat and petting it, when Sammy nosed his way into the bedroom, immediately frightening the cat.

The cat’s reaction? Was to sink its teeth deep into Tobin’s hand.

Here we are…5:30 a.m. on a Friday morning and dealing with a cat-from-who-knows-where bite.

Not good.

I immediately got on the internet, and…to this day I have no idea why…looked up symptoms for rabies. We always hear about the foaming mouth stuff when it comes to rabies…never the symptoms that precede it.

Guess what?

One of the early signs is neurological issues…including twitching.

We made a quick, somewhat frantic, call to our school PA and tried to come up with some type of plan.

Let’s recount the facts…Indonesia. Possible rabies. We had no idea what to do…with the responsibilities of life staring us down.

While I got ready for school (and desperately tried NOT to freak out) Tobin called around and found people to cover his classes. Following the orders of our PA, he hopped on his bike and drove to the nearest hospital where rabies vaccinations could possibly be available.

I went to school; I had every intention of keeping life that day as normal as possible, but my emotions were exploding so much I could barely stay calm. After teacher devotions that morning, a friend offered to take my class for the first few minutes so I could get myself together.

And I finally cried.

Once I got the tears out, I went downstairs to my classroom, streaky eyes and all. My students, ever the prayer-warriors, wanted nothing more than to pray for my husband, and so that’s what we spent our Bible class doing. :)

Tobin showed up later that morning with the news that he hadn’t been able to find a locally made rabies vaccination, but that the hospital had given him a Tetanus shot.

I wanted to be snarky and make a comment about the fact that a TETANUS SHOT probably wouldn’t do much good, but I held it in.

I knew he was panicking, too…we just had different ways of showing it.

He had found an imported-from-France rabies vaccination in town, but our out-of-pocket expenses would be over $500…and so he was trying to find a local one first. Knowing that he had a window of 24 hours, he spent most of the day looking but eventually went back that afternoon for the imported vaccination.

So…rabies vaccination: check.

We thought it was over. (Well, once he finished the series of shots that would happen over the course of the next few weeks.)

But during a school music concert that evening, Tobin noticed something.

A redness creeping up his arm.

At the suggestion, again, of our PA, he took a Sharpie and marked how far the redness had spread. We were alarmed, a few hours later, to discover that the infection was progressing at a scary speed.

Oral antibiotics were begun the next day, but the redness continued to creep…and we were starting to worry.

In almost a curious way, Tobin asked our PA, So what will happen with this infection if we let it go? Will it eventually just go away?

She wasn’t being cruel, just direct, but her reply? No, it will kill you faster than the rabies.

We now realized that we needed to get this thing under control. But the problem was that every option was being tried. It wasn’t like people were sitting around watching Tobin get worse. They were trying everything.

And speaking of control, I was having major control issues by now.

Because cat bites, international medical care or the lack thereof…they don’t teach you how to deal with those things is training.

And I was terrified.

There was nothing I could do to help my husband, and I was scared he might not be okay.

As the oral antibiotics continued to fail, our PA finally found a series of antibiotic shots that, thankfully, worked.

The red that had crept halfway to Tobin’s elbow by this time was finally stopping and even receding a bit.

After several more shots and a few more weeks, the swelling and red were completely gone though Tobin still had a scar from the bite.

And we were so incredibly thankful…like the kind where I really can’t express our thankfulness in words.

I never imagined we’d be in a place like that…a place where something happened and there was nothing we could humanly do to help.

God taught me a lot during those few days. That He’s got it worked out, and when things seem hopeless, He’s still got a plan.

No matter where we are.

Oh, and the imported shot that cost us $500? Insurance paid every single penny. God is pretty amazing, isn’t He? :)

_____________________

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. :)

Sig

Lessons From Indonesia: Oh, Rats!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Well, here we are.

Another Monday.

I’m determined to like Mondays, I really am. I have to admit that coffee helps them as coffee does generally improve my outlook each morning. 😉 (And I’ve probably had too much of it today, too…hello, Starbucks flat white. Where have you been all my life?!)

Ahem.

It wasn’t my intention to only blog on Mondays, either. It seems like life has gotten in the way a little…or, rather, life has needed to be lived not in front of a computer screen. Some weeks are like that, and I’m determined to be ok with that and not apologize for it. (Though I think that’s why you get a rather random intro every week…it’s my way of still writing out my thoughts a little.) 😉

I went back and forth with what to share with y’all this week. My hubby commented last week that my story sounded different from what I usually post. I was like, huh? I guess the difference is that last week was more serious instead of funny. (I do have a good mix of stories from both sides, but that’s not something I thought about.) I don’t want to lose readers or bore you to tears by being intense and serious all the time…it’s just that life in Indonesia wasn’t all giant puddles and falling in squatty potties. (No, no, not really…but that would have made an awesome story!)

So I’ll try to mix up the laughter and the tears. Thanks for sticking with me. :)

Aw, this one. It’s fun. (I say that a lot, don’t I?) 😉 One of the things we just had to deal with in Indonesia was rats. They flocked to us…or packed to us or whatever it is that rats do.

They could smell our foreign blood, particularly this girl’s, and they came running through grass and gutters and garbage piles just so they could give me good stories to tell. Funny enough, those stories have become precious pieces of my heart…ones I’d love to go back and live all over again. I guess I really loved Indonesia, didn’t I?

Yes. I REALLY did. And I still do. :)

I bring you…a tale of a rat and two dogs. It’s a doozy.

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37

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13 (NIV)

Along with cockroaches and snakes, one of the creatures I never got used to?

Rats.

*shudder*

My first interactions with them were from a distance…I’d often see them hanging out in the gutters or ditches, usually when we were on the bike.

Once in a while, if I was walking outside at night, I might hear one nearby, but it was kind of one of those things you don’t stick around to process too long. At least I never did. 😉

One time when we were driving, one ran in front of us, so close that we almost hit it.

But we made it through our first year in Indonesia, keeping our interactions with them to a minimum, and that was just fine with me.

I can do this. I can live here, I’d say to myself.

But sometime during our second year in that house, we started to hear the pitter-patter of little feet on what we thought was the roof.

We had our jaga (guard), who watched our house each night, do some checking for us. He couldn’t find evidence of anything, but we continued to hear the noises, and they were starting to make us nervous.

Eventually we figured out that there were, indeed, rats…but they were running between the floors of our house. The way our house was built, there was space between the floors, giving them just enough room to run through and around and play rat tag…and totally creep us out.

We were also very aware of the fact that, with two big dogs, it was only a matter of time before there was a nasty interaction.

Andre was the first to have a go at it.

For weeks…and I do mean weeks…we watched our golden retriever camp out by a certain spot in our yard. After he’d done his business, he would lie down on his belly, nose outstretched toward a little hole/crack in one of our gutters. (Concrete gutters are built into the ground in most places in Indonesia to deal with the copious amounts of rain we’d get during rainy season.) We were curious about what was so interesting down there, but we could never see anything until the night he “got it.”

Andre was a quick killer…one chomp and that rat was toast with minimal bloodshed.

Sammy was our more aggressive golden, though…he’s the one who gives us most of the good stories. His first “kill” was just a few weeks after Andre’s, and he caught this one in the kitchen. It had been hiding behind the washing machine, and he cornered it, chomped it…

And even though he could have just stopped there, he chose not to…shaking his head while holding the now-dead rat and, thus, spraying blood all over the kitchen walls.

Yes, it was a lovely mess to clean up since I know you’re all wondering.

We also said silent prayers, following that kill, that Andre would be the rat killer among the two in the future.

As the years went by, we really tried not to stress over the rats or the fact that they were becoming an inevitable aspect of life in Indonesia. And we were doing well…or so I thought.

When we made the move to the new campus and set up a new house, rats became a problem again almost immediately…I was starting to wonder if they could just sniff out expatriate blood and know who would be the most freaked out. 😉

Our pembantu (house helper) was living with us for several days each week, and one night she, my hubby, and our two killer doggies went down in history with possibly the most memorable rat-kill the world (or at least Bandung) has ever known.

I was sitting in the living room on the couch, prepping for my lessons the next day, when I heard a strange sound coming from the laundry area. Since both of the dogs were in the room with me, I connected what we were most likely dealing with…and so did Sammy, who immediately sprinted in there to survey the scene.

My feet had literally just hit the floor when I saw it come flying through the kitchen and into our family room.

I wasted no time…I took a flying leap, laptop still in my hands, and sprinted to another piece of furniture in the next room.

For the next few minutes that rat used our family room as his own, personal, obstacle course and sprinted over and under and – what seemed like – through furniture, constantly chased and nosed by two dogs who wanted a piece of him.

Literally.

Hearing the commotion, our pembantu came out of her room, saw what was happening, and grabbed a broom. (Just one of the many, many reasons I loved this woman…I don’t think she was afraid of anything.)

She expressed her idea to contain the rat by opening the door to the garage…and the rat eventually ran in there, followed closely by the dogs, herself, and my husband. (I stayed outside and listened.) 😉

It was one of those seriously hilarious scenes, even though I couldn’t actually see what was going on. There was noise, clatter, and even things falling over as four beings were in hot pursuit of this terrifying beast. I could hear her smacking at it with a broom, the dogs growling…it was really hysterical. (And I was totally laughing while I listened to it all.)

And then…quiet.

Pin-drop quiet.

The door opened, and Andre…ratless…emerged. The look on his face expressed all I needed to know.

He was extremely proud of his kill. (The one that our awesome pembantu was now picking up with a plastic bag and disposing.)

We were just breathing silent prayers of thanks that Andre had been the one to get the rat and not Sammy since many of our belongings were stored in the garage.

And that particular rat kill was over.

Oh, there were more…and they continued up until we left the country because, well, the rats continued.

There have been many times when this story has come up in conversation with friends…it was one of those that we’ll never forget. Yeah, it’s a little (or a lot) yucky, but may it was the proof we needed…

Proof that God can always give us the strength to survive some pretty unpleasant situations.

And laugh about them…and even cherish the memories of them…later.

_____________________

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!

Sig

Lessons From Indonesia: Always There

sammy 600 final
Haha…I’m laughing to myself.

😀

SERIOUSLY.

The things I will do to put off posting on Mondays.

Oh, don’t misunderstand me, please…I want to share these stories.

But sometimes I have to get over myself first, and it takes random things like shoveling FEET of snow and wasting my brain on old NKOTB videos (thanks to my bloggy sister who posted that one) 😉 before I’m quite ready to go there.

The truth is that my Monday morning snark really has nothing to do with this chapter.

Right now I have a lot of words to choose from…of course, that will change as the weeks go by. Well, unless I write more chapters, which will probably happen…there are even a few more ideas saved in the notes section on my phone right now. :)

So I asked my hubby yesterday which one I should share…and he immediately said, Sammy.

He hasn’t read my book…in fact, there are only a handful of friends who have seen a few pieces of it and one friend who’s read the whole thing. Tobin is reading it right along with the rest of you, and yet, somehow he knew there would be a chapter about this.

He knows me and he knows the many things God used to shape me during our time in Indonesia. They weren’t always easy things…and this is definitely one of them that is still painful.

A slight disclaimer: this is oh-so-very-UNedited. And it made me laugh when I read the two scenarios that I managed to combine. But to me it makes sense. And even if it doesn’t to you, I hope the truth here will resonate.

It’s one I need today…and every day.

Thank you for being here. I mean that from the bottom of my heart.

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20

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.
Deuteronomy 31:8

I haven’t made it a secret that Indonesia was not easy.

It wasn’t something I dwelled on as we lived the day-to-day, but there were definitely moments when it became a blunt, in-my-face reminder.

There were moments of homesickness that made me hide under a blanket, curl up into a ball, cry every tear inside me…and eventually bring myself to the point of realizing that since I couldn’t will myself “home” that I would have to crawl out of my cave of despair and face life again.

I always came out, and life always went on, and it even included smiles.

I will never forget a certain day in Decemeber of 2005.

We’d been in the country less than five months…definitely still members in good standing of the newbie group.

But we also wanted to break out of that somewhat and learn to live in this place that was our home and would be just that until God gave us a definitive calling for something else.

And as part of our “breaking out?”

We hopped on the motorbike, determined to find a certain restaurant I had eaten at once.

One. Time.

One time, a little restaurant, in a city of about three million people.

We had a vague idea of where it was, but compounding that very vagueness was a maze of one-way streets. A drive that should have taken us fifteen minutes left us still on the bike ninety minutes later, the sun beating down, the dreaded farmer tan forming on my arms, and our spirits sinking.

Oh, and we had a form of bike butt that I can’t even talk about. Because, for some reason, I remember the pain, and it still makes me cringe.

It was one of the worst feelings to be so lost and have no clue where we were going. (Or, if we were going to get there. Ever.)

Anyway, more and more and more wrong turns later, and after almost two hours of driving around (with a gas stop for a very empty tank), we finally arrived at the restaurant. Ate lunch. Did a little shopping at the outlet store next to it. And left.

Feeling a euphoria mixed with some form of what-on-earth-just happened-here.

Frustration could have ruled the day, but we were both in the same place, I think.

We were finally, really living in this place…finding our independence.

And it felt spectacular.

But was that day easy? Absolutely not. As much as it is etched in my mind for eternity, it is not a day I want to repeat. Ever. (Well, I would repeat the lunch-and-shopping part of it…those were definitely aspects I always enjoyed.) :)

There were so many days and even weeks like that…times when we were left to figure things out or trust that it would all work out even when we had no clue how that might happen. Things always did work out, but sometimes not without a lot of confusion, frustration…and tears.

Perhaps one of the hardest things we experienced was so much like this first account…and yet so different.

We’d just begun our third year of Indonesia life, and we were no longer the new kids in town. We were moving into the mentor role and had just spent the week prior with new staff, helping them set up their houses.

It was a good place to be…and we were truly enjoying life and where God had placed us. We were also coming off of a summer spent in Indonesia…the one summer we chose not to return to the U.S. It had been a difficult two months but was not without blessings, either…including a trip to Bali to celebrate our 5th anniversary.

We’d also had some transparent talks as a couple about our relationship with God and how we both felt there were areas we could improve, specifically with spending more time in His Word.

For the previous two weeks we’d been intentionally rising early to do this in the morning rather than late at night as our eyelids began to droop.

We were being intentional…and we were growing.

That’s why we were blindsided…We. Just. Didn’t. See. It. Coming.

It was a Wednesday morning, and I had just sent my fourth graders to their specials class. I was attempting to dig through the stack of grading that had somehow miraculously appeared on my desk, just two weeks into the new school year, when my husband walked into my room.

I took one look at his face and knew instantly that something was very, very wrong.

Sammy’s gone.

Those words still bring tears to my eyes as I, once again, see the image in my mind of my husband standing in front of me, tears in his own eyes.

Though our pembantu (house helper) was at our house and it was broad daylight, someone had stolen our precious golden retriever without anyone seeing.

To say that the days that followed were horrible is an understatement. We couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t function…and yet all of our school responsibilities went on as expected. My students became accustomed to a teacher who did all the things asked of her but did so with red, swollen eyes and a spirit that seemed to be sinking lower with each passing minute.

We spent every free moment combing the city, blanketing it with fliers, and taking locals with us who would translate for us as we explained to pet stores and the two “stolen” dog markets that there was a big reward, and we would not call the police. We just wanted our dog back.

And in between those things and teaching, we would just try to breathe…somehow.

But it almost felt like helpless floundering.

We felt so lost.

I remember the Sunday that followed because I just couldn’t take it anymore.

The pain was too great, my heart was too heavy, and my God seemed too far away.

I found myself face-down to the floor, my forehead pressed against the ever-dusty tile, and wept to that God. The One Who had promised that He cared for His children, the One Who said He cared about the robins and sparrows, the One Who had promised He’d always walk by my side.

I don’t know how long I stayed in that position, but I know it was for a while because I had a pretty good mark on my forehead for a few days. And I can’t even tell you everything I said between my tears, but I do know that I told God, Sammy’s Yours. I want him back, but he’s Yours.

Two days later, Sammy was returned to us through a series of events that I know my Father orchestrated…but that one is deserving of its own chapter.

Again…that feeling of complete bliss but mixed with some wondering, too, of what on earth had just happened to us.

Having our precious doggy-boy returned to us was a day neither of us will ever forget, but is it a day or a week that we ever want to repeat?

I don’t think that question even bears the need for an answer.

And we’ve since revisited those emotions…emotions that can still be strong enough to bring tears. I’ve combed through the story in the past, searching for something deeper that God may be still trying to teach me, and I think I’ve finally found it in the midst of another season when I just don’t see.

It’s not earth-shattering, it’s not going to shock any of you.

But it is Truth.

There are times in life that are just hard. And while we cry and hurt and wonder, we must never, ever forget Him…He is always there, even when it doesn’t feel like it.

Today my Sammy is still his crazy, loud, wonderful, golden-retriever self…and he is a living reminder of this Truth.

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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!

Sig

See Ya, 2014

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It’s safe to say, almost-a-million times, that I’ve put off writing this post.

I’ve been aware for several weeks that I needed to sit down and, somehow, find a way to put 2014 into words.

Words that are honest but also bring hope. Words that remember but also look forward.

It’s proven to be much more of a challenge than I thought it would be.

But that’s ok. Today I’m finding you and my blog dashboard after an embarrassingly-late sleep in and two large mugs of coffee…and I think I’m ready to share.

So let’s get to it. Though I am extremely tempted to refill the coffee mug yet again before I chat. We’ll see. 😉

When I look back a year and read through some of the things I shared with you all, I realize something. I had so much hope for 2014.

That hope looked like a lot of things. Restoration in relationships, especially my marriage. Hopefully an addition to our family. Topping it all off with a book deal.

I like to dream big. :)

When I make that list of things, there is a certain semblance of failure that threatens to creep into my heart. And while I won’t let it creep in, the tears are definitely creeping toward the corners of my eyes, and I have to blink them back.

There’s so much I wanted from 2014…so much that wasn’t just NOT given, but was also taken. It’s easy to dwell on those things and let them define a year.

A year. The truth is that we had a packed year. A crazy one. A difficult one. And there was a lot of good in the middle of it.

This was the year we finally got to take our sweet girl to our second home. I still can’t stop the tears of joy when I think of the first time we introduced her to strawberry juice or she rode on a motorbike or she gave our beloved pembantu a hug. We had dreamed of being back in Indonesia as a family, and I still have to pinch myself when I remember that we actually got to go.

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There were also some pretty sweet reunions with some of my favorite sisters.
To steal a line from Logan…or was it Sarah Mae? 😉 It still blows my mind that the internet gave me some of my best friends. They are truly a gift, one I am so grateful for.

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And part of me wishes I could just stop there so you could all see the good…but I know I need to keep going and keep it real. :) Because there are other pieces of the year that need to be shared…

And they SHOULD be remembered because they’re forever-pieces of the story He’s writing.

The hope our family had of another child broke to shards on a sunny July morning, and it has taken months to even begin to pick up the pieces. Our hearts still ache and the tears still fall, and while I will make no apologies for those things, I also know that I need to hold onto Hope and continue to walk forward. It’s there, even when I don’t see it, and I need to claim the promise that His plans for me are good ones.

We said a heart-wrenching goodbye in September to a beloved member of our family. It was a sudden, painful blow, and while there are so many good memories of the wonderful 11 years with our sweet boy, we just hurt. Still. And we accept that He gives and takes away, but that isn’t without tears. And those tears just have to be part of life for this season as we move forward and love the ones we hold in our arms.

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And maybe a silver lining in all of this loss is that God has knit us closer together as a family and especially in our marriage.
We have clung to each other as we’ve tried to cling to Him. God has deepened our marriage, forcing us to walk with Him together on the many, many days we don’t see. We love each other more deeply (though we can still argue with the best of them!) and we choose to walk this life together, now, more than ever…even if there are days when it’s tempting to throw it all away.

And we also hold on a little tighter to our girl, too…though she did give me a reminder the other day. Mommy, soon I’ll be too big for your arms! Never, my girl. Never. 😉

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I’ve also watched Him take the book-writing dream and say a firm, No.
That one…it’s hard to swallow. Writing and publishing a book has been so much of what I’ve let define me as a blogger…and yet, it’s not what He’s calling me to.

That makes me cry, kind of a lot. And yet, through so many things, I know He is just saying that it isn’t what I should be doing right now. I’m being called to a season of depth and connection, not building and branding. I’ve needed to let go…for awhile now. And as I’ve slowly accepted that and loosened my grip, I can’t tell you how much peace it’s brought. How much pressure it’s released.

And it’s also confirmed something in my heart.

You see, I want to tell my stories. I don’t want to sell them.

And so…you’re all going to be getting them this year. On the blog. Every Monday, I’m going to share one. Unedited, raw, heart-stories that come from a tender place in my soul from an unforgettable time in my life. Stories He gave me that I want to share.

I lived them, and so it’s time to tell them. I hope you’ll be back every week to read them. :)

Honestly, it’s easy to read all of this and and wonder how on earth so many paradoxes can coexist. In some ways I’m shaking my head…but mostly, I have to remind myself that I don’t see the whole picture. Oh, I’d love to…but alas. 😉

If I’m being completely honest here, it’s tempting to say (audibly AND loudly), See ya, 2014. Don’t let the door smack you too hard in the #!* on the way out!

Brutal honesty here, folks. 😉

And yet, I want to walk away from this year, knowing without a doubt that none of it was wasted.

I see it so much already…in the prospect of sharing my words for the simple fact that I can tell my stories, in expectantly looking forward to the good He holds for us, in the ways He is taking the heartbreak and making something beautiful from it.

It’s what I hope for in 2015.

Which brings us TO 2015…at least tomorrow. Will you come back? I want to tell you about the word He’s given me for the year.

It holds Hope, a different kind. One that I think He might be using to knit our hearts back together.

I truly love each one of you who have spent even a few seconds here. Thank you for that, from the bottom of my heart.

Goodbye, 2014.

(And have a Happy New Year, my friends!) :)

Photo Credits: Kim Deloach Photography, Alan Levine

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I’m linking up at God-sized Dreams today as part of our One Year Celebration…seriously, can you believe it’s been a year?! We’re all sharing stories and updates from what God has done this year…so hop on over and join us. :)

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I’m also linking up with my sweet friend, Kristin, for Three Word Wednesday. :)

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Sig

As I Am

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I love this picture of Sammy.

It’s just him on any day…I honestly don’t even remember which day this was. He was just lying down. Being cute. Not even moving when I pulled out my phone for a photo…yeah. He just is.

Nothing special but maybe everything that is special. And I love it. :)

So it’s been three weeks since there have been words here.

And today I finally decided it’s ok to write no matter what.

Honestly, I’ve been waiting for something. And if I continue to wait for it…I guess there wouldn’t be words today. Or maybe for a lot more days.

I’ve been waiting for that moment when I had the grief thing figured out. The kind of day when the smiles just came and the words poured. The kind when I felt no pain or no sadness or no wishing for what might have been. The kind when I could admit that I’d moved on completely.

And then I realized that’s just not life. And it’s not what He wants for me, either.

Just like He wants every day, He wants me to come as I am.

And that’s hard. But it’s the right thing to do.

It’s hard to sit and pour things from a heart that’s been beaten down. A heart that struggles to find Hope even though I know it’s there. A heart that has been through so much loss and has wondered…often…if God is really there.

My hubby and I were talking on Sunday during our long road trip from Minnesota to home about that. About how so many times during this season we’ve had to fall back on what we know of our Father…because we have a hard time feeling any of it.

As I am…it looks rough. Ragged. Puffy, tired eyes. A few extra pounds from the running that hasn’t happened.

And when I took a selfie a couple of days ago, I could see it all. I could see a thousand things that were wrong with this picture.

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I was tempted to change the color settings, to crop things a little…to make it look a little better than it actually is.

But the truth? Is that God doesn’t want that from any of us. He doesn’t ask us to spend hours on the way things appear before we come to Him.

He already knows it. All of it. And the best part of it all is that He chooses to love us despite it. Despite the flaws, despite the imperfections.

I don’t have this all figured out.

I don’t know what my days are going to look like.

Tomorrow might be a truly wonderful day…full of laughter and sunshine and memories with my girl.

Or, it might be a hard day, too…with tears and questions and more tears.

And that’s ok.

Today it’s ok, and tomorrow it is, too.

Because His mercies and His promises are for me every day…not just on the days when life feels good.

It’s part of the journey and it’s where I am.

As I am.

Sig

My Andre…

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It’s been three days.

It seems like so much longer, but that’s how hard days can seem. The way they stretch and linger is painful…heart-wrenching.

He and I, we sat on the couch together three days ago. He was resting, his chest rising and falling…my hand there with every breath. In between games of Sudoku…something to keep my mind off of it all…I’d look over at him.

Feel the tears well up.

Whisper a prayer that it was all a bad dream.

Breathe into his ear how much I loved him.

Repeat.

We knew it. The vet had confirmed it just the day before, but we knew. We knew it was almost over.

Eleven years that had made up a lifetime were about to end.

It was soul-crushing, the kind that leaves a hollow, painfully deep ache.

And even in the ache, I caught myself reflecting…

Reflecting on a life together that began on a beautiful September Saturday in 2003. He bounded toward us, and I almost said no because he was bigger than the cute, wiggly, 12 week-old puppy I really wanted. But there was something about him, and we just knew.

We knew this was our puppy. And so we took this almost-five-month-old, still wiggly, ball of fur home with us and named him Andre.

He was totally an Andre…always happy, a little goofy, and perfectly sweet. We were in love immediately.

He bounded into our lives, ready to take on any adventures that might come with it. And had he known what was coming, maybe he would have turned around…but he didn’t. He stayed, he boarded planes, he crossed cultures, he welcomed more family members, he followed us wherever we went…and he lived every single day with exuberance.

Every single day for eleven plus years…and those years passed by too quickly.

And we watched the calendar pages turn, wondering where it was going. The one consolation was that he was still so much a puppy…so playful, so full of love.

And it continued until the end. Only in his last weeks did he show signs of slowing down…and that was why my hubby decided he needed to be checked out.

It didn’t take long to hear the words tumors and a week or two…and those words broke our hearts to shards. He wasn’t in any pain…but we carried that pain.

Knowing that he could slip away at any moment made it hard to even breathe.

Just 24 hours after we knew, it was time. We watched through tears as he used up the last of his love on people…that was so Andre. And then, exhausted, he found a spot in the grass to breathe in some of his last moments. We carried him to the van, and Tobin and I went.

We drove in tears, we gave final hugs, we went into the room, the three of us together for the last time.

We held him and told him, over and over, what he already knew. We loved him so much…and he had been the best dog in the world.

And my arms were wrapped around him, my hand on his heart, when he went.

The tears fell…more than I’ve ever cried, I think…as we said goodbye and forced ourselves to leave the room and find our way home…a home that will never feel the same again.

It’s three days later, and the tears still pour.

I miss my boy. I miss the way he greeted me with a smile and a butt wiggle multiple times a day. I miss the way every second was a gift worthy to be lived with exuberance. I miss the cuddles and the snuggles and the endless amounts of dog hair all over me.

I miss it all so much.

I miss him. And I will forever.

And I sometimes wonder why we chose it when we knew it would come to an end. But, really, we know the answer to that…and it’s the same answer that helps us breathe through the moments that hurt so much.

It’s Love. He lived it so well.

And so we laugh through the tears and smile and talk about the Andre stories…about the times he went swimming in places he shouldn’t have, about the time he ran into a tree, about the millions of ways he filled our lives with love.

We go on. Because the best way for us to honor his life is to live ours like he did.

Goodbye, sweet, sweet boy. You were a gift to us in ways we can’t even describe. We thought we were making your life better when we brought you home, but you were the one who made us better. Blessed us. And gave us a life full of love that will stay with us forever.

To Andre. You are forever a part of us…and forever in our hearts.

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Sig

Behind the Scenes: The Blanket Stealer

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Today’s post comes courtesy of a wife and mama who’s had a scattered Monday. Hey, sometimes it just happens. 😉

When I can’t focus, I talk about the fluff.

And today…well, it’s literal fluff. 😉

If you’ve been around this place awhile, you know about Sammy.

He’s our younger golden of the two at eight years old, but he acts about eight months old. He’s all crazy puppy and all love. Truly. And you will also never, ever meet a more loyal dog.

We kinda love him. A lot.

And it’s not really a secret in our house that our dogs are a bit spoiled. Not completely, but there are certain things they get away with. They regularly make themselves comfortable on our bed or on the furniture. (We just clean the dog hair off a lot. Pretty much every day, or at least it feels like it.) They beg when we eat. While we make them lie down while we’re actually eating, they do usually get a scrap of people food. And there are presents for them on Christmas and cuddles for them every day.

Every hour. 😉

They’re part of the family, and if dogs can reason, I’m pretty sure they know that.

Around Christmas time, I was the recipient of two awesome blankets. A sherpa throw that is UH-mazing and a heated blanket that has been my best friend during this never-ending thing called the Polar Vortex.

I will occasionally have to wrestle these blankets away from my daughter…she clearly shares her mama’s love of NOT. BEING. COLD.

Don’t worry…there’s zero bitterness in there. 😉

But my dog? Really?

I literally hopped off the couch for less than two minutes to run upstairs and do something. Left the heated blanket on because, well…IT’S COLD and I really can’t wait to Just. Crawl. Back. Under. It. And. Be. Warm. Again.

I thunder down the stairs, turn the corner, and…

Sammy.

On my blanket AND my pillow. All cozied in and snuggled up and looking about as cute as he possibly can.

Oh, the eyes…the please-don’t-move-me, look. Melt.

And while everything in me just wanted MY BLANKET BACK, it was too cute not to photograph. Hubby is good with a camera, yeah?

So that’s the story.

Of my cute, furry, sweet golden retriever and how he totally steals blankets and the comfiest spots in the house.

And since I know you’re wondering, T convinced him to scoot over a few minutes later, just enough so I could reclaim my spot.

And then he snuggled right up next to me.

It was a good afternoon. :)

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Happy Tuesday, friends! Today I’m linking up at Crystal’s space for Behind the Scenes with some of my favorite friends. We’re sharing the silly and sweet and sometimes-tear-jerking moments that happen behind the camera lens…I hope you’ll take some time and pop over to read some great stories.

Social media and online relationships can make us feel like everyone else has it all together. We’re edited, proof-read, Pinterest-perfect versions of ourselves (or so some might think!) when – in reality? There is an unfinished pile of laundry around the corner. That cute toddler smiling for the camera just had a massive meltdown seconds ago. That yummy breakfast-for-dinner you just showed us on Instagram? It’s because the cat licked the chicken that was supposed to be for dinner.

“Behind the Scenes” is a fun link up where we show those photos – but tell the real story behind them. The sneak peek behind the scenes, a look past the edges of the photo to the real life behind it.

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Sig

Behind the Scenes: Sammy

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Aaaahhhh, Sammy.

Meet one of my two “boys.” :)

And behind this picture…more stories than I can possibly begin to tell you.

I could tell you that the reason we have him is because he and I fell in love one night in a pet shop in Bandung, Indonesia and how I had to take him home in a taxi…and how the taxi driver charged me double for the simple reason that he didn’t like dogs and he could.

I could tell you about the utter heartbreak we experienced when he was stolen from us and missing for six days…and how we paid a ransom, literally, to get him back. (That story is in the book… ;))

But today, I’m just going to tell a bit of the silly and sweet of this crazy, lovable, completely loyal pooch named Sammy.

We tell people that he is our Indonesian dog, which is true. Andre is from America, Sammy is from Indonesia

and I kind of think it’s cute that it ended up that way.

Sammy has been, from day one, all kinds of mischievous and loyal and ornery and loving, rolled up into one, big, lion-ish golden retriever with Really. Big. Paws.

No joke.

For years we’ve found it hilarious that he will lie in the direct sunlight when it’s HOT out, and take a nap.

That would be what he’s doing in this particular photo. 😉

Andre is usually lying nearby in the shade because he gets that lying in the sun is…well, it’s HOT.

Especially when you have golden retriever fur.

Not that I would know…I’m just imagining here. :)

He would do it on a daily basis when we lived in Indonesia. (Read: when the temperatures were pushing 95 or 100.)

We would watch him and think he was crazy as we still-sweated in our not-outside-in-the-sun living room. Yet a good part of his days were spent basking in the glorious (and did I mention HOT?!) tropical sunshine.

Maybe he was soaking up all he could because he knew eventually we’d stick him on a plane bound for the Midwest. And snow. Which he loves, by the way..

The truth with this dog is that he’s always been a little odd.

The first time we offered him ham, he wouldn’t eat it. What dog turns down meat?

His first interaction with Andre, as a twenty-or-less pound puppy, began with him trying to jump on top of our poor, confused, American dog. We still laugh about that.

He always has to have something in his mouth…usually in the form of a stuffed animal. (And he will steal one of Maelie’s if he can’t find one of his four or five.)

He still lives to greet us at the door in his usual, run-full-speed-and-almost-knock-us-over, manner…whether we’ve been gone for a week or two minutes.

The truth is, this crazy dog wormed his way into our hearts immediately…

And we love him like the crazy that he is.

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It’s Tuesday, and this link up at my friend, Crystal’s place is becoming one of my favorites. It’s pretty sweet (and sometimes tear-jerking, so bring tissues) to read the stories that come with the photos of life…especially the photos where there’s so much more going on than what we see.

Social media and online relationships can make us feel like everyone else has it all together. We’re edited, proof-read, Pinterest-perfect versions of ourselves (or so some might think!) when – in reality? There is an unfinished pile of laundry around the corner. That cute toddler smiling for the camera just had a massive meltdown seconds ago. That yummy breakfast-for-dinner you just showed us on Instagram? It’s because the cat licked the chicken that was supposed to be for dinner.

“Behind the Scenes” is a fun link up where we show those photos – but tell the real story behind them. The sneak peek behind the scenes, a look past the edges of the photo to the real life behind it.

Take some time and come on over to check out the silly and sweet of what goes on behind the camera lens…I promise you’ll leave smiling.

crystalstine.me

Sig

Currently…

Been awhile since I’ve done this one. And it’s a good way to wind down on a Sunday night. :)

Current Reads: Just finished Unglued (Lysa Teurkeurst)…we read that one for Mom’s Bible Study. It was so, so good…I recommend it to just about anyone. Just about finished with A Year of Biblical Womanhood (Rachel Held Evans) which has been a fun and challenging read. Also almost finished with The Do-What-You-Can Plan (Holley Gerth) and so excited to dive into her new book, You’re Made for a God-Sized Dream! (Planning to start it tomorrow!)

Current Playlist: I actually just made a new favorites/running playlist a few days ago. Even splurged and bought a few new favorite songs on iTunes. This one is definitely toward the top of the list…I even hold my own little karaoke session in the car whenever it’s on. :)

Current Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure: These. Found on Pinterest, of course. 😉 I decided that even if we didn’t have plans for the Super Bowl, we could still eat something yummy. Oh, my.

Current Colors: Gray and mustard yellow, green, cream, black. Lovin’ a lot of colors right now.

Current Fetish: Leg warmers and tall boots…two things I love about being cold and am desperately trying to wear as often as possible. :)

Current Food: See above. Though we went out for some pretty amazing buffalo chicken pizza here last night. Gotta be a winner when you combine two of my favorites.

Current Drink: Water. Though thinking about making some coffee. Yes, I’m boring. 😉

Current Wishlist: Nothing, really. I’m boring? A new laptop, but that will have to wait. Still got a few miles left in this new-to-me one. 😉

Current Needs: Peace…and more trust in my Father through some uncertainties that seem to be looming on the horizon. He is Good.

Current Triumph: A pretty fantastic week (minus a few isolated incidents) with my daughter. Less and less temper tantrums, less and less mama-frustration…lots more happy memories and bonding moments. She is my sunshine. :)

Current Bane-of-my-Existence: Rude drivers who don’t obey merge signs. (Not that I’ve had a recent experience with that or anything. ;))

Current Celebrity Crush: Well, there’s this pretty cool guy. And he’s married to a girl who could maybe be a published author in the near future. And that would make him a celebrity, right? Yeah, I’ve got a crush on him. 😉

Current Indulgence: Too much coffee. I blame it on the creamer…always the creamer. And that sinful, buttery dessert I may have mentioned a few times already.

Current Mood: Subdued with a bit of guilt. I should be trying to add a chapter or two to the rough draft tonight. (Though there is definitely still time since I don’t really care about the game. ;))

Current #1 Blessing: One? Really? My little family. My sweet friends. My Father and His love for me.

Current Slang or Saying: Oy; Oh, goodness; Really?!

Current Outfit: Hoodie, jeans, and my favorite slipper boots.

Current Link: I always hate this one. I’ve got a bunch of new faves on the sidebar of my blog…feel free to check ’em out! :)

Current Photo: Tonight you get me and my sweet boy, Andre. Love him. :)

Happy almost-Monday, friends! Hope your weekend was a good one.

Sig