About a Year…and What’s to Come

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Ha ha…I’m getting pretty good at writing on the last day of the month and no other days. I guess that’s just life right now.

I’m honestly still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that 2015 is hours from ending, and I’m not exactly sure where it went. (I’m also wondering if this blog post is actually going to make it…it’s 11:45 and I still haven’t posted.) πŸ˜‰

I mean…there were milestones. There were lots of things that happened. Lots of good. Some bad. Probably a few things I’ve blocked from my memory, too, and that’s ok.

There were sweet family moments and vacations…hello great, BIG, I-love-you, New York City! There were friend moments and lots of coffee and chats at a picnic table I actually built. I know. πŸ˜‰ There were laughs and giggles with my girl as we rang in the big FIVE (really? how did this happen???) and so many memories that I can’t even really begin to count them all. Oh, and I ran a ridiculously long race that I will probably never do again. And I got a tattoo.

And there were challenging moments, too…days of marriage that required surrender and forgiveness and humility. Times we wished for different circumstances. Sickness and disease in people we love…and those brought us to our knees and forced us to give thanks both in the healing and in the dying.

Whew. There was a lot.

But despite all of that, I’ll look back at this year as a good one. Read on. :)

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So a year ago, I chose a word.

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Open.

I was determined to be open to whatever it was that God had for us, especially me, in 2015.

I thought I knew what that was, and it included adoption.

So I was open…but with a plan for those doors that would open.

And then…it just didn’t happen. We had some good conversations and prayed, and it didn’t seem that, in this season, adoption was right for our family.

I was content with that and content to move forward as a family of three.

God was definitely working on me when it came to being satisfied with what He gives.

And so, instead of grief, we embraced the milestones. The first day of Kindergarten and her first time wearing a school uniform. (Cue the cuteness.) The first lost tooth, followed by another. The fact that Mae seemed to grow inches overnight and we had to keep buying new clothes. Her first season of soccer. Her first Christmas service.

Oy…I could keep going forever. So many firsts. Wonderful ones.

And we embraced them, knowing that most likely, those firsts would be onlys and lasts, too.

In October I flew out to New Jersey/New York to see some friends. During my time there, I had a pretty intense conversation with a friend where I told her, We’re done. And I’m ok with it.

And I was.

And then there was this morning in November. I’d wondered for a couple weeks before because I felt off. On a whim, I peed on a stick.

Yep. God has a sense of humor…and a plan so far greater than anything I could ever plan for myself.

2016 is going to bring a lot of things…included in it, a new baby in July.

I’d still be trying to wrap my mind around it all except I’ve been so dang sick that I am obviously pregnant (well, and we’ve gotten a heartbeat…), and at 10 weeks, have already just about exhausted all of the medication possibilities available to me. One has kinda worked, so we’re going with it for now. And, in between, I sleep and try to survive (and, yes, puke) a lot.

Not how I would have pictured it, but I tell myself continually to give thanks.

God is good, even when we don’t see it.

And I know without a doubt that this is good, too.

I’m not choosing a word for 2016.

I never really thought of one or felt like there was something specific God was putting on my heart. I suppose I could choose baby πŸ˜‰ but I think I’m just going to go with taking the year as it comes and waiting on Him each day for what He has for my heart.

He’s continually making things new, and that’s a pretty awesome promise to cling to.

My family…we’d appreciate your prayers. While this is the second time I’ve gone through this…it’s tougher this time around. I’ve been sicker, and I’ve also got an active five year-old to keep up with, too.

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By the way, she’s completely over the moon and can’t wait to change all the diapers.

Golly, I love her. :)

So I’m not sure what all we’re looking at this coming year. Lots of changes, definitely. πŸ˜‰ I’d like to keep up with the blog. I’d like to keep writing for the two sites I contribute to. I hope that will happen and that this online space won’t completely die off, too. Because I love it…and it’s special.

But no matter how often…or not…I check in, I think I’ll be around. There will be too many fun things I’ll want to share with y’all.

So here’s to a great year…and to 2016!

Happy New Year, friends. XO

Sig

September Friday Favorites (+ a GIVEAWAY)

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Hi, friends. And, happy fall! (I love that I can officially say that.) :)

So I’m sliding in late this Friday…and I’ve also written this post once already, and then I decided to delete the 1,000+ words and start over. I guess some days are like that.

I want to give y’all a glimpse into life…and also to share the joy when I talk about my month and my faves. I was in just a little too snarky of a mood when I wrote the first round…so we’ll see if the snark reduces a little this time. πŸ˜‰

When I realized it was time to write this post, I decided that there are a lot of other things I could have (and probably should have) called it. Like…

That Post Where Mel Admits She Basically Hasn’t Written Anything in a Month

OR

All About Making Friends With Other Moms in Target

OR

The Day Mel Got an Extra T-shirt in the Mail and Decided to Ask if She Could Give it Away on Her Blog

So, let’s just roll with all of them, ok? πŸ˜‰

Here we go…it feels good to end the 3+ weeks of not-so-many (translation: N.O.) words. (Don’t fall off your seat or anything, but I also already have a post written for next week. I. KNOW. I like Riesling, should you feel led to send me a bottle of wine to celebrate.)

πŸ˜‰

READ

We’re being totally honest here, right?

I haven’t read much at all this month. Sadly, not even my Bible has been opened every day. I think it’s a season…and I seem to go all or nothing, meaning I read twelve books at once or none at all. There are so many good ones out there, especially by women I know and love, but I just haven’t been able to…to focus long enough and actually keep a book open long enough to finish it.

And herein, I give myself some grace…and vow to do better tomorrow.

But I do have to share a blog post, written my GSD friend, Kayse. Honestly, the whole thing kinda breaks my heart, and I hate that this happened to her (you’ll just have to read it) BUT I love how she processed it and responded. So you should definitely hop over and read about the time a woman tried to parent her child in Target.

And as a side note, I’ve been feeling convicted about going out of my way to encourage other moms, especially after reading her post. Sometimes my to-do lists and shopping lists and general moods just get in the way of taking the time to encourage. Yesterday, I found out that being intentional can sometimes make my day…and someone else’s, too. I got to play a game of “soccer” with a sweet, two year-old boy and chat with his mama while we waited in line at Target.

And can I just say that it felt insanely awesome to trade confessions of the cereals we sometimes feed our kids? :) (No All-Bran in this house. Think Cookie Crisp. Which is delicious, by the way.)

WATCH

I’m beyond excited that there’s a new season of The Voice happening. Whoop, whoop! Other than that, I’m a TV failure. I know nothing about any of the current shows, other than an occasional flipping to HGTV in order to dream myself some big, home-renovating dreams. πŸ˜‰

WEAR

This is always my favorite one. :)

So I have this dress that I’ve been waiting to wear. I saved it for a getaway my hubby and I were planning to have this past Wednesday-Thursday in a cute little town about an hour north of us. Sadly, our girl came down with strep throat (at least we think so…still waiting on results), and we had to cancel. (And are hopefully rescheduling for this coming week.)

So this beauty may get to see the light of day at least once this year. (Here’s a sneak peek…golly, I love a cute dress.) :)

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A few weeks ago, a friend and I were talking about how much we love a particular saying and how we both wanted it on a t-shirt. So, of course, I went to my beloved Etsy and found the perfect one and ordered two. They came, we both loved them…YAY! And then a few days later, I got two more in the mail.

coffee&Jesus finalPhoto Credit: SavChicBoutique (Etsy)

And I sorta felt like it was my super lucky day since I now had enough of this particular shirt to rock it for the rest of my life, but I knew I should tell the sweet girl who runs her Etsy shop about the mistake. And so I emailed Ashley at Savannah Chic Boutique and told her, and she was SO KIND and told me to give one of the shirts away on my blog and send the other one back. She’s just starting her store, and goodness…her stuff is so cute, and she’s such a sweetheart. (Hop over there or to her Facebook page and check it all out?) :)

And of course I said thank you…and now I’m so excited to pass on the love to one of you! Y’all…I love this t-shirt. And one of you will love it, too! (See the end of this post for how you can win it!) :)

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GO

So…my feet have been going a lot lately. I signed up for a horrendously long (to me) race, which means I. HAVE. TO. RUN. SO. I. DON’T. DIE. ON. THE. DOWNTOWN. CHICAGO. PAVEMENT. (9.3 miles feels like a lot. Just sayin’.)

It’s this race, and maybe the only thing that will keep me going is the chocolate at the end, but a confession? There’s a part of me that really, really wants to reach my goal of actually running the whole thing. I’m shooting for 1 hour 30…just under a 10:00 pace. We shall see. Sometimes I have really lofty goals…but sometimes I surprise myself, too. πŸ˜‰

So I’ve been pricing trips to Indonesia lately, and I knew it was gonna happen. Two months ago, tickets were hovering around $900 each. (I know. I know. I shoulda bit the bullet and just bought them.) Yesterday? $1700. And so goes goodbye to any chance of an Indo trip Maelie and I may have had in 2016. (In reality, prices could go down again…you’d better believe I’ll be watching them like a hawk.)

BUT. On the flip side I’m headed out to New Jersey/NYC to visit my dear friend in a few weeks. That’s exciting, and I’ve been looking forward to it since April. :)

And, a random blessing today that doesn’t involve travel but that’s ok…my sweet girl is feeling so much better, and we even took a little walk today. I love her so much…and I’m so glad she’s (mostly) back to her spunky, silly, full-of-love, self. :)

Mae+Mel selfie final

So that’s September and what life is looking like around here. :)

I’d love for you to enter to win the t-shirt I talked about. Click on the Rafflecopter link and follow the directions.

For reference, the t-shirt is a women’s size large that I think fits like a slouchy medium. I’m a size 6-8, and it’s a little big on me. (Trust me, you want this shirt. And if it’s not in your size, you can always pass on the coffee/Jesus love to a friend.) :)

Happy Friday, friends! Now click this link and enter. :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sig

The Random of July…

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I really have no clue how today is August. Did this catch anyone else by surprise?

I knew time would fly this summer, but I didn’t expect it to go quite so quickly. But we’re coming to the end, and goodbye, July. :(

I usually close out each month with a list of favorite things. And when I started to make that list, I sort of started to feel guilty.

I haven’t read much of anything this month. (Though I have Wild in the Hollow sitting on the table next to me. Now I just need two or three, blissfully uninterrupted hours and a cup of coffee. I’m very much looking forward to it.) πŸ˜‰

I haven’t watched much, either. (Except season 7 of Little House on the Prairie. I’m watching them in order. It’s not my favorite one so far, but it’s good.)

Of course I have favorite things I wear because I’m a girl and I like clothes. And hubby bought me the uber cutest, most funky dress (it has POCKETS!) from my new favorite store as a late birthday surprise, and it will be making an appearance sometime over the weekend…either at church or on our anniversary on Monday. But, really, who wants to read about another dress?

Ok, ok, so maybe you do. I’ll share someday. πŸ˜‰

But I sort of feel like I fell off the favorite things bandwagon just a tad. So I’m going to sum up the month of July with the random of life. That’s good too, right? In this case, the random are also favorites. :)

Every July my sweet friend comes to visit from Texas for the month. Her parents live in our neighborhood, and so she brings her son with her, and they hang out here, visiting family while escaping the oppressive, summer-Texas heat. (I’m just guessing it’s oppressive…I’ve never actually experienced it.) πŸ˜‰ She and I have shared many coffees and long chats in the last weeks, our two kiddos have had a blast together, and we’ve so loved having them here. They’re leaving tomorrow to go home…and we’re really going to miss them. Like, the kind of missing where if I think about it too long, I’ll cry. Love you, sweet friend.

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I decided I needed a summer project so I built a picnic table. (Yes, you read that right.) πŸ˜‰ Other than minimal help from my hubby, this gorgeous, yellow-and-turquoise, work of art is mine. I love it…and I look forward to many, many coffees and talks happening here. It’s technically supposed to find a home in the side yard where anyone can sit down and enjoy it, but it’s been in our backyard since I finished it. It’s also become my sanctuary and my early morning happy place. And at least for now, I need it to be that way, and it’s right. (And, also, I pretty much finger painted that flower, and I think I love it.) πŸ˜‰

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I tacked on another year this past month, and I confessed to my husband that 37 feels so much older than 36. I know it’s really all mental, but wow. I’m three years away from 40. And also three years away from a celebration of epic proportions. Let the planning commence. πŸ˜‰

My sweet girlie heads to Kindergarten in exactly 18 days. I don’t know what to do with this, but I know the sight of her adorable little uniforms hanging in her closet about makes the dam burst. Good grief, how are we HERE? And she’s so excited so I’m cheering her on with all I have, but some days it’s not much. I just can’t believe it’s gone so fast.

And speaking of milestones, Tobin and I are celebrating 13 years on Monday. I know that in the grand scheme of life, 13 isn’t huge, but to me…to us…it feels like a place we weren’t always sure we’d see. This marriage thing is hard, and I’m pretty sure we’ve had more challenging days than easy ones. But I’m glad we stuck it out…and I’m truly looking forward to many more years with him. He’s smart, funny, an awesome daddy, takes care of us so well, and will do just about anything…however completely embarrassing and ridiculous…to make me smile. Blessed, we are. I think we’re kind of adorable, too. πŸ˜‰

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So here’s to celebrations and finding ways to squeeze out the last bits of summer. It’s been a good one…and I hope that for you, too. :)

Thanks for hanging around my space and for being here. Love and happy August all around!

Sig

Just Living

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This past Wednesday came and went.

All day, and for a few days before, I’d fought for words and thoughts and prayers, trying to find some way…any way…to put it all into something that made sense.

I felt obligated to mark the day with a blog post, and yet as the words didn’t come and didn’t come and didn’t come some more, I knew it wasn’t going to happen.

It bothered me all day long that, as a writer, I couldn’t find words.

You see, Wednesday was a year since July 22, 2014…the day we lost our sweet baby, Carly. And all I wanted her to know was that we think of her. We remember her. Every single day.

I’d only carried her for several, too-short weeks, and yet the loss was crushing. I remember lying on a bed in the ER, shivering under a blanket, wondering how we would ever go on, how there would ever be joy again.

To be honest, in the days and weeks that followed, there wasn’t a lot of much. I remember the moments of forcing myself to just do what came next, even if it was the most necessary thing like getting a drink of water for my daughter or taking a shower or making ourselves walk outside.

Trying to just live…it was harder than I’d ever expected it to be. But I kept doing the next thing. We all did because we had to.

And all of those next-things somehow added up…and we found ourselves at a year later. My hubby and I were talking about how it’s hard to pinpoint any particular event that happened this past year…it all feels like a crazy, sad blur and tangle of emotions and life.

It wasn’t where we wanted to be, and in many ways, I feel like it was a wasted year. But it wasn’t.

Life still went on.

Our sweet Mae went to PK4. She made new friends, had new experiences, learned so much, made some wonderful memories…and thrived.

As a couple and a family, we managed to walk grief...and even if there were some hard, hard days, we grew closer together instead of letting it tear us apart.

We said a hard goodbye to our sweet doggie boy, and we found ways to keep going after that, too.

We kept following Him, and though it was tempting to walk away sometimes, we chose to trust God and the plan He has for us even if we don’t see or understand any of it.

We found strength in community…in those who loved us well and were willing to laugh, cry, and sometimes…just be…with us.

We found ways to love and laugh and grieve and hope…and to let all of those happen at the same time because sometimes life just has to look like that. And we also decided that it’s ok when life does look like that.

And at the end of Wednesday, I looked back at my day and realized something.

I’d fought for words all day. In between the early morning Bible reading and trying-to-write at my picnic table, the coffee at that same table with a friend, lunch and a long, heart-chat (yep, at the table!) with another dear friend, in a meeting, in a stop at the store, in painting a huge flower on that table (more on that later…) in letting go of Carly’s birthday balloons at the river, in eating cupcakes and singing a sweet, sad, Happy Birthday

I’d been trying to write.

And, instead, I realized I’d been living. We’d been living.

Despite the pain, God is giving us the strength to live our lives…and live them well.

Maybe it sounds small, but I think just living…it might be the best way we can honor her. Remember her. And let her know that she’s still a part of us.

Happy first birthday in heaven, sweet Carly Kristine. We love you and we miss you so much.

Sig

Confessions from an Ominous Monday

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My 5 year-old has recently started using the word, ominous.

It’s hilarious…and also kind of impressive. I may be a writer and I may have even used the word once or twice in my life, but I had to consult other sources to make sure I actually knew what it meant.

Ominous: portending evil or harm; foreboding; threatening; inauspicious;
an ominous bank of dark clouds.

She was totally using it in the right context, and that made it even better.

So I bring you the tales…ahem, confessions…from an ominous Monday in the Schroeder house. (I think I might really like using this word…) πŸ˜‰

We were gone all weekend with some friends to their cabin in Wisconsin. It was fabulous. Good friends, sunshine, boats, tubing, food. LOTS AND LOTS OF FOOD. I gained five pounds. (I know, I know. Just stay off the scale, Mel.)

But of course, life had to return to whatever our normal is…and so I bring you the first ominous part of my Monday, which was also WHY I had to be on that darn scale.

Life. Insurance. It’s good and we should all have it. And, apparently, if you want to make sure things are in order if you die, they also make you get a physical. My hubby scheduled it for SEVEN A.M. ON. A. MONDAY.

Don’t worry, there is zero bitterness in my heart. Zero.

πŸ˜‰

And so I dragged myself out of bed way too early for the dreaded step on the scale and then the blood draw. (Yes, blood. Grrr…) And I got to be reminded (because I accidentally saw the number I didn’t want to see) that I ate entirely too many nachos and cheese puffs over the weekend.

But we survived, and my daughter slept in until 8:30, so Monday was still looking like it might have some promise.

And then I walked into the kitchen and realized we were out of coffee.

Friends, this is NEVER a good combination on a Monday. Especially on a Monday.

I panicked slightly and then accepted that I would just have to go to the grocery store, which is not my favorite.

And then I remembered the K-cups and the fact that on mornings when I have to be somewhere, I use the Keurig. However…I was going to be home for the morning, and I wanted A. WHOLE. POT.

Don’t judge.

And so? I emptied the K-cups into the coffee filter and made my coffee that way, thus creating the most expensive pot of coffee the world has ever seen.

And Maelie woke up, and we were both just trying to figure out life and mornings again since, apparently, when you remove yourself from normal life for 48 hours, any and all semblance of routine flies out the window. She made her way through a few My Little Pony episodes, I folded a few loads of laundry, and then it was noon, and I was like, OH.

Well, we should probably do something with our lives today.

And so we went to Menard’s because I like to walk into stores like that and pretend I know what I’m doing. I bought two quarts of mustard yellow paint that I had the dude at the counter color match for me. And he didn’t tell me that buying a whole stinkin’ gallon was CHEAPER than two quarts. (So maybe his day is about to get a little ominous, too…) πŸ˜‰

And then I bought a picnic table, too, and made grand plans to create the whole thing, in its mustard yellow glory, on my lawn this week.

Except I can’t get over that I spent $36 on pAinT. I’m not entirely sure that’s ok.

Thus, the ominous Monday continues.

And Maelie and I manage to dash in and out of the grocery store, buying only what’s on the list…holy miracle of miracles, to be sure.

And we came home, and I realized that, due to my incredibly lazy morning, my step count was ridiculously low for the day. And yet, it felt like it was about 110 outside, and the pool was just begging for our presence. And so I dragged the cover off and we jumped in.

Except I still needed to get my steps in.

And so I ran laps. LAPS. In my daughter’s 12-foot-wide, 30-inch-deep pool.

And then I texted a friend and confessed the awesomeness embarrassment of lap running in a tiny pool with no privacy fence, and she told me how much she wished she was home and sitting on her front porch to watch the whole thing. See? True friends will always be there for you…and maybe laugh at you just a little, too. πŸ˜‰

And my daughter, as AWESOME AS EVER, actually took a selfie with me because she hasn’t quite reached that, please-may-I-hide-and-then-die-under-a-rock, phase.

And so…that was my ominous Monday, though I’m not really sure it was very ominous. (It was really fun to overuse a new word, though!) πŸ˜‰

And it’s about to get even more ominous because I’m tackling a new recipe, and while I am over-the-moon, excited about zucchini noodles, I’m pretty sure my hubby and daughter won’t be entirely on board with the whole, let’s-turn-our-veggies-into-pasta, thing. (Remember how I said I gained five pounds? I sort of wasn’t kidding. And so I’m determined to shed it THIS WEEK.)

For all the ominousness…there I go again…I’m smiling.

It was a really wonderful weekend…worth every pound. My daughter just continues to sparkle up my days, and I feel so incredibly thankful to have her in my life. And my husband…when he’s not grumpy with me about how much I spent on paint…is pretty great, too. (It’s gonna be 13 years in just a few weeks, and I kind of can’t wrap my head around that. How are we at 13?!?!)

It’s just been a good summer. And maybe next week I’ll write more about why that means so much.

Thanks for being here. I hope your Monday was a little less ominous than mine. :)

Sig

Trusting God When You Can’t See

Trusting God final 2

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Β Hebrews 11:1

He showed me a picture of it, late one night as we sat awake in the hotel room, taking care of our new little girl.

A month into parenthood, we were also house hunting, having just left the mission field after five years in a country about as far away as we could have been.

We’d loved it, but it was time to be back β€œhome”…and we were struggling to find what that might look like.

We found ourselves in a brand new state, thanks to his new job, and we desperately needed a place for our family to live. We were watching the days tick down into single digits, looking at house after house after house.

But none of them felt like they could be home.

And then he pulled up the picture of the blue, two-story, and I told him no because it didn’t have a fence. This new, very-tired-and-over-the-top-emotional mama, who also happened to have two crazy golden retrievers, Needed. A. Fence.

Mostly for her sanity.

But he insisted we look at it, and so we did.

Today I’m over at Circles of Faith, sharing a story of just one of the many ways God took care of us when we left the mission field. Will you join me here?

Sig

On Coming Out of Hiding… {and a GIVEAWAY}

fair trade friday final(Ok, so I wrote this yesterday. Words are still good a day later, right?) πŸ˜‰

It’s been a long time since I’ve had the urge to just sit down and write.

Write with no plan, no agenda, no pressure of publishing something.

It feels really good.

I think part of it is that we’re hunkered down on a below-zero day with no school (I think this is day FIVE in 2015?) and there’s not a lot to do. We’ve built a fort and played games and it’s already the incredibly late hour of 8:30 in the morning. I finally talked my girl into finishing her breakfast inside the fort while watching a movie. (Don’t judge.)

And, in a strange way, I feel like I’m coming home when I sit down at the keyboard and tap out thoughts. I’m not sure where we’re going with all of it exactly, but I’m good with that. Sometimes coffee and a few free moments is all I need to just…be.

The truth is that I’ve hidden myself somewhat in the last month or so. I’ve made it to the blog on Mondays long enough to dash off a few thoughts and copy/paste a chapter of my Indonesia story. By the way, thank you for reading. Seriously, from the bottom of my heart. It brings tears to my eyes when someone tells me they’re enjoying my words. This process has given me a whole new kind of respect and admiration for authors who hand chunks of their heart on paper over to people to critique. Scary.

So it’s been easy, in this season, to hide and pretend a lot of things. So many of my dear friends know me more through computer screens than they do in real life…and so I can easily share what I want to and leave the rest buried somewhere, probably under a pile in my messy house. (Why is it that with a four year-old, my house is never clean?)

πŸ˜‰

I don’t necessarily want to hide…I just want to figure out when it’s ok to share and when it’s not. That’s something I’ve been trying to do for the last year. Pretty sure I’m still in the figuring-out mode.

But, in no particular order…a few things. An update. And maybe a giveaway because I love you all…just for being here and reading my really, really random ramblings. πŸ˜‰

Maelie is growing up so fast. People warned me, and I always knew it in the back of my mind. But, seriously. I’ve got an almost-five year old on my hands, and it’s wonderful and heart-wrenching all at the same time. Seeing her become the person God intended is awesome…and knowing that the years are flying makes me cry. Right now, we’re just trying to soak up the sweet moments and beauty in the normal days. She’s wonderful. Well, most of the time. Let’s not forget that she IS four. πŸ˜‰

Our hearts are finding a new normal. Not gonna lie, it’s been a rough year…yearish. Whatever. I’m not even sure what constitutes a year anymore. Our house is just a lot quieter now. It’s amazing the change and silence that two dogs to one brought. Oh, we miss our Andre boy and the way he loved winter and snow…and life. His doggie dish still sits in its place in the corner, and I sometimes wonder if it’s time to put it away. But it hasn’t been that time yet, and so we just leave it and smile at the memories when we see it. The tears are fewer now, and while that hurts, it’s right. He wouldn’t want us to cry forever.

And along with loss, her due date is coming up. Too soon, and it’s always on my mind. I find myself wishing for a hugely swollen belly and the hope that would have been here so soon. It’s hard when there are so many reminders of what would have been…and instead we still try to wrap our minds around what won’t ever be, at least here on earth. It’s a tough season and the tears really aren’t fewer right now. Not when it comes to the little one we ache for so much.

And yet there’s still joy…truthfully, it’s been tough to believe that God is good this year. It feels like His goodness has been wrapped in pain and we’re struggling to see purpose. The one thing we do still see is the little joys He brings…through a silly-sweet girl, a doggie cuddle, words from a friend, a moment that brings a smile. We’ve had to be intentional about finding joy…and maybe He wanted that for us.

Our family is doing ok. Even better than that, most days. Sometimes I think Tobin and I are at a better place than we’ve ever been…and I have to be careful saying that because I know we will always…every single day…have to work at this thing called marriage. It’s not easy, and neither is this journey of parenting. But it’s a tough kind of wonderful, and though life doesn’t look at all like we’d dreamed, we’re finding some pretty incredible beauty in what God has given.

Finding the gifts in today…that’s what we’re trying to do.

And I just feel like giving away a gift. Because I’m Mel, because it’s what I do, and because this is really, really beautiful. (I’m not sure why I’m not keeping it for myself, but I’m not.)

About a month ago, I ordered a box from Fair Trade Friday. I ordered the trial box (just a one-time), which you can find here…and then I loved it so much that I signed up for the monthly subscription (which is even cheaper with free shipping!), so you can bet that there will be more goodies on their way to me! For $35 + shipping, I got a bag of fun surprises. (Picture at the top of this post.) :)

The yellow and white key fob, I gave away to my dear friend. :) The little bracelet I kept for myself. The necklace…I have to confess, it was a little funky for me (which is surprising because I breathe funky) but I adore the beads and the colors, so I’m restringing it so I can wear it and be reminded of some amazing women around the world and how God is reshaping their lives and teaching them that they have value.

And the last thing? This gorgeous, gray hat with a flower…seriously, I adore it. But since I crochet, I also have A. LOT. OF. HATS.Β And so I’m going to give the hat away, along with a $10 Starbucks card, because it’s cold right now, and all I can think of is being warm and drinking coffee.

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To enter…leave me a comment. Tell me something that brings you joy. I’ll pick a winner on Monday and email you. And that will be that…cute hat and a gift card on its way to you. (U.S. residents only, please.)

I hope this mass of words finds you all well…sending virtual hugs. Thanks for being here. :)

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. πŸ˜‰

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? πŸ˜‰ 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 HimΒ 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. πŸ˜‰

Mae&Mommy final
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.Β 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. πŸ˜‰

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. πŸ˜‰

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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Pieces That Make a Story

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Fifteen years ago…and I can’t believe it’s been that long…I hopped a plane with some friends. Our destination was the country of Peru, a place that, at the time, seemed about as far from home as one could possibly be.

And it was great…it was three plus weeks of laughing, learning, memory making…and most of all, getting my first glimpses into the heart of my Father and how He was at work in another place.

I’d grown up with missions…at least from the perspective of missionaries who’d visited my church. I’d come to understand that missionaries were people who planted churches, preached sermons in another language, and started Bible colleges. Therefore, I knew I’d never be one.

But Peru changed that.

It was on that trip that my Father began speaking to me and opening doors in my heart that had always been closed. It was during those weeks God told me that if I was willing, He would give me a place. Somewhere.

Where that was, I didn’t know, but I was sure that God was calling me to be a teacher, and I made plans, almost immediately, to return to the place that had captured my heart.

Enter: a year and a half later and a boy. πŸ˜‰

His name started with a T, he had an amazing smile, and I fell head over heels within minutes. (That’s kind of embarrassing to admit now.) He was settled, had a good job, and there was no way missions was even on the horizon for us.Β Oh, yeah…us. We became an us pretty quickly. πŸ˜‰

There was a part of me that was devastated to give up Peru…but by then, well…love. I was heart-deep in it.

A ring followed, and then a house…before the wedding, even. Don’t worry…he was the one only who lived there. πŸ˜‰

In the tiny part of my brain that is logical, I knew. His job was stable, we’d just bought a house…we were staying. Or so we thought.Β 

So we said our I-do’s, ate pie, and jetted off to Jamaica. We came home from our honeymoon, I started a new job as a nanny, and BAM. He called me on a Wednesday morning. Mel, I got laid off.

Total shock. We had not expected this…especially not to him. Tobin is good…and he’s good at what he does. And there’s a whole lot more to the story, and it has nothing to do with his abilities and talent and everything to do with his name being randomly chosen from a list in order to downsize.

But, really…that was the door we needed to close in order for more doors to open.

For the next nine months, he searched like crazy and interviewed like crazier. The job market was horrible, money was tight, and we started to wonder. More, if that’s even possible.

We prayed over it before emptying our bank account to purchase two plane tickets for Nicaragua and Honduras. Two weeks in March were spent with missionaries we knew. We were hoping…praying…wondering…was this it? Was God calling us to something else?

We came home from that grand adventure…and we were confused. There were no strong pulls for either of us to Central America, we were teetering on having about no money, and we were starting to lose faith.

And then came a job offer that would at least pay the bills. Buy us some time until we could figure this out.

But by then, we knew. We knew the call, and we knew that saying no wasn’t even an option.

And so…we prayed. And waited. Pushed on a few doors. Cried when they slammed back in our faces.

Finally, two years later…His answer. Indonesia.

Really, God? A country that really IS about as far from home as we can get?

After locating it on a map πŸ˜‰ and praying it through, we knew our answer was an overwhelming YES. Less than six months later our house was sold, our cars about to be sold, most of our belongings were gone, we’d sent our dog on ahead to Jakarta (yes, yes we did…), our bags were packed, and the monsoon of goodbyes began.

And we went…and it was life-changing. It was the best and worst, it was life-altering and felt strangely like a piece home…it was His plan. I don’t paint a picture of Indonesia that is all sunsets and beauty…though the sunsets were spectacular and the green about as beautiful as anything can be.

Indonesia was a paradox of joy and struggle, of hope and heartbreak, of embracing and longing. It was all of those things, often all of them at the same time.

And like any good piece to the journey, it ended, and we said goodbye to people and a place that had embedded themselves so deeply into our hearts that we were forever changed.

And now we sit in the middle of what came next. Ok, ok, so maybe we’re not exactly sitting…who has time to sit with a toddler running around?!Β πŸ˜‰ We’re doing our best to trust His plan and embrace each moment as it comes, knowing that our Father always, always has a far greater plan than we can ever imagine.

Tobin and I will celebrate twelve years in just a few weeks, and as I look back, I see so many pieces. I see pieces that didn’t always make sense…

And yet…He took them. He is still taking them. And He is writing our story with them.

And I might not know what He’s making out of the pieces of the now, either…but I know it’s going to be good.

Because He is good. And He writes some pretty incredible stories.

Photo Credit: Nomadic Lass

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A Lesson from Qatar + A Bucket List

So a couple months ago we took a trip to Indonesia. This post has been a long time coming…and it took awhile to write, so we’re going back a couple months. πŸ˜‰

Doha.

That’s in Qatar.

Here you go…a map, just so you don’t have to go and look it up. :)

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So we layed-over in Doha, Qatar, both going to and coming home from Indonesia. When we first booked our flight with Qatar Airways, I had to look it up on a map. Where is this mysterious country? Is thisΒ even a country? (Ahem…clearly, geography was not my strong suit. Actually, it was, but I missed out on this one.)

So I located it, a little peninsula of a country sticking out into the Persian Gulf and, in my opinion, just a bit too close to the country of Iran, but whatever. A motto in my life is to embrace the world, and so I at least try to doΒ that.

So I can’t really tell you, probably due to my lack of coherence (and sleep) at that point in my day, exactly what my first impressions of Qatar…or, at least the airport, were. I remember that we took stairs off the airplane, boarded a big bus, and took a ride to the actual airport, where we went through security again and then made our way to a lounge for eight hours. (Hubby and a guy from Britain decided to strike up a conversation about the missing Malaysia Airlines plane at this time. Gee, thanks…just what I want to talk about as I’m traveling. by. PLANE.)

But the lounge was nice. It needed more beds…really…but comfy chairs, showers, food, and the coolest coffee makerΒ ever more than made up for the lack of places to ACTUALLY. LIE. DOWN. πŸ˜‰ (And I tried to take a picture of the coffee machine and got yelled at…yep, apparently using my iPhone in the food area of the lounge was a big no-no. Though the woman who scolded me had no argument to back up her scolding. Just trust me…it was cool.) πŸ˜‰

QatarCoffeeBut I DID sneak this picture of my COFFEE. IN. THE. LOUNGE. (Hand slap.) πŸ˜‰

Anyway, back to my purpose in telling you all of that. πŸ˜‰ Since the food was all-you-can-eat, we chose those hours to make up for the less-than-stellar airline food we’d been served, which had gone mostly uneaten. (Except for the bread, the cheese, and the little KitKats.) πŸ˜‰ And, oh, the food. It was a spread of yummy deliciousness…pastries, breads, sandwiches, fruit, and hummus.

I swooned over that hummus. (And ate as much as I could without feeling physically ill. Or maybe I did feel a little sick. A little.) πŸ˜‰

It was while I was munching on, yet another, triangle of pita doused in hummus that I realized it…Eating hummus in the Middle East should have been added to my bucket list. You know, the bucket list I’ve been saying I would write for years and never actually HAVE?

Yeah, that one.

The reality is that I probably should write it soon before all that’s left is for me to go skydiving. Because I will never go skydiving, so there.

If you’ve had a conversation with me regarding the trip we took, you may know that really the only negative thing I have to say about our trip to Indonesia involves laying over in Qatar…probably something we will not choose again. (Though the hummus was good.) But there was a takeaway from our time there, and for that I am thankful. (Oh, and I also bought a mug and a little stuffed camel, so I guess I took those things away, too.) πŸ˜‰

I took away the inspiration to write a bucket list for us. Me in particular, but I’m hoping Tobin and Mae will jump in, too. They’re invited, and so are you. :)

So here it is…the beginning of it all at least, complete with my happy little commentary.

And, of course, subject to additions for the rest of my life. πŸ˜‰

Skills

1. Learn to play another instrument and actually play it somewhere. (If anyone will let me!)
2. Sell a piece of my art.
3. Publish my book. (Finish it first, I guess…and then find an agent, too!)
4. Become fluent in another language. (I seem to have a good head-start in Indonesian…) πŸ˜‰
5. Learn to roast coffee beans.
6. Speak at least once at a writer’s conference.
7. Build a coffee table.

Travel

1. Visit the pyramids in Egypt.
2. Take a boat ride on the Nile and maybe even swim there. (I know, I know. Let’s not talk about the crocodiles, k?) πŸ˜‰
3. Shop the markets in Turkey. (Must. Buy. A. Cute. Bag.)
4. Take a mommy/daughter trip to another country.
5. Do an overland safari in Africa.
6. See Machu Picchu in Peru.
7. Visit Australia and hold a koala. (Except for Antarctica, it’s the only continent we have left.)

Personal/Parenting/Family

1. Adopt a child.
2. Visit an orphanage with Mae.
3. Read 100 chapter books aloud with Maelie.
4. Return to Indonesia as a family for an extended period of time to serve.
5. Spend a year as a family doing acts of kindness for others.
6. Let Mae choose any adventure she wants to take for her 10th birthday and just go.
7. Do something wild and unexpected for a friend.
8. Do something wild and unexpected for a stranger.

Crazy

1. Buy plane tickets, pack our suitcases, and just go…all in the same day.
2. Buy a home in Bali for retirement someday.
3. Take our friends on a crazy, other-side-of-the-world, getaway for my 40th birthday.
4. Buy a motorbike/scooter in the U.S. (T made me add U.S. ’cause I had one in Indo…) πŸ˜‰
5. Go a month without using a car at all.
6. Get a tattoo.

Physical

1. Break 27:00 on a 5k.
2. Run a 10k in under one hour.
3. Run a half marathon.
4. Do CrossFit for six months.
5. Learn to do yoga.
6. Run a 5k as a family. (All of us. Running.)
7. Complete a triathlon. (Shakin’ in my Nikes already…)

Spiritual

1. Read through the Bible in six months.
2. Memorize the book of Philippians. (I’m 3/8 of the way done. At least I used to be.) πŸ˜‰
3. Lead an overseas mission trip.
4. Spend a year volunteering for Mercy Ships in Africa.
5. Go to Uganda with Sole Hope.
6. Learn to love like Jesus.

Did I miss anything? (Of course I did…every time I proofed this list, I kept adding to it!!!) πŸ˜‰

What would you add?

Here’s to a beautiful life…join me?Β 

Sig