Redemption in a Dog: Our Sammy

Sammy Redemption final(1)

There are days when a writer has to sit down and bleed at her computer…to just open up, spill all the words in their messiest, most imperfect, often-ugly forms, and get out what’s there.

It happens some days and, on most of them, those words stay locked away.

Today is one of those days for me, but those words won’t be locked up. They can’t be. They’ll be shared because they absolutely should be.

This is the day I want to tie up a story that’s been told in pieces over the years…here and there, in different places in our lives to others…and share the entire thing. It will be long, it will be messy, and not everyone will understand.

I get it, but I invite you to stay anyway.

It’s a story that needs to be told, and I’m going to do it in honor of the sweet golden retriever boy who shared our lives and love for over 12 1/2 years. He died just over two weeks ago, and it’s taken me that long to even find words that might attempt to tell about all he was to us. We miss him fiercely and heartbreakingly, but his presence and the ways God grew us through him will always stay with us.

So this. It’s for Sammy.

Sammy smiles final

It started on a Monday night in January of 2006, the kind that was rainy and gloomy and wasn’t stormy, though that would’ve made a great intro. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Indonesian rain and gloom in January is about as close as it gets to winter in the tropics. At any rate, we just needed to get out of the house so we braved the rain on the bike and drove down the hill to the closest Starbucks.

Watching the tropical rain pound the windows from our cozy couch seats, we worked on school…planning, grading, lessons…and occasionally chatted about life. After a few hours, with the mall closing down in just about 20 minutes, we decided to pack up our things and head upstairs to check out the new pet store before we went home.

I don’t remember how it all went down, but I’d like to think it’s as if I semi-remember/imagine. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I stepped off the escalator and locked eyes with a golden retriever puppy. He was panting, he was smiling because goldens smile so darn big and it’s awesome, and I was instantly smitten. I must’ve begged pretty hard to get my hubby to say yes, but within 20 minutes, we’d visited a cash machine, paid for our new family member, purchased a crate, and were on our way home, me and our new boy in a taxi.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our, we’ve-got-two-dogs-now, season of life had begun.

It seems like yesterday. And I have to stop here and let myself cry a little because the time just flies so fast. There are so many memories of that night…tied to dogs, tied to a place, tied to a time in our lives that can only be in our hearts now.

We already had an almost-3-year-old Golden Retriever at the time, Andre, and he was truly our baby. (Eye rolling is permitted here as long as it’s gentle.) I guess when I tell you that, I also remind myself that there’s more to this story than just loving a dog. Now, dogs.

It wasn’t all daisies and rainbows from the beginning, though…rather it was double the poop, double the dog hair all over everything, double the cost, double the crazy. And double the love. He kept us up most of his first night home and for a few more after that, life was always a literal wrestling match between the two dogs, and sometimes we felt like we were going crazy whenever we (or anyone else for that matter) walked through the door. But we smiled and laughed and loved it all…I guess we’re just created to be dog people, and we let them add all the love and crazy that came with them to our lives.

And we continued our lives overseas, too…some days were easy, some days not so much. That’s life in another culture when you have a busy job and ministry. It’s good most days, but that good can mix with hard, too…and we messed up a lot. We chose to love…or try to love…anyway, embracing it all, and we had two sweet, big-hearted furry boys along for the ride to help us feel a little more at home.

It was a sweet life, and there were so many incredible blessings. We wouldn’t trade those. Not for anything.ย ๐Ÿ˜€

And then there was the year when we decided that maybe we’d like some human kids, too, and by maybe I meant we absolutely couldn’t wait to be parents and by the time we we realized this, nine months felt like an eternity. I never imagined we’d struggle. But after months and months it became clear that this wasn’t going to be an easy road.

And I guess our dogs became even more precious to us.

Andre&Sammy final

Maybe that’s right and maybe it’s not…but there are no apologies in this story today. I’m just sharing it…all of it, my heart wide open.

When I go back to that season, I remember how heartbreaking it was to see one pregnancy announcement after another. Knowing that there was still no baby for us. There were so many days, for me, of surrender and choosing joy in all of it. The faces of my doggy boys made me happy, made me smile, made me forget my aching heart for a few moments at a time. In a very real sense, they were our kids, at least in that season. They filled a void that not everyone can understand.

And so it hit us hard and out of the blue the September morning of 2007 when my husband walked into my 4th grade classroom. I’d just sent my kids off to music class, and I looked up to see his face. I’ll never forget the look on it.

Sammy’s gone.

Somehow, without anyone seeing, someone had taken our precious boy from our yard. Our housekeeper had been home, but like always, she’d let the dogs run around the yard during the day. We had no clue that anyone would ever dream of taking him. Who does that?!

Apparently there are people who do.

That moment tore my heart out as we raced to figure out a plan, whatever that looked like, in a country where things worked differently and where we couldn’t always communicate well.

We didn’t know what to do, but we had to do something.

We spent days and days blanketing the city of Bandung with flyers, promising that we’d keep the police out of it, that we’d offer a large reward…we just wanted our sweet dog back.

Multiple times a day we’d hop on the bike and drive down to the two places in town known for selling stolen dogs. One, shamelessly set up on a street corner and the other in front of a shopping mall, we’d go and ask them over and over: Have you seen our dog? Please help us. We won’t tell the police. No police. Just a reward. Please help us get him back.

We spent six days living like that, on broken sleep with even more broken hearts while still trying to do our “jobs” at school.

Talk about messy people in a broken place.

During the day, my students…oh, my students. They would pray. They would encourage me with the love they poured on a teacher they’d only known for a couple weeks. One was so bold as to approach me one morning and say, “Mrs. Schroeder, God gave me a vision of Sammy. He’s going to come home.” I weep at her faith, even now.

To top it off, all of this went down during our Spiritual Emphasis Week at school.

While my faith was floundering and shrinking and the devil was having his way in my own life, Jesus was being lifted up. Satan wasn’t going to win, and even if I didn’t feel that…everyone else claimed it for me.

Four days after Sammy was stolen, something happened. I’ve gone back to this day, over and over, for two poignant reasons.

That Sunday afternoon I’d reached a breaking point. My hubby had just hopped on the bike (again) to drive by the two stolen dog markets (again) and I knew in less than an hour he’d be home (again) to tell me Sammy was nowhere to be found…again.

The tears had been constant, but I remember them flowing like they never had before. It hurt too much, physically, to even sit up and so I let myself lie down on the cool tile in our hallway. Face down.

And I wept. Tears-pooling-on-the-floor, wept. At first I wept for myself and my broken heart, but then, even more, I wept and surrendered. God, Sammy’s yours. I love him and I want him back so badly, but if this is Your plan, then he’s Yours. If I could just have him one more day…one more. But, still. He’s yours. Face down, I prayed those words as I pressed my forehead into the floor, as if that would make my prayer holier…or something like that.

And looking back, there was more to that surrender than a dog. I think I was surrendering it all then. My plans, my dreams, my hopes, and yes, my dog…and my future children, too.

And even after I sat up again, I cried more. It was maybe the most paradoxical, soul-crushing-soul-redeeming moment of my life. Yes, the two can co-exist.

A few minutes later my husband returned to get me, and we went down to the second market again. I think we went back there that day because I just needed to be there. I needed to look into the eyes of whoever was working the joint that day and let him know that there were real people and feelings behind this.

I remember approaching the mass of people huddled around all of the animals, locking eyes with a man working there, and immediately trying in my oh-so-broken Indonesian, covered with tears, to ask him to please find our dog.

That was when a miracle happened. I call it one anyway.

A fully-covered Muslim woman, with only her eyes showing, touched my armย tenderly. What an odd thing to see her there, standing and looking at dogs, something her culture didn’t allow. Ma’am, may I help you please? In perfect English.

I explained to her what was happening. She turned to the man and, in Indonesian, gave him every detail.

I thanked her and then I never saw her again.

But I hold on to that moment to this day and wish with all my heart that I could go back and thank this woman again…because my husband got a phone call two days later from the man we’d spoken to. He knew who had our dog, and he’d arranged for Tobin to meet him at a Dunkin’ Donuts, down by the mall, with cash, so this man could go buy back our dog and return him to us. (Yes, it was exactly like it sounds. Basically paying a ransom. At a Dunkin’ Donuts. In Indonesia. Everyday stuff.)

In just minutes, Tobin had hopped in a school vehicle with one of the drivers and another employee and they were on their way. We were skeptical that this was legit, but it brought a shred of hope. Something we’d prayed for, something to hang on to.

I went back to my kiddos, who had abandoned their recess to stand in a circle and pray. (Golly, this just makes me love them all over again.) And then I went back to teaching…my cell phone sat on my desk, and I shamelessly left the volume turned up, waiting for the phone call that my shaky faith still didn’t believe would come.

But it did. My phone rang and I set a record getting to it.

It’s him, it’s him!!!

That’s all we heard. His cries were loud enough that my entire class heard.

My boy was found.

I’ve never forgotten the emotion of that moment as I told my students to go tell everyone. That’s what they needed to do…what we needed to do. We had to let the people who’d lived this with us, who’d covered us in prayer, who’d supported us though they didn’t understand…that God had answered our prayers.

We’d all knocked down the doors of heaven…and God said, Yes.

He said Yes. And He not only said yes to one more day with our dog…he said yes to 11 YEARS, 1 MONTH and 2 DAYS more. That’s humbling.

I think so often of those days, and while they don’t bring the heartache that they used to anymore, they do remind me of a relentless God. For six days, Tobin and I did everything to wholly pursue getting our dog back. To redeem him and bring him home to us.

And, friends? Our God is the same way.

He moves heaven and earth and relentlessly…WITHOUT. GIVING. UP…pursues those He loves because he WANTS us more than anything.

That makes me weep. He wants to redeem every single one of us.

Sammy & the fam

It’s true that the life we lived with Sammy gave us so many memories. He lived so many things with us besides being stolen and then redeemed…he was there for the everyday joys, heartaches, big transitions, so much love. He lived life with us no matter which hemisphere we resided in, he welcomed Mae and Mac home as babies, let them climb all over him as toddlers, he kept on loving us every day, and he became part of the lives of the people we love so much, too. It’s hard to see that come to an end. It makes me cry today. Every day.

But Sammy leaves us with a lesson that our hearts have held on to for so long…it’s a lesson in the faithfulness of God.

Friends, we serve a God who hears us and knows the cries deep in our hearts. He understands heartache and there are times He allows it, but He never leaves us alone. He brings redemption and that redemption looks so much bigger than we can even imagine.

Tobin and I have talked a lot over the years about what might have happened if Sammy hadn’t come back. It’s not really a place we ever needed to go…but it’s something that would come up as we’d reflect on the miracle…and it really was…of him coming home. Several people told us, gently, that there was no feasible reason Sammy should have been returned to us. And, yet, God allowed it.

We’re so grateful.

Family-101 final

We said a hard goodbye to our sweet boy two weeks ago. My hubby and I both held him as the vet gave him a shot and he went to sleep for the last time. Our hearts broke and the tears felt endless for a few days…and honestly, I’m sitting at my computer bawling. It’s ugly and messy and that’s ok today and tomorrow and in the next days.

But, even as the tears just poured down our faces, we also couldn’t help talking about him as we drove home.

About how God gave us SO. MUCH. MORE. than we deserved in that sweet dog. How the love and the time and the memories were multiplied so much I can’t even do the math…and about how God knew how much we needed him and so He let us keep him longer.

We’re holding on to that right now…and we’re finding ways to remember him. The dog hair on everything feels sacred right now, which is totally stupid. But if you see me and there’s a dog hair on my shirt…just leave it there, yeah? It’s a mark of love.

I will never forget this sweet dog. Our Sammy Boy, who will always occupy a special corner of our hearts and lives and remind us of the faithfulness of our Father in all seasons.

I will always be grateful for what God did in our lives through him.

Goodbye, sweet boy. We will miss you with all our hearts.

Sammy redemption final

Sig

The Dance Between Now and Heartbreak

sammy1

There was a time not so long ago when I’d sit down and the words would pour out. I’d share my heart, my life, and the flavor of coffee creamer I was currently obsessing over with anyone who might listen.

As (slightly) self-indulgent as it sounds, those were good days.

I felt like someone and something in this great, big, bloggy world…and like I might be making a tiny difference when my words were out there, perfectly crafted or imperfectly messy. Either way was ok.

They were my words.

And then the words got fewer and further between and, for awhile, almost completely stopped. There are seasons of life like that, and as the words fell off and away, much like the leaves fall from the mighty oaks in my side yard during October, I entered a season of winter. And like every season, I knew it would pass.

We moved through the pain of heartbreak over a miscarriage, the loss of our sweet first golden, a life-threatening pregnancy gifting us with unimaginable joy and total chaos in the form of a little boy, and marriage difficulties that threatened to tear us apart.

It felt as if winter were lifting just a tad, and then things got hard again. It’s not like I expected them NOT to…life isn’t supposed to be a smooth ride around a predictable, even track.

But the fog was lifting a bit, and there was some clarity. Even joy.

And every day has been a dance since then…not always the good kind, but a dance. I was never a good dancer, and sometimes I can picture myself as a ballerina, but then I laugh over the obvious grace that would not accompany me, were I to be center stage in a tutu. (BAHAHAHA!!!) ๐Ÿ˜€

K, I needed to publicly laugh that one out. Mad love to all the ballerinas out there…YOU are AH.MAZE.ING.

There’s joy some days…smiles, laughs, and I think to myself, I can do this thing. I can raise this toddler boy and love my daughter well and even be a good wife, the kind who thinks ahead on dinner and stays up on laundry and (GASP) keeps the dining room table clean.

And then there are the days when I’m not those things, and it’s hard. It hurts. And life becomes more difficult. Those difficulties aren’t earth shattering, really. Like I said, they’re life.

But sometimes, life smacks us hard.

There’s this sweet doggie boy, our Sammy, who has shared our lives and our love over the last almost-thirteen-years and has poured so much into our family just by being him, and we know the end is near. We’ve been told there’s a tumor and we’ve got months at best, and in the middle of all the other struggles, I find myself waiting for heartbreak.

And it’s so, so hard. Some days, I really have to remind myself to breathe as I look at his sweet golden face and the joy he has brought us.

I can’t imagine our days without Sammy, and yet we know they’re coming.

And it’s this kind of dance I’m tripping through right now…the kind that soaks up every single moment because we have to but knowing that things can turn tomorrow, and our hearts will shatter even more.

I hate the in-between.

And I have fought God on it with all of my being some days…yet the other days I find some type of reconciliation and cuddle my Sam a little closer and remind him that, even though he can’t hear me at all, he has been an absolute gift to us, and we love him so much. SO much.

And I’m not even sure why I’m pouring out all of this, mostly-unedited and all-messy, and sharing it today except I think it might be necessary for me as I try to figure out how to say goodbye to a constant in our lives, one who made our lives better and some days just made us smile a bit more through the dark times.

Maybe I don’t have a right to hurt so deeply, especially over a dog. But as any dog owner knows…they’re never just that. There’s a deep ache in the pit of my stomach all the time. I don’t suppose it will go away for awhile, even if there’s full surrender and even if it’s the kind that says, It’s ok, God. It really is.

Because it is.

Ok.

At the end of the day, much like the rest of us, God has always known how long we’d have this doggie boy. He knew…on that heart-wrenching day, eleven years ago (ironically,ย exactly eleven years ago) when I found myself, face down on the floor, pouring out my heart and begging Him for one more day with my missing dog…He knew He’d give us almost eleven years more instead.

I serve a good Father, and so even as the pit deepens and aches just a bit more and the tears fall hard and steady, streaking my eyeliner, I can cling to His goodness and know that as we face something so sad…He’s there. Has always been and will always be.

It’s the lesson I’ve always come back to when I think of Sammy…that God has shown Himself faithful, and He’ll continue to.

Maybe you’re there today, friend? I don’t know. I just know how much I need that reminder as I stroke my hand through his fur and rub his ear yet another time, hoping and praying we’ll still have tomorrow.

It’s the dance between the now and the heartbreak I know is coming. I guess we call it life?

But I’ll dance it in flip flops and jeans with tear-filled eyes and cling to the Goodness I know is my Father. May you see His goodness today, too, no matter where your circumstances find you. And may you love a little deeper, knowing it’s all a gift.

And a good gift.

Thank you, God, for Sammy and for today.

Sammy2

Sig

3rd and 8: A Prayer for My Girl

3rd and 8 Words final

That morning back in February of 2009, when we went in to find out the gender of our baby, my blood pressure skyrocketed so much that the nurse was worried about me. I had to try to explain to her, in Indonesian no less (and that was never very good), that my blood pressure was Just. Fine. and I was actually, possibly, and just really more nervous than I’d probably been in the HIS.TO.RY. of EV.ER.

Only a few people knew how deeply I longed for a baby girl, and that morning, that wish took over my heart.ย And, clearly, my bp as well.ย ๐Ÿ˜‰ I would have loved a boy (and I certainly love the boy I now have with all my being) but there was something about the dream of a daughter…it had been there my whole life.

And so, when she said, It looks like a girl! I did two things. First, I whispered, Hi, Maelie! as the happiest tear slipped down my cheek.

And second, I didn’t believe her.

In fact, it took FOUR (yes, you read that right) ultrasounds, all with the same gender results, for me to believe that we were absolutely having a baby girl.

Really, she was a deep dream come true…one I’m not sure I believed God would give me. But He did…and I’m so incredibly thankful.

She burst into the world over eight years ago, changing us and a lot of others around her, too. She made me a mama and she has multiplied the love in our lives so, so many times over.

We are blessed.

And I don’t always gush over the beginning of a new school year anymore, at least in this space, but last week I sent her off to 3rd grade.ย And for some reason, my heart is still figuring out what all of that means.

She has just six years before high school and ten before she flits and flies off to spread her wings and chase her dreams. And while some days those years feel like a lot, they aren’t. Not really. Not when we think about how fast the first eight have gone.

Mae 1st Day

This summer has been a turning point for her, and all of us, I suppose. We’ve seen a bigger shift in independence and probably a few more head-butts, too. ๐Ÿ˜‰ She’s making her way just like they’re all supposed to do, and I’ve had to sit back some days, breathe deeply, cringe occasionally, remember to pray, and let her be who she is.

Because who she is? Is beautiful.

Sometimes the age of eight is a challenge, but I caught myself watching her play in the yard the other day and that familiar lump found my throat and I had to take a deep breath to fight back the tears.

It’s true that when we let Him, He makes our children into exactly who they’re supposed to be.

She’s quirky and funny, she’s got a big heart and equally big emotions, and her also-big eyes still melt me every time. She cares about everyone and everything, even bugs (well, certain ones) and some days it can be a struggle to teach her to let go of the things she needs to in order to move forward.

And maybe that’s the lesson she’s teaching me in this season.

A couple months ago she and Mac were playing in the front room, and she saw a turtle out the window, trying to cross the road.ย  She jumped up and insisted that we run outside and help it before a car ran over it. My hubby obliged, and she followed him, stopping traffic (really) to make sure that her new turtle friend was safe and sound in the neighbors’ hostas before she’d even agree to think about walking back home.

But as she went, she wept. Wailed could potentially be an appropriate descriptor. She didn’t want to say goodbye.

And I’m not gonna lie…I sorta feel like that as we are turning the page to a new chapter. I want to hang on and remember every single thing about my eight year-old, to stop time and freeze us just as we are. It’s sweet, most days anyway, and I know what to expect. I feel like I’m figuring out the Mae I have now. And while I know life doesn’t work like that and that we’ll love 3rd grade just like we’ve loved all the other stages, it’s still bittersweet.

Mae & Mac 1st Day

There will be more growing and changing, and I absolutely believe that God will keep growing her into a girl who’s kind, loving (more than she already is) even if there are bumps along the way. I have faith that He will give her what she needs to follow Him and be a light for Him every single day.

I pray a verse over my family every day, and in my heart, it’s become our family theme. We aren’t perfect, but we are His and doing our best to follow Him on the easy days and the tough ones, in the seasons when the road stretches out in a straight path and in the ones, too, when it winds so much we can’t see much ahead of where our feet are traveling.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience… And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
Colossians 3:12, 14 (ESV)

And I guess that’s my prayer for her, too, today…words I want her to hang on to when she doesn’t know what to do, how to be, or who to be either.

May she always know she’s loved, chosen and His. Forever.ย And may she share that love with everyone else, too.

My Maelie girl,

I probably say this every year, but I can’t believe we’re here. Another year, another stage, many more milestones to come. It truly flies, this time thing, and while I want to hang on to your sweet hand with all I have, more than that, I want to see you fly. And so I’ll release my grip just a tad more in this season and let you do your thing. As you go off to the wonderful world of 3rd grade (which was one of my favorites!) know that we are always loving you, always cheering for you, and always here for you. May you choose, each day, to put on a compassionate heart, kindness, humility, meekness, patience…and above all of those things, LOVE. Love for your Father, love for your family and friends, and love for those who come into your life…because if you show love, it will change people. And God will use it to change you.

We pray that you will seek to follow Him with all you have for all your days.

Go and fly. I’ll be waiting with the biggest hug every day after school. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Love, Mama

Mae & Mom 1st Day

Sig

Between Hello and Goodbye: the Story of a Table

newtable final

I remember the Sunday afternoon in June of 2002 when we bought it. We didn’t really have the extra time in our day…in just a few hours I had to be back to sing at church, and so it was a quick trip. But the new-to-us, very-empty house on Abbott Avenue, where my husband was partying up (not really) the remainder of his bachelor days before our wedding, needed to be filled up. Somehow. And so we drove, probably too fast, the 45 minutes to look at some used furniture.

The family was selling most of what they owned, and so after we’d agreed on a price for their bedroom set, they showed us their other offerings. Among them, the table.

It was a beautiful, nearly new, cherry finish with six matching chairs, and to this just-starting-out couple, it looked like something well beyond what we could…or should…own. I remember how I gave that hopeful smile to Tobin, but in my heart I knew our bank account couldn’t do it.

But they gave us an offer so good that we said yes. We made quick arrangements to return, pay for, and pick up everything, before sprinting back to church that evening.

We got married that August, and as soon as we returned to our home following our honeymoon, that table became a gathering place.

We’d invite people to share meals and conversations with us, always seated in those six chairs. We’d laugh over silly board games, we’d eat too many tacos over shared stories of how God was leading us and then, where He was taking us when, just a few years later, we followed His call to the other side of the world.

That table was passed around to different families during the five years we were gone…and though we never heard the stories that happened at it, I’m sure there were plenty of laughs, probably some tears, and many, many memories.

And then we came back, and our table was waiting for us…maybe a little more used and lived at, but still our table.

And very quickly, it resumed doing what it had always done…it became the place where we shared life.

It saw us through early baby years, many toddler meals, scritches and scratches because that’s what kids do to furniture…and many, many more memories.

A few months ago we began to look for something new. We knew it was getting close to the time when it needed to be replaced, or at least repaired heavily, and with the remodel and changes going on at our house, it was a good time. We placed an order for the farmhouse table of my dreams, the kind you only get once in your life…and that was that.

This past Friday, my husband and a friend picked up the new table. They carried it in through a snowstorm because that’s just how we roll, and I took my sweet time admiring it.

But it needed something, and so I took the vase of still-kinda-alive flowers from our old table and placed them in the center.

Later that night, we started cleaning off the old table…my husband was going to take it apart until we could get it listed for sale or find someone who needed it. Once we’d cleaned it off, he leaned it down on its side to take the legs off, and SNAP!

It broke. Irreparably broke.

As I held it so he could finish the job and then move the pieces outside, we talked about all the life that had been lived at that table. It’s held conversations with friends we won’t see again until heaven, tears in some of the hardest seasons of our lives, laughs and giggles and sound effects as our kids grew and changed and tried new foods. ๐Ÿ˜‰

It’s held seasons upon seasons that have built our lives into what they are.

I wrote blog post after blog post at that table, I wrote a book and just a few weeks ago, started another one. I’ve cried into the pages of my Bible more times than I can count there, and I’m sure there were days when the tears rolled right off those pages to the table.

The table was the source of most of our fights and disagreements as it was my makeshift office, art center, and landing space in the middle of all the rest that should actually happen at a dining room table.

It was truly the most tangible center of our lives, and so it seems appropriate that at the end of a December we replaced it with a new one.

There’s a bittersweet feeling in me this morning as I run my fingers over the edge of this new one. It’s beautiful in its ruggedness…the old that we, for some reason in this crazy culture, pay extra for. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I have no doubt that thousands of memories will be created at this one, too…that life in its rawest and realest and most precious moments will be spilled out as friends and family share their hearts here.

My eyes fall on the flowers in the center, and they hold the simplest of lessons for me, but it’s one I desperately want to cling to as this year comes to a close.

Every year…EVERY ONE…holds beauty. I can’t think of a year we’ve had when something wonderful didn’t happen. But I also can’t think of a year when something hard didn’t happen, too…whether it was a heartache or a struggle or a sickness or a loss.

That’s just life, isn’t it?

But we took the good from the broken and moved forward, determined to let our Father make something beautiful from it all. And that’s kind of how I feel about our new table…there are all kinds of possibilities about to be lived out there as we move from what was, what is, and what will be tomorrow.

I don’t know where you find yourself this December 31st. Maybe it’s smiling and anxious for a year full of new beginnings. Or, maybe not. Maybe you’re hurting from 2017 and not sure how you’ll face 2018. I think I fall somewhere between the two of those.

I don’t have a lot of answers, but I do know…I do know this. I know God can always take broken and make it beautiful, old and make new. I know He brings life through the hellos and goodbyes, through the changes and the moving forward.

Maybe you need that reminder. I know I do.

Here’s to 2017…a year that held a lot of life for our family.

And here’s to 2018…a year that will hold even more.

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Our house has been under construction since summer…some of you have asked about that. It’s going great, and soon I’ll be able to show you lots more! But for now, I’ll leave you with a family photo that perfectly depicts our 2017.
Under construction, yes.
Messy? Yeah, almost every day.
But somehow…it’s still beautiful.
And we’re so grateful.

Sig

Wandering Home

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I had determined that so much time would not pass before I wrote again, but six months happened anyway.

Six months of life and joy and ups and downs and all the things that come from what happens when less and less time is spent at a keyboard.

I miss it, often. Most days, really.

But I also see the gift in giving myself the freedom to breathe away from screens and, instead, sit on the floor and play with bristle blocks. I didn’t even know they existed until my little boy came along.

Somewhere in the last six months…

…we went from first to second grade.

…we went from seven months to thirteen, six to seven, 38 to 39, and someone, who shall remain unnamed, found his 40’s. ๐Ÿ˜‰

…we went from fourteen years married to a milestone. 15.

…we laughed and cried, fought and rebuilt, hurt but chose love.

…we built a thousand plus more memories.

…we turned a two bedroom to a working-on-becoming-three-with-an-extra-family-room thrown in there. Hello, awesome construction and MORE space.ย ๐Ÿ˜€

And so much more. (Including miserably failing at anything related to writing.) ๐Ÿ˜‰

I’ve never been the type to stick my roots down. I think insecurity and painful childhood memories have a lot to do with that. When I actually did fall under the title of nomad, I reveled in it. The freedom to go and see and do…

And leave.

Yet, here we are, and the house at #127 has the deepest roots we’ve found so far. I’m not sure they’ll ever really be yanked up, and that’s oh-so-good.

And hard. Some days, really hard.

The July day we broke ground was the day my Indonesia heart broke a little, too. No one knew because I masked it with a big smile, but I knew that, most likely, an Indonesia life wasn’t in the plans for us anymore. My heart has always longed to return, somehow. Short-term, probably, but long enough to love again. But God has to move in all hearts, not just the emotional one.

And so, above dragging my family across the world and tearing us from a place we all love, I choose to honor God’s calling for us in this season. I press into the relationships and hang on to those that need a little extra hanging-on-to. They’re precious, and friends like this don’t walk into my life every day. I cover our lives in prayer because we always need it, but I think we all need it a little more right now. If that even makes sense.

I choose to invest, even on the days when it hurts; I smile when I sing a praise song because even though the act of praising is sometimes bittersweet, the God I’m singing to is unchanging. Always the same.

And we breathe silently and deeply, the kind of breath that catches in our throats because another year has passed…and we walk our girl to her second grade classroom, where she flits off and gets ready to fly just a little more. And tears pool in the corners of our eyes as we watch it all. But then the stories of recess and art-creating, of singing songs and learning math spill out of her at the pick-up line, and I know to the depths what a blessing this all is.

But my wandering heart is still learning to stay anchored to the One Who holds me.

And so I stumble out of bed every single morning, a bit earlier than I’d like thanks to the baby boy who enjoys those early hours. I sip a little extra coffee, find some time and space for my Father and what He has for me that day, and then she rises so we can really start the day. It’s routine…it’s our becoming.

The kind of becoming that teaches us, again, that no matter where we go, He is always with us. But the part of that verse I never see there, and maybe He just meant to imply it because we should already know it, is that wherever we stay, He’s there, too.

I’m finding myself again slowly, in the most close-to-Jesus way possible. I know he’s my everything, and so I lack nothing.

But sometimes I still wander.

Away from my blog, away from what I should be doing, and even, at times, away from Him.

I’m so, so grateful He doesn’t wander from me.

There’s a lot of life not shared here anymore…and I miss that part. I was half-joking, kind-of bragging to friends the other night that when it comes to words, I’ve still got it. ๐Ÿ˜‰ But the truth is that sometimes He asks silence from us so He can quiet us and teach us more than we’d learn if we were making noise all the time.

So that’s our season. For now.

Seasons definitely change, and I don’t know what the next one will look like. But I do know Who tells every leaf where to fall.

And so I’ll wander a little bit more, looking for His next plan…but I’ll always wander back to Him.

I’ll always wander back to Him, because in the end, He’s Home.

Sig

On Seasons and Sleep…and Giving Thanks

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It’s been a long time. A really, really long time.

And I don’t know why this morning is any different from the other mornings other than I feel like there are some words. So I should write them, yeah? :)

Potentially it’s because I browsed facebook for all of five minutes this morning and dissolved into a puddle of tears twice because of Humans of New York and CBS. (Thanks, guys.) And then I watched a story last night, too…this one. And it made me weep because that’s just what I do these days, apparently. (Though…major tissue alert. Just sayin’ that right now.)

Maybe those tears are pushing the words out, I don’t know.

Or maybe it’s that the last two nights I’ve been out cold before 9 p.m. (Actually, the first night was 6:30. SIX-THIRTY, y’all.) Clearly I’m catching up on sleep. This is sort of funny, but I fell asleep in my puffer vest and leggings last night…the night before it was in my jeans and hoodie. Who needs pajamas?! ๐Ÿ˜‰

At any rate, it’s not even 6:30 a.m. 7 a.m. and I’ve already had two three (and a half) cups of coffee and am considering stock in Kleenex.

So it might be that kind of blog post. We’ll see. But I haven’t written in a long time, and I miss it sometimes. So I’m guessing there will be a lot of words this morning. (You’ve been warned.) :)

It’s honestly been a random sort of existence lately.

I don’t so much remember this with Mae, but I’m sure it happened then, too. It’s just that with her, I never had to be anywhere. We never had to do anything. So our normal was whatever the day brought. With Mac…it’s different.

We have a first grader to keep up with…and she needs to get to school, be picked up, have her mama there for certain things. It’s all good and it’s all beautiful, but it’s changed the baby game plan I had in my head. The kind that looked like two solid naps a day, sleeping through the night…all that good stuff with which I was so incredibly spoiled with Mae. (But I’ve tried not too compare my kids. Too much.) ๐Ÿ˜‰

The truth is that I’ve loved watching my daughter grow up, even though it’s bittersweet. Every day I take her to school, and my heart pinches and explodes at the same time…leaving her there. Knowing it’s right, but accepting that it’s going so, so fast. I mean, look at this girl! Seriously. So. Grown. Up.

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She’s such a cool person, in my incredibly unbiased opinion. ๐Ÿ˜‰ She writes plays that make us laugh our heads off, she fills up journals at the age of six, she’s asked to “real blog” (though I won’t let her use her domain just yet), she’s rocking the big sister role, and she’s reading chapter books with her reading light, late at night when she’s supposed to be sleeping. She’s got such a tender heart, always praying for others and hurting when they hurt.

I don’t know God’s plans for her, but I know they’re going to be amazing. I just love this girl.

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And watching her be Big Sissy to this Little Man? Oh, my heart. (In a puddle all over the floor.) I was so, so worried about two kids, girl and boy, six years apart. And, yet…Mac completes our family…and these two. Just the best.

Baby boy keeps growing and changing because that’s what little boys do, and it seems like it’s already going way too fast. Flying.ย HOW is he four months old already?!ย  He’s rolling over and moving around tons, and I think he’s getting ready to crawl. OY. And, judging by the amount of drool he produces, I’m pretty sure that teeth aren’t too far off either. WHERE is time going? Ah, this face. Melting again.

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It’s Thanksgiving week, and I really love this time of year. It’s starting to get colder, which might not be my favorite…but a change in seasons always makes me stop and think about life and how there are always changes. Challenges. Sometimes pain. But a lot of joy, too.

On Saturday, fall-ish winter finally arrived. I (somewhat painfully) put the flip flops away and put on an actual coat as the temps dipped into the 20’s and 30’s…and I was forced to reconcile with the fact that my toes will now need to be covered for approximately five months. (Give or take. And here in the bi-polar Midwest, it will probably be give.) :)

Sometimes I gripe about change, but the truth is that I enjoy it most of the time. I like the surprises of life, and I love a good adventure. Sometimes change brings hurt, too…but I’m learning to deal with that. Just like I’m learning to put on a winter coat. Because…reality. I live in Illinois, and it’s November. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Our last year has been full of change, for sure.

Sometimes I look back and am amazed we survived. Or, me at least. ๐Ÿ˜‰ A year ago, I’d just seen the positive pregnancy test, and a few days later I was already vomiting my guts out. (Sorry for that bit of graphic information.) And as the weeks progressed, it became apparent that, if baby was going to make it, I needed help. (And IVs and lots and lots of medication.) We were scared…there are side effects and unknowns that come with those things, and I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you I was worried there would be something wrong with my baby boy. But God…He’s good, and Mac is healthy. Though I do wish he’d take naps! (We’ll save that post for another day.) ๐Ÿ˜‰

macmommy-finalSorry for my freakishly large-looking hand.
Selfies will do that to ya.
๐Ÿ˜‰

I truly have so, SO much to be thankful for, and no doubt, topping the list is a sweet little boy named Mac. My little family, my friends…many of whom ARE my family, a place to live, more than I will ever need, prayers answered beyond what I could have imagined by a Father Who loves me more than I will ever understand.

Life is really good, even if it’s really random.

And thank goodness there’s coffee to help survive the random. ๐Ÿ˜‰

This has always been one of my favorite songs. It’s been around awhile now, but…I still love it. Maybe having a listen will bless your day, too.

I’m so thankful for all of you. Happy Thanksgiving. :)

Sig

He Redeems

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There are times in life that cause reflection…major life events seem to do that for me. (That also seems to be the only time I can manage to find the time…or words…to blog these days, too. Sorry. I promise I’m working on it!) ๐Ÿ˜‰

Our family has been through something pretty important recently ๐Ÿ˜‰ and I want to share it with all of you.

You see, even though pregnancy lasts just nine months (for which I am EX.TREME.LY. thankful…) our story is so much more than just that. It includes prayers and trust and some hard, hard days…and I know that many of you have prayed for us during this journey.

So while it’s ultimately God’s story, you are all a part of it.

So here we go. :)

I’m not even sure when it really started…years ago.

But for this piece of it, my heart goes back to July 22, 2014. That was the day we lost our baby, the one we named Carly Kristine.

Just a few weeks earlier I’d seen the faint line that told me my girl, Mae, was going to be a big sis. I was so, so excited…but cautious. I guess I’d just gotten used to living the paradox of holding on to and fighting hope.

And while I never wanted…or let myself expect…to lose our little one, the night the spotting started, that hope slipped. And the next day, I knew.

And that was the day…the day of the ER and the freezing cold room and the what-seemed-like-hours of tests and ultrasounds and the words,

No heartbeat.

And so we went home that day and fumbled through just trying to keep going. There was grief. There were tears and there still are today. There were ways we remembered and still do. But there was also a mark on the calendar day…and on my heart…of July 22nd, and I knew it would never be a day I welcomed.

It isn’t that I didn’t think God could heal my heart…I knew He could. And that He probably would.

Someday.

But I didn’t expect full redemption…the kind where He says,ย See what I’ve done?ย And that I’d truly be able to stand back in awe.

It’s just that sometimes a loss is too great, and it can never be replaced…so we don’t even dare to hope for it.

The months that have made up the years since have been up and down…there’s been a lot of joy in the gifts that He’s given and some moments, too, of hurting and wishing for what can’t be anymore. But I can’t complain…His goodness has always been there.

And then came a day last November.

I honestly didn’t expect to see the positive on the test.

I’d had symptoms. I threw up during a longer run. My running pace had gotten slower. I was tired. And so…I peed on a stick. And I almost just threw it away after that without even looking because I thought I knew.

I didn’t.

It was there, and it wasn’t even faint. Full on. We. Were. Pregnant.

And there was a huge part of me that refused to let myself even go all the way to July 28, 2016…my due date. Because, how?

That was too much hope to let creep in.

But as the weeks went on (days, really, because I get so darn sick when I’m pregnant) there was no doubt. This baby was thriving and taking me down. (I can laugh about that now.) :)

And I fought with HG and puked my way through the almost-first-half of pregnancy, and as I was starting to feel just a bit better, we found out we were having a boy.

A boy I’d wished with all my heart to be a girl.

But there it was on the screen, and there was no mistaking that a son was on the way for us.

And as the weeks somehow flew and turned into months, I found myself ready to welcome this little one. I was full of fear, full of anxiety…but also a little bit full of hope, too.

Maybe finding that hope again was the first of many gifts this little boy gave to me.

And on Wednesday, July 20, 2016, we welcomed McClain Jonathan Schroeder to our family.

It was instant love.

He stole my heart. ๐Ÿ˜‰

And I wondered with everything in me why I’d never wanted a boy.

There will always be a part of my heart that grieves the loss of a baby, just two years ago, who was just as wanted and loved.

But that Friday, just two days later…July 22nd…I was lying in my hospital bed, looking at a sweet little boy, feeling my heart almost-explode at the love I have for our new little one.

And I didn’t hate that day anymore.

This, friends, is redemption.

He can always, always redeem.

He can always, always take something that hurts and make it beautiful.

He can always, always give hope when hope feels impossible.

And I’d go through it all again…just to know and see and feel this much of His goodness.

Thank you, Father…You know better. Help me to remember that anytime I doubt it.

Welcome to the world and to our family, sweet Mac. We love you so, so much.

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Sig

Letting God Rewrite Your Dream

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I always thought Iโ€™d be a mommy to two girls.

When I envisioned our future family, I saw my daughter, Mae, walking with her hand clasped tightly to another little girlโ€™s.

Itโ€™s a precious image Iโ€™ve had in my head for a long time, but one I was afraid to verbalize.

In 2014, after a struggle to become pregnant, we found out we were expecting, and I was sure this was it.

My two girls.

Sadly, we miscarried that sweet little one, and I pushed that image far back into the corner of my brainโ€ฆand my heart.

I felt like that dream was over, and it was one I grieved for a long time.

And thenโ€ฆsurprise of surprisesโ€ฆwe found out this past November that we were expecting again.

And I allowed that dream to take its place in the depths of my heart again.

I was sure.

My pregnancy with this one was nearly identical to my pregnancy with Maelie, other than the fact that I was even sicker. But everyone knowsโ€ฆsick = girl.

Oh, I wanted her to be a girl so badly.

Weโ€™d picked out her name. Hope Kristine.

And though there were nagging thoughts of, I think this might be a boy, I tried to stay positive.

God knew the desires of my heart, and I was sure Heโ€™d give them to me.

Today I’m over at God-sized Dreams, sharing a piece of how God is doing some rewriting in my life. Will you join me here?

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Sig

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.) ๐Ÿ˜‰

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. ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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. ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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

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

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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.) ๐Ÿ˜‰

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.) ๐Ÿ˜‰

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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.

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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.

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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. :)

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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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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.) ๐Ÿ˜€ 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