Just Living

day lilies 2 final

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

pool selfie final

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…) 😉

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.

😉

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…) 😉

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. 😉

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!) 😉

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

June Favorites (But Not on a Friday) :)

Tbirthdayfampic final

So I’m not exactly sure where June went.

But here we are.

My daughter is five…she’s been five for TWO. WHOLE. WEEKS. and a day. And we’ve also had possibly the craziest June ever which was topped off with two performances of The Lion King, where my girl was the uber cutest lion cub ever. And we all say, awwwww! Plus we celebrated my hubby yesterday and tonight there’s gonna be cheesecake with friends because…well, because birthdays. And friends. And cheesecake. They’re all really, really good and we like them in our house.

MaeLionKing final

But, sticking to the theme…and the fact that I LOVE writing this post, I bring you some of the faves for the month. :)

June faves final

Read

I didn’t read quite as much in June as I did last month. That could be because of the crazy of VBS and other things that occupied our time…and the fact that it’s now warm enough to swim and play outside every day. (Well, when it’s not raining. We’ve had PLENTY of that, too, this month.)

Row For Freedom: Crossing an Ocean in Search of Hope (Julia Immonen) This book was handed to me at Allume last fall by a publisher, and like just about every book does, it landed on my bookshelf for a few months. (If you’ve been to this conference, you understand the tons-of books-problem. It’s almost overwhelming to even know where to start.)

But a few months ago, I picked it up, read the back, and added it to my I-need-to-read-this, stack. I’m so glad I did. SO. Seriously…not only is the message behind this book powerful, it also made me want to go find four of my closest friends and convince them to row the Atlantic with me…really, any ocean will do. Or a large sea? (Some of you are looking for a place to hide right now, aren’t you?!) 😉

And while it’s not a book, this list of ENFP struggles is so worth the read. I mean, it’s worth the read if you ever want to begin to understand your good friend, Mel. 😉 It’s almost frightening how accurate most of the list is.

Watch

Well, I’ve been oh-so-patiently (not really) waiting each week for the new episode of When Calls The Heart. Still a favorite.

And, somehow, the first ten Love Comes Softly movies are available, on DVD, from Amazon for 13.99. I don’t know how, but I don’t ask questions. I watched the first three in a week and decided I’d cried enough, but when I have more emotional strength, I will venture to the next one, which I’ve already seen and just about wrecks me completely. (Who comes up with these plot lines? Seriously.)

And, yet, I still watch. Over and over because I’m me and because I apparently own stock in Kleenex.

Wear

dress & earrings final

Hmmm. Well, my hubby gave me (let me buy?) an early birthday present in the form of a cute dress. (That you can see here because…well, I took this picture so late that I had to do a selfie.) 😉 It’s my favorite, at least for this week. I wore it a week ago on Sunday morning for praise team, and then I liked it so much that I wore it the rest of the day, too, even when we played three games of bags and frisbee that included running around. 😉 My sweet daughter asked me why I didn’t change clothes, and I just smiled at her. Because Mommy likes cute dresses.

And, also, my Fair Trade Friday Earrings of the Month about took my breath away. Seriously, these are GORGEOUS and my new favorite. I sometimes give my earrings of the month as gifts (because even I don’t need that many earrings) 😉 but these are mine. I wore them on Sunday with my cute dress.

It was just a cute day. 😉

And if you’d like to learn more about the Earring of the Month club, you can check it out here. I highly recommend it. It’s an awesome way to make a difference in the lives of women around the world AND to have a tangible reminder to pray for them. (Plus, cute earrings? Yes, please.) I think it’s the best $12 I spend every month. (The ones from this month are available here, too.)

fair trade friday logo final
Listen

Last week I took my guitar to my voice lesson just to change things up a little. I’d been strumming through a few of my favorite songs, and my teacher and I ended up on Stronger.

I’ve loved the song for awhile now, but it took on a new meaning that morning. I told a friend later that sometimes I struggle with believing the words that I sing, and her response was something I needed to hear. Sometimes we sing them TO make ourselves believe them.

There are hard weeks, there are struggles, there are days when we fight to trust our Father…and I’m certainly no exception to any of these. I need the daily reminder that He is Lord of all. That He always has everything. Because He’s stronger than all of it.

So I hope you’ll have a listen to this one by Hillsong. It’s incredible and it’s meant a lot to me in the last weeks. (And if you’re anywhere near my back porch this summer, you’ll probably hear me belting it out at least once. Sorry about that.) 😉

And…I think that’s it, at least for this month. What are some of your current favorites? Anything I’m missing? (I’m sure there’s a lot!)

Hope you had a wonderful weekend, my friends.

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.  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 “home”…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

Just Life on a Friday

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I know myself well enough to realize that when the blog has been quiet for too long, I just need to write.

Something.

Anything.

Well, not exactly anything…but at least sentences that tell a story or two.

The truth is that the last few weeks have been full of writing for myself…but not for anyone else. I think I intended to share more than I actually did (which would be No.Thing.) but life just got in the way, I guess.

But words felt necessary today…and so here are some. They’re random, but it’s been a random week, so I’m just gonna roll with it.

😉

My girl finished PK this week, and I honestly have no idea what to even do with it all.

I cried because who doesn’t cry when their sweet kiddo reaches a milestone? Plus, Kindergarten? How is she old enough for this???

And then the two of us went out for frappuccino minis, which really translated to I-needed-to-go-to-Target-for-shampoo; how-convenient-that-Starbucks-is-here-too. That kind of thing, you know?

And we smiled and laughed as we walked through the store, and I thought about how awesome it is to have such an amazing little girl to share my days with. (I just wish those days didn’t fly by quite so quickly.)

A few days ago, it was a gorgeous, sunny day. It was also 46 degrees, according to my iPhone. I didn’t really believe my phone because Mae and I were both outside in tank tops and we weren’t cold AT ALL. And also, my shoulders turned a shade of red that I don’t usually see until that day mid-July when I forget to reapply the sunblock.

Yeah, I got fried in May. IN. MAY.

And also I’m pretty sure the weather app was broken because No. One. Burns. In. 46. Degree. Weather. (Just let me be right here, ok?) 😉

I am more than ready for warm weather to make an appearance for longer than a few days at a time.

And if that randomness doesn’t scare you off… 😉

I spent three days eating red meat for every meal this week. (As in, to the point that it was becoming gross.) Before you start thinking that I have weird eating habits, let’s just say I wanted, in the worst way, to get my iron levels up so I could donate blood. Because, yeah, they stink, no matter how much steak I eat. You know it’s bad when I walk into the room and tell them to do the finger prick part before I sit through all the paperwork.

And also, I failed again. (My husband asked me if I was ready to give up yet. Never.)

And after my last few end-of-the-month blog posts…you know, the ones when I share all my favorites? Yeah, I decided I needed to read more books. So I’ve been reading a lot.

I laughed my way through Sophie Hudson’s A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet. I cracked open A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for the second time…I didn’t finish it the first, and I’m actually almost done with it. And then a few days ago, I finally opened Eight Twenty Eight: When Love Didn’t Give Up, and an hour later I looked up, and I was almost on page 100.

So I think it’s safe to say I’m doing just fine in the reading books department. And also, yay for expanding my reading horizons. I feel proud of myself. :)

And I’m also really looking forward to summer with my girl. 

We’ve got a whole summer, friends! It’s been fun to hear her talk about the things she wants to do. Parks, picnics, play dates, swimming, froyo, birthday celebrations…she’s an easy (and fun!) kid to please.

She’s not asking for the moon, though if she did, I’d probably try to find a way. 😉

So I’m praying that God will give us an extra wonderful few months together…and also that He’ll redeem last summer.

It feels like we’ve lived a lifetime since last July. And, maybe in some ways, we have.

We’ve seen loss and walked grief. We’ve found joy on the other side of it…and days that still hurt and pinch in painful ways.

I suppose it might be how this life looks from here on out.

We’ve found ways to surrender dreams and keep walking with Him. And Trust.

That’s been the hardest part of it.

But in the midst, there’s been so much good. And He has been good.

The other day my girl was picking “all the pretty yellow flowers” in our yard, giving them to me one by one. And I thought about how God has been so good about giving us those pieces of tangible beauty despite the pain of the journey…a verse, a text, a prayer, a flower, a surprise coffee from a friend, sweet time with my hubby and girl, friends who have loved us so well.

We’re really blessed…even if there are days when it’s hard to see purpose.

And I hope this Friday morning finds you counting your blessings, too. Thanks for being here, even when I take huge, bloggy vacations. 😉

Sig

April Friday Favorites {+ a GIVEAWAY!)

NYC family final
Well, given that I’ve barely written a single word this month, I figured I’d better get my word quota finished in one post.

Sorry about that…this one’s pushing has long passed 1,500. (But I think it’s worth reading, just for the giveaway at the end!) 😉

Some months are like that…and, honestly, there’s been a lot of processing going on…just not a lot of sharing the words. I’m finally good with that, I think.

But I really love this end-of-the-month post…the chance to update and just share my faves with y’all. And there were a ton this month because, between Easter (helllooooooo, cute dresses!) and a crazy-busy, FUN week of vacation for the three of us, there are just lots of stories to share.

So let’s get to it?

OH. And I’m throwing in another category…EAT. Because…NYC and Philly. 😉

I’ve also got a few fun things to share and a giveaway and the end of this post. Because one cannot travel and discover so many awesome things and NOT share them with the rest of the world, or at least her ten readers, ya know?

I know! (And also, I just love presents.) :)

I bring you the April faves…there are some goodies!!!

Read

So I finished The Hardest Peace. There were a lot of tissues involved…it was one of those books. Heart-wrenching, painful mixed with absolutely beautiful. I recommend it. Read it.

This, too…a friend shared it with me last week, and it’s spot on. Plus, I had a conversation with another friend before she even sent it to me that was basically the same thing. Will you pray for me, friends?

Right now…I’m a mama. And I want to love it completely without wishing for more. My more will come someday.

Also…I’m dying to read the latest Shopaholic book. Just because I haven’t read it yet, and she is stinkin’ FUN. NY.

Watch

My hubby and I have been sorta-kinda-addicted to Flip or Flop on HGTV. Seriously…I have no idea why watching a couple buy houses in absolutely disgusting shape and transform them into stunning beauties is so enthralling, but it is. (Psst…Netflix has the first season available for streaming.) I mostly-seriously said to my husband earlier this week, I think you should quit your job and we could flip houses! Wouldn’t it be fun?!

He didn’t go for it.

Ahem.

Also, with the loss of my childhood TV crush last week, Jonathan Crombie (aka: Gilbert Blythe), Anne of Green Gables has been on my TV a lot this week while I’ve drowned my sorrows in red currant wine. (Ok, not really. But someone tweeted that, and I thought it was insanely clever.) 😉 I totally bought the DVD trilogy back when…I don’t even know. When it first came out on DVD. Gotta admit that I’m a little devastated. I loved him. I think we all did. :( Rest in peace, Gil.

jonathancrombiephoto credit: IMDB

Wear

I’m still rockin’ the earrings. (At least I think I’m rockin’ em.) Golly, where have I BEEN? Now my ears feel naked without them. I’m loving this pair from Work of Worth, an awesome fair trade company. They’re huge, and these Might. Actually. Take. Over. My. Head.

But I don’t care because they’re so cute. (And I also realized that you can’t see them too well here, but it’s late and I’m lazy. But I did manage to take this in my kitchen. Really, Mel?! OY.) :)

another earring selfie final
And, this dress. So, funny story. I ordered it from Maurices a week before Easter, which is a lot in the ordering-online-from-Maurices, world. (They are usually up there with Amazon Prime in terms of shipping. Yep.) But it didn’t even ship by Thursday night, even though I’d ordered it Sunday. And so I dashed…dashed…out of the Maundy Thursday service and sped (just a little) my bum over to the closest Maurices, skidding in the door ten minutes before they closed.

Aaaahhhh…breathe. They had it in stock. In my size. And, I LOVE it. It’s my new favorite dress. Maybe forever. :) Also, if you want one, you should buy it pretty fast because it’s selling out quick. I’m a 6ish, sometimes size 8, and I bought a medium. It was perfect.

Here we are on Easter. We’re cute, I know. And also, these two are my favorite favorites. :)

Easter2015 final
Eat

Ok. I’m a world traveler, and I love…LOVE…seeing new places. But my husband and I have confessed, many times, that while we’ve seen the world, we haven’t exactly seen our own country.

And so we added a couple new places two weeks ago…and the whole vacation deserves its own post, which it’s going to get…but I couldn’t not mention how much I now love the East Coast. Philly was fun, the bit of it we saw, and the friends we saw it with were even better. My introduction to the city happened at Reading Terminal Market in the form of this donut.

And, really, there’s a REASON there’s already a bite out of it. Warm, gooey, cream filled, salted caramel-ly…it was beyond delicious.

donut&coffee final 2
Go ahead. I’ll wait while you clean the drool off of your keyboard.
😉

That was the best donut ever. I’m still thinking about it. Often. (The coffee there was pretty awesome, too.)

And when we decided to do NYC for a day, I knew I couldn’t go there without getting a bagel with lox. Dude, I’ve read about these forever, and I had to try one. Had To.

And so when we stopped in a little deli for lunch, I figured it was the perfect opportunity. $3 for a bagel and cream cheese…and I added some smoked salmon. Never even LOOKED at the price.

I figured I’d get a slice or two of salmon, eat my bagel like a real New Yorker, say yum, and call it good. Bucket list, check.

Nope. Tobin comes over to the table with our food. Um, Mel? I’m not even going to tell you how much that bagel cost.

Huh? It’s a bagel with cream cheese AND. SOME. FISH.

the bagel final
Nope. Apparently, adding TEN INCHES OF SALMON to my bagel shot the price up FOURTEEN DOLLARS! Dude, we’re not poor, but really?! And so, the saga of Mel’s $17 bagel began. (And ended rather quickly because there’s no way I could eat all of that. Or even half.)

It was good. Not the best thing ever, but it was good. And if it happens again, I will specify…how about $2 worth of salmon instead of $14? 😉

But there was plenty about New York food to love, and the roasted cashews at Battery Park were a favorite, too. But I’ll get to that all next week. Aaahhh, New York, you now hold a piece of my heart forever. And, also, I need to come back for your pizza. I ran out of stomach space for that one.

But I’ll be back in October, and I can’t wait!!! (More on that one later.) :) :) :)

Listen

God gave me a gift while we were in Pennsylvania…the chance to attend Winsome, a retreat that is the God-sized Dream of a dear sister, Kim. It was a God-thing that the timing and location worked out, and being there was such an amazing gift. I got to reconnect with dear friends, share heart chats and LOTS of coffee, go deeper with friends I didn’t know as well, worship with my hands raised, listen to Truth from women who are doing such incredible work for God…

Winsomefriends final
The tears are running down my face right now because I just want to go back and do it all again.

One of the moments that weekend that meant so much was when a friend just asked, How ARE you? And she listened while I went on and on. 😉 And she had no idea how much I needed that. And now I miss her like crazy, too.

I also need to write more about the weekend.

So clearly, I have a lot of writing to do. Someone please make me do it? 😉

And how ’bout a giveaway? Golly, I love to give presents. :)

bagearringsgc giveaway final
Last week, I was exploring a little town in Iowa when Mae and I made a quick visit there to see some family, and I wandered into a little store, The Silver Spider. I fell in love with pretty much everything there, and it’s a miracle that I walked out without more treats. But I did discover Blue Q bags, and am now carrying a messenger one that I adore. (I also have the bicycle print one on my please-buy-me-this-for-my-birthday, list. Just fyi in case that’s important information for any of you.) 😉

But because I loved the bags so much, I bought this zipper pouch for one of you to win! Because, hello. Bicycles = SO. CUTE. and this pouch is awesome. It would work for makeup or a Kindle or your chocolate stash. (An iPad mini fits in there, too, if that gives you an idea of the size.)

And I’m completely on an earring kick lately, in case you haven’t noticed. 😉 These are from ViBella, one of my favorite fair trade organizations, and I think they’re adorable…as is pretty much ever piece of jewelry on their site. I hope you’ll give their facebook page a like and then hop over to the site to do a little shopping! Seriously…there are some gorgeous pieces there, and your money is going to provide jobs and education for people in need. Win-win. :)

And because it’s spring (YAY!!!!!!!) and that really deserved more exclamation points, but I’m trying to show some restraint, and because Dunkin’ has their any-size, 99 cent iced coffee between 3-6 pm back…a $5 gift card, which will cover your caffeine fix for a week. (Grammar people, please don’t pick apart that last sentence.) 😉

I’m throwing caution to the wind and using Rafflecopter for this one. (Rafflecopter and I have a love/hate relationship.) Click the link below and follow the instructions to enter. Good luck! And I’ll choose a winner on Monday morning.

I’ve missed you all. A lot. Thanks for being here. :)

The happiest of weekends to you. May you find some sunshine and a quiet spot to enjoy it all. :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday-Favorites 300

Sig

March Friday Favorites

Mae&MelBali final
I’m really loving writing this post each month. I love that Crystal decided to make it a link up. :) It’s fun to write about my favorite things, but it’s also a ton of fun to read about what everyone else is loving, too. Make sure you check out the link up over at her blog.

And I’m feeling pretty proud of myself this month, too…read on to hear about at least what I consider a major victory in my fashion life. Which may seem a little self centered, but hey…some days we have to celebrate the small things.

😉

Ok, that was goofy, but that tends to be me most days. In fact, I was just telling a friend that on that personality quiz, Which Friend Are You?…I am always, ALWAYS Phoebe. It must be my running. Or the random songs I sing…yeah, most likely that. 😉

Well, I can keep getting more random or I can tell you a little about some of the things that are topping my favorites list right now. Let’s do that before I confess that I had a handful of jellybeans for breakfast…

March books final
Read

I must be stuck in a huge rut, but I haven’t been doing a ton of reading this month, though I’m trying to be more consistent with Bible reading. My journaling Bible has helped a lot…and though the giveaway is over, you can read more about that journey here. It’s not a perfect one at all…but I’m thankful.

Also, I did finally start reading The Hardest Peace…the same weekend sweet Kara went to be with Jesus. It’s a hard read, and I’m taking it slowly because blubbering-Mel isn’t really a very functional Mel. This book is completely undoing me…and I’m also aching so much for her sweet family right now. Will you join me in prayer for them?

Also, a dear friend wrote the book, 31 Days to Coming Alive…and it’s so, SO good that I had to read it again. She’s just funny, insightful, and a breath of fresh air…you can nab the Kindle version for a steal, or you can get it in paperback, too. Seriously. Just buy it. (Also, I can’t wait to meet her in real life someday…I might have also invited myself to go to Nepal with her the next time she goes.) 😉

I’m determined to give myself some grace for the months when I feel restless and don’t read many words. But the ones I’ve read this month have been good.

Watch

Well, I’m not sure exactly what I’ve been doing with my time because watching anything hasn’t really happened, either.

Lately, hubby and I have spent a few nights each week watching an episode or two of Friends. (Thank you, Netflix.) We just laugh together, and it’s time well spent. I need it.

I also really want to see the new Cinderella, but I’m not sure that my very active four year-old would actually sit through a movie that is an hour and 53 minutes long. So I might be begging a grown up friend to go with me instead. :) Have you seen it? Is it as amazing as I’m hoping it is?

And I started watching God’s Not Dead the other night, and it’s awesome, but I also fell asleep halfway through because it was after 1 a.m. when I started it. (I just couldn’t sleep, and after an hour of praying for everything and everyone I could think of, I decided to watch a movie. Cue sleep.) 😉 I’m looking forward to finishing it this weekend. (And if you stream Netflix, it’s available there.) :)

Wear

Ok, Y’ALL.

LOOK.

earring selfie final
I. WORE. EARRINGS.

And now I’ll stop with the capital letters. 😉 I’m just really stinkin’ proud of myself for finally wearing them. I’m sorta lovin’ them, too.

And so, of course, I took a selfie. The big, dangly ones seem to be winning out right now, and these are definitely my favorite. My hubby bought them for me the weekend we went away to Galena, and I adore them, and I actually don’t think they take over my head.

So if they do, don’t tell me. 😉

I seem to be in love with dresses right now, too. I have no idea…NONE…what has happened to this girl with a twinge of rebel in her, this girl who scoffed at dresses for over a decade following Bible college. Apparently they got cute…and maybe I grew up a little, too. 😉 (And Target has a buy one, get one 50% off sale this week. That’s not really doing me any favors…)

Listen

This is always a hard one for me. So I’ll tell you a story instead. :)

Our due date was the 14th, and I knew it would be a really tough day. Because as much as we mamas know that a due date is really only a ballpark number, it was etched on my heart for months. I didn’t want to be all boo-hoo over it, but it was a really emotional week…one when I didn’t know what I needed but I’m thankful God did.

And then a friend just asked, Hey, what are you doing on Saturday?

And it meant the world that she just wanted to spend some time together. We ended up grabbing a coffee and wandering Goodwill (which is one of our favorite things to do) and mostly just talking…

and it was so, SO good for my heart.

It was also a reminder that sometimes we just need to take the time to listen and love and be. She’s in such a busy season of life, and she still took that time for a friend.

I’m so grateful for friendship and for a Father Who meets us where we are. Even when we feel lost.

And while that may not have been quite what the word Listen is intended for, it’s where I went with it today. Plus, time with a dear friend is always my favorite and it should make the list somehow. :)

I’m also missing the sound of the ocean, and that kind of fits under listening, too, doesn’t it? 😉 That’s why I chose the photo I did…I love looking at me and Mae in Bali…sigh. The beachThe tropics. Honestly, I’ve been pretty homesick for Indonesia lately. I’m a restless girl with nomadic tendencies who has chosen to put roots down…and that makes things tough some days. Loving two places…always missing one.

It’s the life He’s given us, though, and I’m grateful even when I’m homesick.

Anyway…there you go, at least for the month. :)

Lots of favorites…lots more I didn’t share, too.

What are you loving today?

Friday-Favorites 300

Sig

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

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

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

You sure got me.

SNOW. Really?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading. :)

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36

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If only we had known what was coming.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not good.

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

Guess what?

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

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

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

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

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

And I finally cried.

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

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

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

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

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

So…rabies vaccination: check.

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

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

A redness creeping up his arm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I was terrified.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No matter where we are.

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

_____________________

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

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

Sig

Thinking of Her Today

MelRiver final
I’ve sort of been pounding this post out, over and over, in my head for quite some time. Except it’s changed every single time, and I’ve struggled to find the perfect words for it all.

So I’m just going to let go of the perfect and write.

I know that none of this is going to be wrapped up in a pretty package with a sparkly bow. Sometimes life just doesn’t look like that, even with a sparkle-lovin’ four year-old in the house.

But I’ll try.

Today is our due date for her. March 14, 2015. And while I know that doesn’t necessarily mean anything, I know it’s a date that is forever etched on the heart of this mama who carried her little one for much too short of a time.

Today, tomorrow…this weekend, this month, even this past year. It’s all been a hard sort of grief…the what-would-have-been kind that creates an aching hole and takes my breath away. It comes and goes and it usually comes at the most inconvenient times. (Like when I’m walking through a store or when I’m putting on my eye makeup or when I’m sitting in church with no tissues. Especially then and holy snot. Seriously. This should be a lesson learned.) 😉

I don’t suppose I really expected these days to be easy. I mean, if things had gone the way I wanted, I’d be cuddling our sweet newborn right now instead of writing about how much I wish I was.

But today my jeans fit (well, mostly) and my sleep is less-interrupted and my arms are empty.

And there are many days when I fall into my Father’s arms and tell him what I’ve said (or tried to say) since it all happened…that it’s ok and that I’ll trust Him. But there are also days when it’s really hard to do that, and I still wonder. A lot.

Because this wasn’t my plan, and the longer and harder I think about an entire lifetime without our sweet Carly, the more painful the ache becomes.

I’ve tried to fill up life as much as possible lately. We went away last weekend and I’ve tried to stay busy this week. I’ve got plans with a friend and some time with my hubby and Mae today, friends coming over for dinner tomorrow night, and more friends visiting next week.

Life is still full and it’s still beautiful, but there are also days when the hole is so present…like today.

I’ve told myself that if I get through the weekend, I will have survived one of the hardest weeks of my life. I’m not a dummy…I know I won’t magically feel better the moment the sun is up on Monday morning, but there’s a piece of me that says I might find a little more hope.

I might. I even think I will.

But right now…well, my family is walking a hard, grief path. We’re breathing through it and finding smiles and even laughs…knowing that she’s in heaven smiling and laughing and probably chasing Andre. (Or, being chased by him.) 😉

And I’ve been trying to find ways to honor her because that’s what we should do. The fact that we never held her on earth doesn’t mean she’s any less our daughter.

We hung a special print in our house, and I’ll tell you about it another day because I want to, but that story needs to wait.

I framed a quote to sit next to the stuffed lamb we bought for her, the one Maelie hugs every day and Oh. My. Heart. It breaks and it melts.

I bought some paper lanterns to let go, but I’m scared we’re going to set something on fire…so we’ll see if that one actually happens. 😉

And we pray about her and ask God to hold her for us since we can’t be there to cuddle her and cover her with the millions of kisses she would have had.

And none of it feels perfect, but it feels right.

We’re honoring her the best we know how.

Today is my due date. Would you lift us up? This grief stuff…it’s hard.

But we also know our Father is holding us. And holding her, too.

And there’s peace in that…and the promise that one day we’ll hold her, too.

quote for baby Carly final 2 watermark

Sig

Lessons From Indonesia: A Sweet Friendship

 IbuMae&Mel final

Well, Monday. Hi there.

I’m having a hard time believing that this one isn’t out to get me just a little.

I had the stomach flu all weekend…it was a weird one. Lets just say I was pretty miserable, but I didn’t throw up at all. (Thank you, God, for that part.) I’m still exhausted. Still not really very hungry. And I’m pretty sure I reached my goal weight in just two days. And I spent those two days praying that no one else in our family…or on the planet…gets this because OY.

And now I’ll quit talking about being sick and about how I’ve barely had any coffee in the last 72 hours. (Which could be the biggest record ever. Just throwing that out there.) 😉

There are so many stories I want to tell y’all about Indo…and some of them I still need to write because they’ll pop into my head, and I’m like, Oh! I forgot about that one! And that also always, ALWAYS happens in the shower or when I’m driving or while I’m sitting in church…when I. CAN’T. EXACTLY. DOCUMENT. ANYTHING. (Though I may have blogged something from my phone during church once. I swear it was related to the sermon, though.) 😉

But today, I just thought I’d tell you about someone really special to me.

Let me be up front and just say that while there were things that were rough about life in Indo, there were also a million blessings. And one of them came to me in a most unexpected way. I honestly wasn’t thrilled, at first, about having someone working in my home every day. Yes, I wasn’t all that happy about having a housekeeper.

Really, Mel?! 😉

But a week into it all, I knew that this woman would be a welcome, special part of our lives there. And she was. I miss her every day…truly, I do. (And not just because she did all the laundry and cooked for me!) 😉

Sometimes there are people who come into our lives…and they change us forever.

Ibu S was one of them. She will always be our family.

And though words are hard to find for people who mean that much, I tried. :)

_____________________

14

“Why did you do all this for me?” he asked. “I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.”

“You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing.”
E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

She showed up at our house at seven in the morning, one week after we arrived in Indonesia.

I could barely talk to her as I relied on my English to Indonesian dictionary for virtually every word. (I sometimes think about how badly I probably botched the Indonesian language during that first conversation…I don’t even want to know.)

She washed our clothes, cleaned our (very dirty) house, took care of our dog, and cooked chicken teriyaki and rice for us.

I instantly took to this woman.

Ibu S.

And I loved her…not because she did all of the house work so I didn’t have to. :)

She had the kindest smile…that was what told me we were friends. Even if we couldn’t talk to each other.

I communicated with her using that ridiculous dictionary for the first year.

As time went on, we learned more about each other…especially once I could speak a little of the language.

She would cook us dinner almost every night…and she could cook. Yum. I still crave her nasi goreng and mie goreng and wish that I’d taken the time to learn to make it well and not just from a packet. (Though it’s not too bad that way, either.) 😉

She could fold laundry with the best of them. Even after years of having my clothes washed, dried, ironed, and folded for me (yeah, I was spoiled), I would still smile each time I’d see the meticulously folded, organized-by-color, stacks of shirts and pants in my lemari (closet).

She had an infinite amount of patience for the craziness that ensued when our dogs were being their usual, hyper selves. And she loved them anyway.

She would squash cockroaches for me after I’d squeal in disgust over the latest creature attempting to inhabit my home.

She would make me cake with frosting, homemade no less, when I was pregnant, sick, and the only thing I wanted in the land of not-very-good-cake was CAKE. 😉

Sometimes she would talk to me. About struggles, about things that brought her joy. And sometimes we would cry together.

But usually, we would laugh.

We finally visited her in her home during our fourth year in Indonesia. She and her family treated us like royalty, cooking a meal that I’m sure cost the equivalent of what she’d make in several days. She showed me around her kitchen and then took me out to the little sitting area in the back of her house. Tobin sat in the living room and taught her husband and son a card game that didn’t require too much Indonesian.

We would return to her house a few times, and each time she treated us as if we were the most important people in the world.

We would laugh together often. Sometimes the way I would mess up whatever I was trying to say in Bahasa Indonesia was enough to get us giggling. She knew I had said something wrong, and so did I, and that was enough for the laughter to ensue. (And I may or may not be talking about the year I spent saying, I’m a house instead of my house. Yes, yes, subject placement is an extremely important thing to pay attention to. Clearly I did not.) 😉

During my last year in Indonesia, I was pregnant and very sick, and she took care of me. She made sure I ate and would make me noodles in the morning and hold my head while I threw up. On the rare occasion that I didn’t make it to the bathroom, she would insist on cleaning up after me.

She couldn’t wait to meet my little girl, and when we realized that I wouldn’t be delivering Mae in Indonesia, I think both of our hearts broke.***

During my last days in Bandung, there were many hugs exchanged, but our emotions were stuffed beneath the surface.

Until the very last morning.

It was as if God took away all language difficulties and gave us the gift of being able to truly speak to each other. I gave her a few gifts, and she looked carefully at each of them, especially studying the pictures. I thanked her for all she had done for us and for being a friend.

Then the tears began to drip, and we looked at each other.

The five years of fumbling through communication, of wanting so badly to connect on a deeper level, and finally being able to, were coming to an end.

I gave her one final hug, and it lasted a long time. When we finally pulled away, she placed her hand on my belly to say goodbye to my baby girl.

We were just two friends who stumbled through language barriers for years, but we emerged with a beautiful friendship. What an amazing reminder that true friendship is more about heart than it is about having a common language.

I sobbed as we pulled away from the house and waved goodbye to this dear woman who had given so much of herself to us. In our time together, she had become more than our pembantu and friend; she was a member of our family, and we will never, ever forget her.

***Ibu S got to meet our sweet Mae last year when we visited Indonesia. It was one of the most precious moments of my life.

Mae&Ibu final
_____________________

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

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

Sig