Sharing Life Again

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A sweet friend told me the other day that I hadn’t written lately.

Actually, a few of you have told me that.

But she didn’t say it to make me feel guilty at all…she just said she missed my words, and that meant a lot.

To be honest, I told my hubby a few days ago that I thought maybe it was time to hang up my keyboard on this space and call it a really good run. I love what this blog is and what it has meant to me in the last five years…and sometimes good things come to an end, too.

But he gently told me that maybe I shouldn’t do that…and that maybe I should keep writing and stay open to the possibility of words.

It would be easier to quit…but his words have been floating around my heart for several days.

And, the truth? I’ve known I’ve needed to find some words lately and just get back to sharing life, so maybe this attempt will actually find you all.

So, it’s fall. And I love fall. :) I love the crunchy leaves and sweaters and boots, and let’s be honest. Coffee just tastes better in the fall, too. It does, I promise. 😉

For this girl who thrives on change (and has somehow been placed into a record-long-to-her, phase where life DOESN’T change much) fall is a reminder of the beauty God can bring through the different seasons of life. I love that.

Truly, it hasn’t been an easy season. For me and for a lot of those I love.

Sad goodbyes have marked this season of change.

Unexpected challenges have left some wondering where exactly purpose lies.

There’s just some hurt going on and life feels upside-down.

It’s hard to write through all of that…but I want to because I want to be real. I try to be, anyway. I can’t promise perfect words…but here’s a little bit of life right now. :)

Every morning my daughter and I pray on our way to school. She complains because I spend the better part of our 6-7 minute drive in prayer, but I want to be intentional. We talk to God about the people we love, but we also take time to say thank you for the blessings. Because there are so, SO many, even in the challenging seasons of life.

I love God, but understanding Him lately? Well, that hasn’t happened. There are a lot of times I don’t see His purpose. I don’t understand the death of a friend who had so much life left to live. I don’t understand the loss of a friend’s husband to a cruel disease. I don’t understand how we can make simple plans that happen for everyone else…and they don’t happen for us.

But I do trust my Father. And I tell Him that every day. And I find it a gift that I can tell Him that, even on the days when I doubt Him.

I’m pounding this out when I should be finishing up a last post for GSD and packing a suitcase. I get to have an adventure today and for the next few days. Off to the East Coast and off to see some dear sisters who have a special place in my heart. :)

That’s a gift, too.

And in the midst of a crazy week, we managed to throw family pictures in there, too. And while I wonder if our colors were a little non-matchy and if I shouldn’t have worn those distressed skinny jeans with a hole in the knee (really, Old Navy?!) because they make my butt look ginormous, I know that the smiles and the memories captured will be treasured for a lifetime. (As long as you can’t see how big my bum is. Seriously.)

Just keepin’ it very real today. 😉

I love my family and the gift they are to me.

And time and again, I look around at my community, and I fall in love even more. I have no idea why God chose to put us here, in our 1870’s-old, but updated…thank you, God…farmhouse with an awesome yard and a beautiful view and the best friends/neighbors we could have asked for…but I’m thankful.

I’m thankful that He sees what we need and gives it to us, in spite of what we think we want.

I’m so surrounded by blessings…in people, in places, in memories, in a Father Who loves me. Who loves all of you.

And I’m trying to be better about remembering those blessings. Every moment.

Thanks for still stopping by this place. Maybe God isn’t quite done with it yet? Maybe. And I’ll take a maybe. :)

Will you share a blessing with me today? I’d love to hear from you.

I’ve got a plane to catch…but I’ll be back soon. :)

Sig

September Friday Favorites (+ a GIVEAWAY)

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

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

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

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

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

OR

All About Making Friends With Other Moms in Target

OR

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

So, let’s just roll with all of them, ok? 😉

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

😉

READ

We’re being totally honest here, right?

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

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

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

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

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

WATCH

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

WEAR

This is always my favorite one. :)

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

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

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

coffee&Jesus finalPhoto Credit: SavChicBoutique (Etsy)

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

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

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GO

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

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

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

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

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

Mae+Mel selfie final

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

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

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

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sig

When Your Days Don’t Look Like Dreaming

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This is the morning, I tell myself, as I pour the coffee and head out to the picnic table.

It’s the morning I’m going to sit down and write those words, the ones that will be so profound, the ones that will inspire dreamers and push them to chase down whatever it is that’s burning in their hearts.

A smile creeps to my face as I take a seat at my little, yellow-and-turquoise-with-a-flower, table and begin to pound out the words.

And I’m not too far into it all before I feel the honest need to confess something.

I’m a writer at God-sized Dreams, and sometimes I feel like a big fake.

The truth? Is that, lately, I haven’t been doing much, if any, dreaming. Or writing.

Today I’m over at God-sized Dreams, sharing a little honesty. 😉 My dreams have definitely changed in the last years…and I’m learning to embrace that. Join me?

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Sig

Just Living

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This past Wednesday came and went.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life still went on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’d been trying to write.

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

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

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

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

Sig

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

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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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

When Doodling Brings You Closer to God {and a GIVEAWAY!!!}

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This is a hard thing to admit, but I struggle opening my Bible some days.

Many of the days.

It’s been a struggle for years, and I attribute-without-blaming it to the fact that I attended a Bible college for five years, where the Bible inadvertently became more of a textbook than a gift.

I’ll never forget the first week of my freshman year…the one when we were required to read the entire book of Genesis. I caught myself audibly grumbling as I stayed up well past midnight to finish the required reading. While I’d never been super-crazy-Bible-reading woman, I was pretty good about reading my Bible…and I sure wasn’t enjoying any of this.

Plus, it was a total “On Your Honor” system…did I read it? Yes or No. Circle one.

Oh, goodness, there were days when I was tempted to fudge…but who lies at a Bible college?

And so I squandered sleep and fun and many other things in order to tell the truth about my Bible reading.

And while the whole required reading thing isn’t what this post is about, I know it’s a lot of the reason why I still don’t always view reading the Bible as an enjoyable activity.

It’s just that I don’t always crave God’s Word like I should.

Today I’m over at God-sized Dreams, sharing about a surprising way I’ve learned to enjoy reading the Bible again. Will you join me there?

And, P.S. There’s also a giveaway you won’t want to miss!

😉

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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

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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. :)

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

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

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Lessons From Indonesia: Disliking Durian

durian final
Happy Monday, friends. :)

It’s well into the afternoon before I’m even finding my blog today, but that’s ok. Some days, especially when you’re the mama of a four year-old, there are other things that are way more important. Like smearing copious amounts of red glitter glue all over paper and thankfully not the table.

We created a memory. A sticky, sparkly one…and I’m breathing thanks for it and for my sweet girl today. :)

It’s so funny. Every Monday, after I’ve posted, I tell myself that next week I’ll get this all ready to go before Monday.

I never do. Never.

Thus proving to all of you that I am a procrastinator in the truest sense of the word. 😉

Honestly, the weekend was a good one…it was busy enough and I’m still run down enough from being sick…that last night I was tired. I watched tv instead. (And that’s ok…I’m giving myself permission for things like that lately.)

And even though there’s always an elevation in my heart rate when I share a new story, I love handing over this piece of my heart to all of you. Even almost five years after life in Indonesia, that time in our lives still remains such a precious part of who I am. I embrace that, especially on the days when I want rice for breakfast. :)

This is one of my more quirky stories. I remember writing it at Starbucks late on a Wednesday night two years ago…there was laughter between sentences and a lot of caffeine flowing, and it’s still one of my favorites.

I love hearing from all of you, but especially if you’ve tried durian, I’d love to hear your thoughts. After all…this is just one snarky opinion, written by someone who’s not completely Indonesian. :)

And there are durian lovers out there…kind of a lot of them.

Enjoy. (And please forgive the quote I used…it may have been the most accurate and descriptive I could find.)

😉

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34

 Indescribable, something you will either love or despise…Your breath will smell as if you’d been French-kissing your dead grandmother.
Anthony Bourdain

Durian.

From practically the moment we stepped into the country of Indonesia, and probably even before, we’d heard about it.

The elusive, unique, all-its-own-kind, supposedly-wonderful-but-often-detested, fruit so pungent it was banned from many places including airplanes, most hotels, and even mass transit systems.

Tell me…after that description, would you have high hopes?

Most people never do. You can smell the stuff just passing by a stall where it’s sold on the street and its hard, outer, spiky shell has yet to be cracked open.

But for some reason, I did.

Have high hopes, that is.

Durian.

It was rumored to have once been an event on Fear Factor, and that alone was enough to pique the curiosity of this girl who planned to adventure as much as possible during her time in Indonesia.

And not only was it in fruit form, you could buy it in ice cream or baked into bread or it could even surprise you when you bit into a donut.

Believe it or not we didn’t dive into trying it immediately. First of all, a chance didn’t exactly fall into our laps, and it didn’t come squirting out of a donut either…thank you, God, for that. And so we never even pushed for a chance to give it a try.

Maybe it’s because the smell was truly enough for me.

Our opportunity finally came in the spring of our first year.

We had some good friends who were Indonesian, and they wanted us to take us to the Chinatown area of Bandung for dinner one Saturday night. Tobin and I drove our motorbike, following them on theirs, to a tucked-away section of the city I had never known existed, and had an amazingly good meal of pork nasi goreng and pisang goreng with chocolate and cheese. (I actually still think of this night often…that was some pretty good food.) :)

After dinner we walked around the area a little and decided to go out for “dessert.” (Funny, because I thought the cheesy, chocolate banana qualified as dessert.)

It was quite the bike ride to get to our destination, but they finally pulled over in front of a stand at the side of a pretty busy street.

Hello, durian.

I’m not sure if I’m excited or not to make your acquaintance just yet.

Our wonderful friends knew what they were doing, and we clearly did not, so we just stood and watched as they paid for one of these large, brown, spiky fruits…an object that I was sure could be of far better use as a piece of sports equipment rather than something to eat.

But if so many people raved over this delicacy, there had to be something to love about it, right?

Our friends took the fruit, which was now cracked open, and offered us some. They showed us how to pull out a section, which we both did so, reluctantly, taking the smallest pieces.

Watching them start to eat, clearly enjoying the entire experience, we put the fruit into our mouths.

Actually, I’m still not sure why it is even classified as a fruit…it tasted like stinky gym socks with a little garlic thrown in there.

And I do believe that was a very kind statement.

I choked it down and, probably-less-than-politely, declined seconds.

EW.

EW.

And I managed to keep it down, too, which I believe qualifies as a success worthy of some kind of medal. For it was truly that bad and it took all I had to keep myself from losing my dinner on the side of the road.

But the one thing everyone says about durian is that to appreciate it, you have to try it three separate times. Two of my friends even attested to this fact…after three times they liked it.

Honestly, that was hard to fathom after the one bite I had, quite literally, choked down.

Enter time number two.

As a birthday party/introduction to the Indonesian culture for new staff, several girls hosted a fruit party at their house. The party itself was actually a great idea…there are tons of incredible fruits available in Indonesia, and I would never turn down a chance to eat manggis (my favorite!) or rambutan.

After we’d all tried the good stuff, one of our hosts pulled out the durian.

In my head, I’m thinking…this is my second time. Surely it’s got to taste better than the first.

I watched the birthday girl have her first taste, and she swallowed it down like a pro, even exclaiming, Oh, it’s not that bad!

I just figured we’d lucked out and ended up with an exceptionally wonderful piece of this particular fruit, and her exclamation was followed by a few others who ate it and liked, or at least tolerated, it.

The pressure is kinda on here, Mel…

I reached for a bite, popped it in my mouth…and…

Blech…

Ok, ok, so I didn’t throw up, though if I had let it hit the back of my throat, I’m quite certain I would have lost my breakfast or lunch or whatever meal I’d eaten previous to the party.

That time, I spit it out right into my hand. I didn’t care who was watching.

And thought, What the heck does everyone see in this nastiness masquerading as a fruit?!

It was quite a while…over a year later…before I even wanted to go for my third try. I was pretty much convinced, by that time, that it was pointless.

Some friends and I were at a local shopping mall, and we passed one of my favorite restaurants there, which also served gelato. The workers there were always great about letting us sample the different flavors, and I noticed that there was durian flavored gelato.

Yes, yes, I realize what you are thinking by this point. Durian-flavored gelato is NOT the same as durian. Point well taken.

But if you want a happy ending to this durian-sized fairy tale, this is going to have to be it.

I took a bite.

Uhhh…mmm? Maybe.

Of course, we are talking about gelato here. Not some silly, spiky, grayish-brown, somewhat-spherical fruit.

Then I asked for another sample. Chocolate chip to wash the flavor down. 😉

And that, my friends, is where the saga of my life with durian ends.

That third attempt, in the form of an ice-creamish substance, was my last time.

 The truth is that I think everything is worth trying once. Or even three-ish times. But sometimes, there’s just no hope, and it’s best to move on to things we do like. Like cheesy, chocolate, fried bananas.

A year and a half later, we left Indonesia. Among the very long list of foods I was sad to leave behind were most of the wonderful gelato flavors available there, my favorite fruits, and many Indonesian foods.

But durian-flavored…anything…didn’t make the cut.

And I’m totally good with that. 😉

no durian sign final
Photo Credits: Hafiz Issadeen, Tagosaku

_____________________

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

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

Thank you!

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