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

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The Day Hillary Clinton Made Me Wait For My Coffee

coffeeshopcrowd final
I’d never been to Mount Vernon before, a teeny little town in Iowa. And I probably wouldn’t have ever entered its city limits except it’s where my brother lives, and so Mae and I hopped over there for a quick visit last week.

I pulled into town on the main street and noticed that the corner, where I needed to turn, was blocked off.

There were lots of people and a few police officers directing traffic, which is kind of a big deal in a little town.

I smiled, took a detour and a few extra turns, and found where I needed to go.

We said our hellos and then we all decided to take a little walk. Little because it is a small town (have I mentioned that?) but it’s a cute small town. If I had to live in one, that might be it. Anyway.

One thing I’m a sucker for is a unique, non-chain, coffee shop. They usually have the best coffee, hands down. And so when my brother and sister-in-law were telling me about this one, Fuel, only a block away, I had to try it.

We wandered toward there, and the crowd I’d seen before was now surrounding the door to this place.

What’s going on?! Move! I’ve got coffee to drink at 4:30 pm!

Ok, ok, so I only thought it… 😉

But a girl standing in front of a store informed us that, OF ALL PEOPLE ON THE PLANET, Hillary Clinton was in town.

And? She was drinking coffee at the place that I wanted to go. (Correction: according to Fuel’s Facebook page, she was having tea.)

😉

So there was this day in this little Iowa town. And while there was a lot to love about it…especially the uber cute store I wandered into and walked out of with the current-most-adorable-bag-ever…Hillary Clinton made me wait for my coffee.

Yes, yes she did.

Hubby and I had this little tongue-in-cheek text exchange after it all…I was proud of my wit. 😉

textconv final
And I’ve got nothing against Hillary, really. I probably won’t be casting my vote for her but that shouldn’t shock any of us. Though, she might have had a better chance if I hadn’t had to wait a day for my brew from Fuel. 😉

Which, by the way, was awesome. I had it twice the next day. If you’re ever in Mount Vernon, swing by this little place and say hello. The coffee is yummy, and the people working there were incredibly sweet.

There was also a horse for my girl to ride…the kind when you put in a quarter? YEAH. I hadn’t seen one in ages. Mae loved it, too.

Mae&horse final
A total win for this coffee-lovin’ girl and her sweet daughter. :)

P.S. Thank you to almost the entire population of Mount Vernon for letting me get a photo of you. I got impatient waiting to actually get one of Hillary and decided to take your picture instead. 😉

Sig

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.)

😉

_____________________

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!

Sig

Lessons From Indonesia: (3) On Getting Up Again

surfing final
So here I am on a Monday afternoon (or, evening…ahem…) and that’s because yours truly woke up with a monster migraine. Hello, beginning of the week and the inability to function and write a coherent sentence until the pounding-nails-into-my-temples feeling is gone.

I’ve mentioned this a time or two before, but I really am not a Monday fan. That was part of the reason I decided to share my chapters on Mondays…you know, to try to make Monday into a day I actually LOOK. FORWARD. TO.

But enough about the fact that it’s Monday. Almost Tuesday now. 😉

Also, you are not going crazy. I promise. I shared chapter one last week…this week, chapter three. I decided to jump around a little. That, and chapter two needs some revisions that my brain wasn’t up for over the weekend. And if I post chapter 26 next week, don’t be too alarmed. 😉

So today I bring you a different one, but this is one of my favorites. I can still remember the day like it was yesterday. I hope you enjoy reading about the time this clumsy girl learned to surf and the lessons I’ve learned from the wipeouts…and from the getting up again part, too.

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3

You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.
Maya Angelou

Something I’d wanted to do since I was a little girl was learn to surf.

This is a particularly odd choice of goals since I grew up in small-town Iowa where large bodies of water were all but absent. Nevertheless it remained a dream…something I could see myself doing someday.

Before we moved to Indonesia, I only saw the ocean twice. The first time, we were in California for our first anniversary, and not getting killed by the waves? Was my goal. (Let’s just say I had a very unhealthy fear of death by large wave.)

The second time was when we were in South Africa, and the temperature of the Atlantic Ocean hovered in the 40’s, I’m sure. Just sticking my toes in was enough to freeze my entire body…no way was I going to submerge myself in that water!

I really didn’t even have a chance to learn to surf until we moved to Indonesia.

During our five years there, we made just three trips home, and we usually spent our Christmas breaks traveling. During that first Christmas in 2005, we took a two-week trip to Bali, where my love for all-things-ocean was kindled.

We swam, we bodysurfed, we boogie-boarded. We soaked up all that the glorious Indian Ocean had to offer us.

But I was afraid of that sport that required standing and riding a board propelled by ocean waves…surfing looked really, really scary.

So during our first trip, I didn’t try it, certain that I never would have been able to actually stand up on that board anyway.

During Spring Break of our second year in Indonesia, I went back to Bali with a few girlfriends. We spent our days between the beach and the pool, shopping, and eating all the yummy food we could never find in Bandung.

Our last morning there I had this nagging feeling. The whole week, I had psyched myself out of trying to surf, making excuses.

But I couldn’t shake the feeling.

So I hopped out of the pool, followed by two of my friends, marched right down to the beach (which was less than fifty meters away), and up to a guy renting out surfboards. Before I could chicken out, I hired myself a surf instructor and board for $5. (I love Indonesia prices.)

My instructor gave me a quick crash course in how to move from lying on the board to standing, all in Indonesian, of course. (I nodded my head and pretended to understand.)

Two minutes later we were out in the ocean, and as I stood in the chest-deep water for my first run, I felt like throwing up my breakfast. What on earth was I doing?

I carefully climbed onto the board, which my instructor was holding for me, and I watched the wave come up behind me. He let go…and I flew forward, hanging on for dear life.

But did I stand? No.

Did I even try to stand? Hmmm. Nope.

We laughed, he said something to me that I couldn’t translate, and I went back for another run, determined to at least move this time.

Again, I watched the wave come up behind me and felt my heart start to beat like crazy. As he let go of the board, I pushed myself up. I actually got one leg underneath me before I tumbled off the board.

Hey, it happens, and I’m pretty sure I scored graceful points for the somersault I did on the way down.

Third times the charm, right? I grabbed my board and faced the waves once again, determined to get it right.

Same story as before. As he let go of the board, I pushed up with everything I had, and I was standing!

The thing I forgot? Was that one must balance in order to stay ON the surfboard. I was so busy celebrating that I lost my balance, face-planted into the water, and came up sputtering after inhaling half of the ocean.

If you’ve ever gotten saltwater in your eyes, just multiply the pain times fifty or so.

It hurt.

I hurt.

And I was totally mortified that about a hundred people, give or take, had witnessed my thrashin’ wipeout. Sometimes there were just disadvantages to being the sometimes-uncoordinated-but-way-too-brave, white girl who thought she could surf.

Thankfully, I can laugh at myself in the midst of pain, which is probably what saved the day from being a total disaster…because on the next ride, I was determined to succeed.

My instructor had barely let go of the board when I popped up, steadied myself on both legs, and rode that board all the way in. A few feet from shore, I hopped off, looked up at a spectator who’d obviously witnessed the entire scene, and gave him a grin as if to say, You didn’t think I could do that, did you?

I spent the next hour riding wave after wave. Sometimes it would be a beautiful ride, sometimes I’d wobble, sometimes I’d completely wipe out…

But I couldn’t stop smiling…because I was following through on a dream I’d had for myself, and it was a beautiful one. There are few feelings I’ve had in my life that top what it’s like to ride a surfboard into shore.

There were several trips to Bali and other beaches over the next few years, and each chance I had, I’d rent a surfboard for a few rupiah, run out into the ocean, and ride the waves like they belonged to me.

Sure, there were wipeouts and face-plants. (Lots of them.) There were days when I fell more than I actually surfed. A couple times I probably came close to severely injuring myself when I took some hard falls.

But learning to surf taught me a lot about life…because there are going to be those days. Days when we feel victorious as we rise above everything…conquering the things that threaten to tear us down. There are also those days when, no matter what we do, the waves are just too much and they knock us down…sometimes harder than we were expecting.

But no matter what…I’ve learned to always get up and keep going.

We recently passed a shop that had a surfboard for sale, and I joked about buying it to use on Lake Michigan.

The truth is that the surfing part of my life is over, and I don’t know when (or if) I’ll ever hop on a surfboard again to face the waves.

But I know the lessons I learned from those rides…and they are worth every wipeout.

_____________________

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

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

Thank you!

Sig

Please Use Caution When Opening Your Drink…

smilebooth2 final I should have titled this post something more along the lines of…

Allume 2014.

Family Reunion 2014.

Lessons From a Really Great Weekend.

On Meeting With an Agent and Other Things That Whisper Hope.

A Weekend of Blessings.

Or, all of the above.

I flew in late Sunday night after a glorious five days spent in the beautiful city of Greenville, South Carolina. Seriously, y’all (do you HEAR me getting all Southern already?!) I heart this city. I have plans to bring some of you TO this city. If I didn’t love where I live so much, I’d be tempted to move my family down there so we can eat fried green tomatoes and sweet potato cake for the rest of our days.

Maybe I love it for reasons like this…

cupcake quote finalBecause, YES. I do want to live in a city that has signs like this on their sidewalks.

Or, this…

cutepuppy finalMel walks into cute, upscale boutique.
Is greeted by cute puppy.
Immediately trades browsing for puppy cuddles and a picture.

But chances are, I love it most of all for this.

allume4-1024x768 finalMy heart sisters. They are forever that.*

When I started my blog back on that lonely, cold morning in January 2011, I had no idea it would turn into Community. Family. Sisterhood.

These are my people…

The ones who stay up late and chat deep and laugh loud with me when I totally explode my drink mid-flight. Yes, yes I did.

Mandy&Mel1 final

The ones who, when you finally meet in person for the first time, are just as wonderful and sweet and encouraging as you knew they’d be.

AmyB&Mel final
The ones who take the time to hold my hand, share a hug, and whisper Hope to me in a season that doesn’t feel like there’s much to hope in.

Mel&Kate final
The ones who pray me through a knee-knocking meeting with a literary agent, the kind in which I hand over my proposal. (aka: My. Heart.)

Laura&Mel final
The ones who don’t count how many cupcakes I eat in one weekend.

DelonnaGindiMel&Kim final
The ones who will sit and drink coffee and share life, even just minutes before they have to leave.

coffeeshop final
The ones who make me smile just because they’re near me.

Tracy&Mel final
The ones who will stand by my side as we worship our Father and trust that He is good in ALL.

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The ones who share their dreams and stories…the pretty parts of them and the not-so-pretty, too.

Meetup finalLoved the God-sized Dreams meet up!*

Yes, I went to Allumeand it IS a writing conference…an amazing one. Logan and her team did an awesome job, and I’m so grateful for the prayers, sweat, and tears they put into it for all of us.

But it’s also so much more than a writing conference. It’s that place where I find so many of my friends…sisters. It’s a place where we just get each other. It’s a place where we raise our hands and praise Him…completely…even when it’s hard and the tears flow. It’s a sweet, precious gift, and when it’s over…well, it takes more than a few days to process it all.

I didn’t know how much I needed to be there this weekend…how much I needed to just go and cry and laugh and beand then find some healing. And there was…it wasn’t the kind of healing that makes it all go away. It was the kind where God used people, over and over, to remind me that He still loves me so much and that there are so many blessings still to be had. Even in loss.

There were some cool God stories…and I’ll share those someday. Stories about how God opened up seats BOTH TIMES on full flights so my sweet sister and I could sit together and share life and eat cupcakes at 20,000 feet for a bit longer. Stories about how God brought two precious women…now friends…into my life to bring some Hope to a heart that has just begged for a glimpse of light.

MIssy&Mel finalI love this girl…she has such an amazing heart.
And she makes some of the most awesome jewelry ever.
(See Mel’s necklace.) 😉

Dawn&group finalWith my friend, Dawn, in the middle next to me. LOVE her, her story, and how God planned our meeting.
(And we’re with two super awesome women who I wish I’d had a chance to talk with longer!) :)

Today, though, just think of this post as the scratch-the-surface-and-dump-my-photos kind. Feel free to share some smiles or grab a picture. One of the whole twenty…maybe…I took. 😉 And if you’d like a copy without the watermark, just let me know and I’ll send it your way.

To the wonderful women…friends…sisters…who were part of this weekend. Thank you. You mean so much to me…and though it’s hard to put into words, I think you understand just how much that is.

Until we meet again. And I hope it won’t be too long.

*I’m not sure which of my GSD sisters get credit for these photos. But, thank you!!! :)

Sig

Pieces That Make a Story

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

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

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

But Peru changed that.

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

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

Enter: a year and a half later and a boy. 😉

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, two years later…His answer. Indonesia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Nomadic Lass

Sig

How Lucky I Am…

We’ve been back on U.S. soil for about a day, and already, jet lag is rearing its ugly head.

I’m not surprised…really. We’ve done this enough to know that it just happens when days and nights are completely flip flopped. I have to admit that I was hoping…just a little…that Mae might defy it all and sleep through the night. She made it until about 3 a.m. and was in bed by 4 this afternoon. I’ll just take it and hope she’ll make it a little longer each day. (Says the girl who took a four-hour nap at 3 p.m. Yeah.) 😉

Oh, where to start, where to start.

After a whirlwind two weeks, spent almost completely unplugged, it’s really hard to even know where to begin.

So, please forgive the broken thoughts and sentences and the randomness. I’m hoping you’ll see my heart through the words, and more importantly, the people.

My prayer in going back to Indonesia was that God would remind me of the good there.

Friends, He did it. Over and over. Through conversations, through memory-making, through adventures and walks and chats and visits. He gave the beauty I so desperately wanted to see, and the funny thing is that I didn’t even have to look very hard to find it.

I also wanted closure. I honestly thought we were going back, once more, so I could say goodbye.

And then my feet hit the ground in sweltering Jakarta, and I realized something before we even left the airport…that while I may say a lot of see-ya-laters to Indonesia, I never want it to be over.

This place, the people…they’re in my heart. I don’t want to say goodbye and just leave it all behind forever.

ibumae&mel

We also wanted our daughter to see this place…and even love it. And she did. She may have even told her daddy that she wanted to live there… :) Really, watching her embrace it all and take the adventures as they came was something that reminded me, again, of the beauty that can be found if we’ll just take the time to look for it. And it was kind of a secret dream that we’d get to be one of those families on a motorbike, just once. Granted, we’re about twelve kids from breaking the record, but I’ll take it. I love this pic. :) (And, yes, we really did drive around like this…kind of a lot.)

IndoMotor

God gave me a gift almost immediately upon our return in my friend, Becky. She and I picked up a friendship, one that had gone almost FIVE years without a visit, exactly where it left off. There were motorbike adventures our first morning, more coffees and talks than I can even count, early morning walks, times spent together that were good for both of our hearts. Oh, I love this beautiful woman who is living out her calling. And I count her as one of my dearest friends, even if twelve time zones separate us.

beckyandmel1P.S. Someday I’ll tell you the story of why we took this pic where we did…it may or may not be in the book. 😉 

And with Becky comes her wonderful hubby and this sweet little boy. Becky said it best…We wanted our kids to like each other. We had no idea they would love each other so much. Mae and M had two weeks of play dates and pool times and friendship-building, even though they’re young. What a gift…and I have to whisper something to you. One of the hardest things on Friday, as we got ready to leave, was watching the two of them say goodbye. They both cried, and this mama wept. My daughter is learning at such a young age how much it hurts to say goodbye.

MaelieAndM

And, yet, we choose to open ourselves to the goodbyes because we want this kind of life for her…the kind that sees beyond her own backyard and embraces the world and the beauty it holds.

There were so many people who reached out to us during our time in Indo, making time for coffee (I seriously drank more coffee in the last two weeks than I have in my entire life.), dinner, hugs, chats, adventures. Sharing life with these precious friends is a gift, and I’ll take it and breathe thanks, even if it means that years separate visits.

lilybecky&mel

We stayed with some wonderful friends and so loved reconnecting with them. One of our favorite days was spent with them…they took us to the angklung show, something Tobin and I had experienced several times and were thrilled that Mae got to see. She even got to dance at the end of the show with a sweet girl, the one who beat out her friends for the chance to dance with our girl. That blessed this mama’s heart, too.

AngklungDance

The time we spent in Indo flew…and there are stories, lots of them, to share. Stories from airports, stories from surfing, stories from pausing to breathe and reflect. As they start to spill out, I’ll post them…but Rome wasn’t built in a day, and all that’s going on in my heart feels about like the size of Italy. 😉

As we were flying home yesterday (or Friday, or whenever because, really, the days are all mushed together right now) I was just talking to God. It was a conversation I wish I could have recorded because I’m not sure of all I said, but even just a day or so later, I’m already seeing how pieces of that conversation are revealing what’s next for me and what He wants. And those plans…while they don’t look at all like what I thought they would…well, I think they might be even better.

On our last night in Indonesia, many of our sweet friends came together to love us, and as we squeezed in, trying to get one photo of all of us together, I was reminded of this.

How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye this hard.
–A.A. Milne

IndoDinnerGroup

For all of the heartache moments and streaming tears, for all of the wishing and wanting to have it all in one place, for all of the blasted tissues I went through on this trip…

I would do it all again.

I would open myself to the reality that my life will always be a series of loving two worlds…and always missing one.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Selamat tinggal, Indonesia…but just until next time.

Sig

When I Really Should Finish Packing…

packing

…and because I’ve got one, uber-messy, suitcase wide open on the bed…I’m gonna blog instead. 😉

Hey, I’ve got five hours before we leave for the airport. It’s. ALL. good.

And so here I sit…on the hallway floor, leaning against the wall, out of sight of messes and reminders of what I should be doing, and instead…

Letting you know what’s really on my heart. It’s been awhile.

Tonight the three of us are headed out, just one layover and 31 1/2ish hours separating us from a place that holds a piece of my heart.

It hasn’t always been the pretty piece of my heart…but it’s an important one.

The reasons we decided to go back for a visit to Indo are really too numerous to count.

To visit friends and our beloved pembantu.

To take our daughter there so she can see it and know what Indonesia actually is.

To rebel against this ridiculous winter we’ve had. (Ok, I just had to throw that in…not really. Tickets were purchased mostly before the freezing, too-much-snow, madness began.) 😉 I will fully admit that Bali is included in our agenda for a few days, though.

But the real reason…and one that went so unspoken in our house for so long…is this.

We need closure.

Almost four years later, there’s something missing.

I think a lot of it comes down to the way things ended. Pregnancy, leaving the country separately, so many unknowns, a hard last year…it was just time.

And while my 32-weeks-pregnant body couldn’t exactly run out of Indonesia, I sure did my best.

These last years have provided so much time for reflection. For processing. And, yes, for writing.

There is currently a rough draft of a book that I hope and pray will see the shelves of a bookstore near you soon. 😉

But that book…it touches the good memories. A few difficult, but mostly the good. The funny. The ones that are easy to share.

The truth? Is that there’s a lot more that needs to be added…but before I can go there, I need to go back.

I don’t expect any deep, philosophical conversations about the time we spent there to happen. Nor do I really think that going back that far and revisiting hurts is a good way to spend our limited days. But I do think, if for no other reason, my feet need to touch Indonesian soil again so I can say a proper goodbye.

The kind that says, thank you. Thank you for all you meant to me. Not, thank you for giving me so many reasons to want to leave.

My heart is a bit raw when I think of leaving our lives here for two weeks to go back…and yet, I know there is so much good waiting for us. The smiles and hugs and hearts of people who mean so much, the beautiful green and mountains, reminding me of my Creator and the One Who loves us completely. The conversations I can’t wait to have over coffee. (Indonesia makes some gooooood coffee.) And, yes, the outlet shopping. (Oh, come on. You know me, right?) 😉

All of those are so worth it, too.

So I guess, in all of this rambling and putting off the packing, I’m letting you all know that I have no idea what the next two weeks look like.

I know they don’t include a lot of blogging or social media. Or texting. Or, really, being connected too often.

In fact, my time away looks just like that. Away.

Time to breathe and enjoy the moments surrounding me with my precious husband and daughter. It’s truly a gift, and I plan on embracing it.

So if you don’t hear from me, don’t worry.

And if you miss my words, know that I’m busy living the moments so I can tell you the stories later.

I love you all and am so grateful you are part of my journey.

Now, back to packing…though, really. Wouldn’t it be awesome if the suitcases could actually pack themselves?!

See you again soon. :)

Sig

Coffee For Your Heart: On Death Grips and Inspiration

Family-28
We’re sixteen days out.

Sixteen sleeps, as I tell my girl.

It’s crazy…craaaaazy…that in just two and a half weeks, our family of three will be boarding a plane bound for Indonesia. (Only for a two week visit…just in case you thought we were moving back. Nope.) :)

To be honest, I don’t think I’ve fully processed all that will actually go into an opposite-side-of-the-world trip with a toddler. I know there will be extra packing and more organization than normal needed…gone are the days when we can toss things into suitcases the night before and call it good. Now I actually have to plan what she will need, not only while we’re there…but while we’re on the plane. While we’re in the airports. While she’s up at two a.m. and running circles in someone else’s house, thanks to the inevitable, sleep-stealing, jet-lag.

I have gone over and over potential details of this trip in my head…meaning I’m pretty sure I’m missing a lot. (I need to just Make. A. List.) 😉

But I’ve planned surprise activities and gifts for Mae. (A huge thank you to the dollar section at Target.)

Lots of snacks. (Hello, endless fruit snacks and goldfish. Hypothetically, of course. Of. Course.) 😉

New headphones so she can watch movies and play games. (The first flight is 14 hours. The second, nine. Plus a stellar eight hours in the Doha airport. Yeah….)

My goal is to do everything in my power to keep her busy, entertained, and blissfully unaware of what happens when the plane lands.

Because here comes the confession. 😉

I’m not a great flier. I do fine once we’re in the air, but the takeoffs send my heart rate up, and the landings? Well, they send it through the roof.

It’s pretty safe to say I hate landings, which is so weird and ironic, because those landings mean we’ve finally arrived, and the fun can begin.

But I still loathe them…and freak out far more than a person should.

Though the takeoffs make me nervous, I totally plan on grabbing Mae’s hand, comforting her if she’s scared, being close and letting her know that her mommy is there as the plane soars into the sky.

She thinks we’re taking the plane to heaven…goodness, I hope not. 😉

But the landings…well, that’s where I might get selfish and hand it ALL over to my hubby. I’ll be too busy trying to calm my own heart, attempting to keep my pulse inside of my body, hoping I don’t break my fingers as I death-grip the armrest.

And that will be hard for me…I know it. I will struggle as my three year-old sees fear in her mama, up close and right in front of her.

It’s not something I’m proud of…but I also know something. I’ve been on a gazillion flights…I think, last time I counted, we are hovering near the 200 mark.

And I know…I KNOW…it’s not going to be different.

I’m not going to magically have a calm heart and be all chill when the plane hits the runway and, most likely, does a hopefully-only-little bounce. I can pray, and I know He will give me the strength to get through it.

My Father knows how good my prayer life is when a plane is about to land…but He also knows that’s how I face fear.

I’ve been thinking about fear and how I so often view it as a weakness.

But it’s not. Really, it’s just an opportunity to lean on Him and not let that fear overtake me.

And that’s what I’m hoping my daughter sees in me when we have the first of six landings. And the second, the third, the fourth…

When I think about people who inspire me (though I’M not necessarily inspired by ME) I think of those who stare down fear and rise above it.

And that doesn’t always mean the death grip is released and the heart rate returns to it’s usual, whatever number.

It simply means there’s a trust that God is bigger than all of it. Because He is.

I think of a sweet friend and mama who is raising her six precious kiddos alone. She’s so brave as she lives a life that looks different from what she planned, and I’m sure there are times when she is afraid and times when her kids might even see that fear. But she faces it, she trusts in Him as she walks in Grace, and she inspires a lot of people.

I think of a friend who is facing unknown right now…scary unknown. And he chooses joy and trust in the midst of it, knowing that God’s plan is always the right one. That? It’s inspiring.

I think of a dreaming sister who fights for her family and for what’s right, even if it comes at a cost. The days can be hard and the future blurry, but she walks on in faith. And she inspires me.

And I’m hoping that maybe…maybe…one day down the road, my sweet Mae will see the death grip and the shaky, sweaty hands of her mama as inspiring.

Someday. 😉

In the meantime, I’m gonna fight that fear…because He didn’t give me a spirit of fear.

He gave me a reason to lean on Him.

Our Indonesian adventure with a toddler is just 16 days away…bring it on!

This time, as a family of three…and I. Can’t. Wait.

**************************

I love my sweet friend, Holley‘s, new link-up! Her Coffee For Your Heart: 2014 Encouragement Challenge is just what it sounds like. Think of Wednesdays as that day where I just share some encouragement…and you can pretend that we’re sitting at a table over coffee, just sharing life. Sounds like a great way to spend Wednesdays in this space. :) I hope you’ll hop over and join us!

Coffee-for-Your-Heart-150

Sig

Five-Minute Friday: Visit

Today I’m linking up with Lisa-Jo for Five-Minute Friday. So, grab a timer, set it for five minutes, and join me!

The rules: Write for five minutes. No editing, revising, overthinking, or backtracking. Just write. Then leave some comment love for the person who linked up before you…and anyone else because that’s the fun and the heart of the community!

Today’s prompt: Visit

IMG_4072I can’t believe it’s already been almost four years.

Four years since I clung to him at the airport, seven-month-preggo belly creating distance between our embrace, tears staining my cheeks as I released his hand and stumbled toward immigration alone.

Four years since I said goodbye.

Oh, not to him. He followed me six weeks later, after he’d completed his commitment to the school and just in time for the birth of our sweet Mae.

No, it’s been almost four years since I said goodbye to my other home…the one on the opposite side of the world.

Time flies. Like a jumbo jet across the Pacific…and I have been waiting for the day when we can board one again for a visit.

There have been many, many days when life here…the life we know and love now…has completely enveloped me. He has poured His blessings on, and we have gratefully accepted them. This is a good place, one I’m So. Very. Blessed. to call my home.

But there have also been the days when my heart longs to Visit. To go back and hug the people I love who live so far away, those I said goodbye to as tears brimmed and hearts ached.

And a couple weeks ago, we bought tickets!!!!!!

Can I throw in a late-night, happy dance? I just think one belongs here. 😉

It still feels surreal that, in a short 57 days, (yikes!) the three of us will board a plane. And after a stop in Qatar (who knew? I had to look it up on a map…), our plane will land in Jakarta, and my feet will, once again, step down on Indonesian soil, the dirt happily making its way between my flip-flop clad toes. (In March…be jealous. Very jealous.) 😉

There will be a beach trip, hopefully a little surfing, some BFF time, an exploration of all-things outlet shopping…but mostly?

There will be time to love people…those people I have missed so much that my heart aches over the distance that spans these two countries.

I can’t wait to visit.

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Five Minute Friday

Sig