Friday, July 18, 2014

Once in a Lifetime

When I was young, I prayed for a little sister.  Brother, after brother, after brother I prayed.  I would open my window to breathe the thick freshness, and spill the desire of my heart.  I scrawled prayers out on paper and buried them deep in the earth.

June 27, 1992, I got that sister I had prayed for.  We were instant friends, she my sidekick, and I her protector.   We shared faith and opinions, secrets and dreams.  The years separated us through our parents' divorce, but as we faded into adulthood our friendship rekindled.

 Through many joys we have traveled, as well as great trial.  She has been my trusted friend, my faithful confidant, my unending anchor.

 Tomorrow I get to walk one of the greatest joys with my sister.  I get to stand beside her as she becomes one with the man of her heart.  I will be there as the rest of her life begins.  In some ways I know this is a landmark; a day which will change the shape of our friendship, as she clings to her one,  and will share secrets that even her sisters won't know.

The "smolder"

I'm proud of the woman my littlest playmate has become, honored to be part of her life.  Her faith runs deep, her kindness eternal. With tears in my eyes and thankfulness in my heart, I will stand  by as she moves from girl to wife.

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

July 14

"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard." ~Winnie the Pooh

My precious, beautiful Ellianna Grace,

This day has been written in the scars on our hearts.  The fourteenth of July will always remind me that it was the last day I got to smooch your scrumptious cheeks.  I can't help but remember the deafening fear that rose when I saw you slipping away.  That last kiss, last breath, last holding you in my arms.  I still remember the feelings of helplessness, and whispering screaming prayers that you would get to stay.  This day, this beautiful summer day will forever inflame the lasting scars that were torn in my tender heart.  But tucked within what's left, the fourteenth of July is also an Ebeneezer, reminding me of the graciousness of our God in welcoming you into His arms; His healing of your every pain and struggle.  I can celebrate in knowing that you are whole, and well, and safe, and that after all my waiting is done I will get to see you again.  My story is not a story of loss, of heartache, or pain.  It is one of absolute Grace.  Pure blessings.  Answered prayers.

I love you indefinitely, my little girl.  Sometimes I touch the things you used to touch, looking for echoes of your fingers (Iain Thomas).  I long to breathe the essence of you, trace your delicate features, and tie ribbons in your hair.  Someday, my sweet Ells.

I will revel in every joyful memory I have of your precious life, and will live with the purpose you inspired me towards.  Someday I will hold my treasure again, and I am so excited to hear your giggle as I pepper your face with kisses.  The veil is thin, my sweet.

You are adored, cherished, held dear.  Your little, magnificent life has left a beautiful impression on so many hearts.

Until Forever, 
Mommy xoxo

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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Live, Laugh, Love

This sweet little phrase has become so common!  Tell me you haven't seen a hundred wooden plaques, stenciled picture frames, and wall decals with this on them!  It's well worn, perhaps overused, but really, perhaps it deserves a closer look.

Seems only in the darkest days we lament our neglect to clinging more tightly to these 3 simple rules.  As we aim to grasp hold of the ordinary amazing graces between our tears, let me urge you friends:

LIVE fully. Don't get caught up in the imperfections of the day.  Let the crumbs stay on the floor of the family car, the library books go a few days late, and let go of the guilt for hastily whipping up mac-n-cheese for dinner.  Spend those moments drinking deep the beauty in every gift to be found, the mighty swell of lungs still puffing life. 

LAUGH often.  How light the heart feels with the rush of roaring laughter.  A giggle brought to someone's lips is something long remembered.  Find those smiles, the humor, the inside joke, and engage it often.  A merry heart does good like medicine.

LOVE much.  Don't hold back.  Bear your scars and dare to let someone in, loving with all abandon.  You never know when you may be the only soul to show that person love.

We are rich, so blessed in every dawn of our days, don't wait to grasp hold of the best of life until it's too late.  We have today.

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Scars and Stripes

July has been a tough month the past few years. (The Why of July)  This July though, is going to pack a different punch.  I have felt it coming the past few days, and by the tears and misbehavior the kiddos have been showing, their hearts must sense it too.  It's always been funny to me how your soul remembers the day is coming, even when your mind isn't thinking about it.

Grandpa and Ben
It started with the day of my sweet Grandpa's home going, the 4th of July.  A perfectly fitting day, since he was one of the most patriotic men I know.  Then it was Ellianna's passing on the 14th of July.  It's hard to go through that day without remembering the devastating events that took place.  This year, the 2nd of July will be another day of mixed emotion.  July 2nd is the day I became a big sister.  My brother Ben came into the world 29 years ago on my mom's birthday.  Being so close to Independence Day, it was natural that the 4th became an extension of his birthday, and his favorite holiday.    He waited all year long for the opening of the first firework stands.  Each year, his own firework show grew, to the point where he was having them shipped from the places who supply professional shows, and his small town of Sterling brought a crowd each year to enjoy his masterpiece.

This July will be a salty-sweet month of grief and celebration.  We will be remembering and honoring our precious ones that are absent, and celebrating the moments that we enjoyed with each of them.  We will cheer my little sister as she begins life with her new husband, while quietly sorrowing over the empty chair.

We are immeasurably thankful that we do not grieve without hope.   We know where our loved ones are, held close, and surrounded by joy and healing.  We will miss them in our celebrations this July, but we will fondly replay our happiest memories, and whisper prayers of thanks for their salvation.

I hope that somewhere in Heaven there is a firework show like none Ben has ever seen...

Pyro...yep, that's about right.

Birthday buddies

Celebrating Ben

My first ever attempt at a "fancy" cake was for Ben.

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Joy Comes in the [Mourning]

"There may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning."  That is a phrase we often hear as struggles are afoot.  I have to tell an embarrassing story... the day after Ellie died, my kind neighbor gave me a cd she had burned with one song on it.- "Joy Will Come," by The Desperation Band.  I put it in and listened to the first few sentences before ejecting it.  Anger bubbled.  I thought, how dare she!  To imply this bleeding of my heart would ever turn to something beautiful.  I never said anything, but I didn't pull that cd out again until a good two years later.  Two years when I could see beyond the crippling pain, and know there are pieces of good falling together because of our loss.  I could finally hear the hope in a song for the broken.

Ever since we went through a grief support group/grief study as a family, we have talked about someday leading one of our own.  For the longest time though, the heaviness of my heart kept me from believing that I could minister to anyone else.  Now we are stepping out.  Our awesome new church is supporting us in getting a Grief Share up and running, and we are thankful, so thankful that He can use our loss to reach out to the hurting.

There is another battle we fight, one that is only shared with our innermost circles.  A pain that brings fear, heartbreak, and uncertainty.  Right now, I don't  know how to get through the muck, but I know with certainty that one day, when we are emerging on the other side of this storm, there will be a whole new opportunity for me to share with others who are in the thick of it.  That's pretty humbling, to think He can use ME.

The greatness of life is not in avoiding the struggles, but in leaning into them, being changed by them, and then using them to bring hope to crumbled hearts.

God's plan wasn't for this world to be broken, but He has been faithful to make beautiful things from our suffering.  What will you do with your battle?

"Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning." Ps 30:5

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Grace Waves

Perusing the local thrift store in L.A., we came across one of those finds that makes you dance right there in the aisle.  A very nice boogie board. . . for about an eighth of the price of a new one! Baylie and I were so stoked we could hardly stand waiting the 10 minute drive to get to the beach!

My brave little beauty

We had so much fun!  Baylie and I were the only ones brave enough to get out deep enough for the big waves, but everybody sort of tried it at least once, even Bella just barely gliding on it while I strapped it to my foot. 

It was grace for my body, I felt like a kid, healthy and strong. We laughed and laughed.

Colby did amazing! This boy quickly got over his timid shyness of the ocean, an charged for it every chance he could.  Oh my word this kid is giving me gray hair!  I have never had one so adventurous!

No fear!


We had such a blast, and it was great to enjoy ourselves and the time together.  Mark is terrified of the ocean, but we are plotting to get him out there on the board by the end of the week!

Baylie getting read to head for another wave

Picking up to go again!
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Monday, June 16, 2014

Sweet Escape

We were so thankful for the reprieve of Mark being at the Air Force Academy the past 4 years, and him hardly having to leave us.  I was disappointed when only a few weeks after moving to his new assignment that he was told he would be sent TDY for a few weeks in June, and then at least 6 more times throughout this year.  However, my disappointment turned to glee when I realized since the Air Force was paying for him to drive out to Los Angeles, we could fill up the car with people for no extra charge!

The rest of May was spent packing and planning and giggling as we counted down the days to balmy, warm days by the ocean.  Packing for this growing family is no small feat anymore, and let’s face it, mom better do it all just to make sure we are not having to buy emergency socks, toothbrushes, and swimsuits once we get there!

We are just over a week into our 2 week getaway, and we have had as much fun and adventure as we could pack in.  Mornings are delicious hot breakfast provided by our hotel, and then everyone crawling into the one big bed and snuggling up for some Food Network while we wait for the morning fog to clear.  The rest of the day is filled with swimming, finding treasures at the beach, venturing out into the city to find clean and safe places to explore, and more swimming.  We have enjoyed watching sea creatures during dinner on the pier, got to bring my sweet grandma some cheer in the hospital, and have a gorgeous walk along the canals of Venice beach.  More fun is to be had with our incredible thrift store find, but more on that later.

What an unexpected blessing this retreat has been, for both our bodies and minds.  God is good, all the time, whether we had gotten to tag along with Mark, or had to get through the weeks at home without him!  We are blessed.
Ya sleep wherever you find a place!

Bella looking so grown up!

The most delicious cupcake!

Peeking out.  He points at every car and yells "car!!"

The freshest fruits


The only thing I like about snails is their cute li'l eye stalks.  Jacob found out if you poke them they scrunch up their whole face!!!

Taking in all the wonder
This cuteness!

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