Friday, October 30, 2015

Friday Quotes

My new Friday series that may only last a week...Friday Quotes, a functional, albeit non-catchy title. I read so many good books, brimming with amazing quotes. My kids ask why I read with a pen or highlighter. Its because I love to glean wisdom from lots of different sources. And I thought it would be fun to create a little collection in this space.

Being engaged is a way of doing life, a way of living and loving. Its about going to extremes and expressing the bright hope that life offers us, a hope that makes us brave and expels darkness with light. That's what I want my life to be all about--full of abandon, whimsy, and in love. I want to be engaged to life and with life.

~Bob Goff, Love Does

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Throwback Thursday

It was a late-September weekday. Shaun had put in a ton of work hours over the summer but this particular day he came into my office and declared family time for the afternoon. Once all three kids were up from their naps, we headed to the beach.

The weather was perfect, the parking free, the beach secluded and we reveled in the time together. I love it when Shaun surprises us and that afternoon remains a very special memory.

Not a single one of all the good promises the Lord had given to the family of Israel was left unfulfilled; everything he had spoken came true. Joshua 21:45

Monday, October 26, 2015

Doing Battle, Week 57

The summer before last my hydrangea bushes produced exactly one bloom for the entire season, so this past spring I determined to do something about that. I found some good information on Pinterest and came up with a plan.

I pruned them at the specified time, carefully watered them long before they had bloomed and waited hopefully. And this summer, by some miracle, fluke or mad gardening skills, they bloomed! Plentiful, beautiful, vibrant blooms!

Then this past week we had our first frost. The drastic overnight effect was shocking. For days, the kids and I couldn't get over it and we'd talk about it every time we walked by. The bushes suddenly appeared so ugly and different. They looked barren, messy...scary even.

Over the next couple days, I found myself less repelled by the grotesqueness of it. I thought about how my life has looked like both the winter and summer version of these bushes but I have a new perspective of the winter version. I see a stark beauty in these brown, naked plants, stripped of all that would make it possible to pretend everything is normal, beautiful.

The pain, uncertainty, daily-ness of cancer has had me seeking for God like I never have. I love this version of the verse: Then [with deep longing] you will seek Me and require Me [as a vital necessity] and [you will] find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13

This time in my life has given me an unprecedented "deep longing" to seek God and his purposes. I have required Him "as a vital necessity" at a level of desperation that I would have never recognized when I was in the season of healthy, full blooms.

When I ask, God invites me into His presence. In my weakest moments (I've had a slew of them in the past year), he brings his truth to my mind, his strength to my weary soul. In seeking him, I've learned more about His heart and I've known his love for me in never-before-experienced ways.

Cancer is hard. Its ugly and messy and scary and leaves no part of life untouched. Yet, because of my experience and the ways God has worked in my heart, the barren, brown, unsightly seasons of our lives now give me pause. And I see beauty there because of the work that God can and will do.

The satisfied soul loathes the honeycomb, but to the hungry soul, 
every bitter thing is sweet. Proverbs 27:7

Hearts that are bleeding raw before God are the ones on their way to coming alive. ~Sarah Hagerty

Thank you for your faithful love and prayers as we do another treatment this week.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Project 365, Week 43

October 18
I sat in the car on a cold day watching back-to-back soccer games. During a break between, Shaun and the kids played boys against girls. He'd worked hard that day and had a lot on his mind, but somehow he always makes time for them, for us.

October 19
Aiden was compelled to get out and work after school. He wasn't asked and he didn't expect anything in return, its just what he does. I tell him I like a man who is a hard worker. Also, I could just eat him up with his shorts on backwards and his shoes on the wrong feet. :)

October 20
Speaking of wardrobe issues, last year these PJ's fit just fine.

October 21
Continuing with the wardrobe was school picture day so that meant dress down day, which is always very exciting. They were proud to have coordinated their outfits...the sibling picture should be interesting....the photographer was probably like what? ;)

Back to work.

I had the privilege of doing pictures for this senior, Jared my oldest nephew. In his earlier years we were neighbors and he and Shaun and I logged many hours together and formed a very special relationship. He made me laugh when he was two and now at almost seventeen he still makes me laugh. He is so gifted...I can't wait to see what God has for him!

These cousins had a blast playing together but in this picture they look like they're in a western movie, headed to a shoot out.

October 22
I feel a little rusty, but its been nice to have my camera out a bit....I miss creating beautiful things for people. With a crew this young there is a very short timeline, but we got it done. This is my newest niece, three months.

The kids had a half day and it was warm so we went to visit cousins. Amy and I had a few hours to sit outside and talk. We thought we'd also be supervising kids, but they were pretty much on their own, happy to be together for the first time in a long time. So good!

October 23
This is my view in the mornings, when the sun comes up and kisses the trees. Takes my breath away every time.

October 24
Chilly start to soccer!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Miscellany Friday

When I start getting the same question frequently, I think oh, that's right...I haven't blogged about that in a while. In nine years of blogging, I guess I've trained people to come here as a source of information. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Maybe neither. Unless its my husband who is learning things about our family here. :)

At any rate, we'll declare this a miscellaneous information day. (BTW, I am always open to questions.  If you know me at all, you know I don't have much to hide / I'm not good at being coy and selective in the information I share (if its mine to share).

R started college earlier this month (they work on a trimester schedule). Its a technical school a little more than an hour away and he commutes four days a week in a car he purchased on his own. He is also working 25-30 hours a week at Walmart. Its a lot to manage and we're working through some challenges but when I can pull back from the day-to-day, I see how far he's come. And really? We're all a work in progress, aren't we?

This is his first completed woodworking project. Beautiful!

But I'm kind of partial to his first band-saw project though. :)

Aiden is adjusting well to first grade. He likes school and really likes weekends. :) With just nine kids in his class it seems like they are a pretty close group and are getting help on the level they need. He is the classic "my teacher said" kid. Every day there is a new "Sister Joan Marie said this, Sister Joan Marie said that".  She is a complete genius and a reliable authority to Aiden. For instance, in religion yesterday they talked about speaking kindly to others. Aiden told me about it as if it were the first time he'd ever heard of such a concept and what a great new idea his teacher had. ;)

That's ok. I'm so glad he's in an environment where the things he's learning at home can be reinforced ('cause just to clarify...we've taught about kindness once or twice in our family :). And his favorite subject to discuss is religion (its actually his homework each night to go over what they learned that day with a parent) so we've been able to have some really good discussions. If his helicopter pilot gig doesn't work out, I think he'd thrive in a school of Theology.

The other day I stopped to drop off cookies where Shaun and crew were roofing. I parked my car on the street and wasn't there for more than 10 minutes, however in that time my wallet was stolen out of my unlocked car. I didn't realize it until the next day when a neighbor brought it over, empty of everything except my insurance cards (which don't have my address on them, so the neighbor, who I'd never met, had to do a little work to figure out who to return it to).

The kids were inquisitive so after I explained it all to them, we did some roll-playing. (I've posted about roll playing before, its one of my favorite kinds of teaching tools.) I simply said, "You found a wallet on the sidewalk. What do you do?" Avery and Aiden immediately said they would find out who it belonged to and return it.

Amanda gave it some thought and said, "I would come home and take a picture of the wallet and make up signs that I could hang around town". The "lost cat" signs we see really bother her in a worrisome way.

The lost wallet has been a hassle. Here is a tip I found that I probably won't do, but think its a good idea.

Anyway, while we were in roll-playing mode, I gave them different scenarios about someone approaching them while they are out walking around town.

Hi little girl. What's your name?
Amanda (accompanied by a sweet smile).
You look like someone who loves animals.
Oh, yes! I do!
Well that's great. I actually have a puppy in my car.
Oh really??
Yes, would you like to pet her?
Amanda is still all smiles here, but I cut her off. Amanda, you are engaging in conversation. You can't do that. So we did several more takes until Avery said, Amanda you can't tell them your real name! Eventually, we got to the point of her politely and firmly saying no thank you while continuing to walk and yell out for help if necessary.

We'll have to reinforce that scenario soon. :) She's got such a big, open heart!

Avery is growing in every way imaginable. She is very independently studious and really just loves to learn. She has joined several clubs, including student council. Her teacher is committed to readying them for middle school, so she expects a lot from her students and Avery has embraced the challenge.

Every time I hug her I feel her inching up closer to my face. It won't be long before she passes me. Of course there is a piece of me that mourns the rapid passing of time, but she's just so fun and delightful and I find it fascinating to watch her blossom into her own person.

"And now you know the rest of the story." :) There really are some great things happening around here and lots of regular old life. I love being mom to this crew.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Be Still, My Soul

Autumn in New England is...glorious. With each new brilliant color, each sunbeam streaming through the leaves, I am more convinced of God's great love for us. I have quieted my soul and taken in his presence. 

And my kids have pretty much made peace with the fact that they have a crazy momma who may, at any moment, veer off to the side of the road to capture the splendor of a moment in time that will never come again. Creation...a love letter to us.

Be still, my soul: The Lord is on thy side;
With patience bear thy cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In ev'ry change he faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: Thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Thru thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

 Be still, my soul: Thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as he has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: The waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Doing Battle, Week 56

"I can see the strength in you even when you can't". Timely words from a friend who couldn't know how tired and done I am.

It feels like my world has shrunk so small and that I'm not defined by much but my suffering. I get so sick of my own story, this story that leaves me feeling weak and out of control and needy. My body is tattered and beaten; I wonder if there will actually ever be an end to all this and I long for our old "normal", some of which can never even exist again.

My thoughts on suffering have evolved over a time. I've gone from what?!? I'm suffering? How can this be?? to Of course I'm suffering! All of creation has been groaning. Its not just part of my story, its part of the fallen world.

We all have broken things in our lives. That thing that we want God to fix. A sick body, a broken marriage, financial devastation, the wandering child, hurt from past abuse. Or that thing that hasn't happened. A promise unfulfilled, a better job, conception, reconciliation. Maybe its in his plan to fix it, or maybe on this earth it won't happen.

Even when he doesn't do what we want him to do, when he doesn't choose one of the (really good!) options we've presented to him, he is still good and we can still trust him.

We have an amazing children's Bible, the Jesus Bible Storybook. I love it because, starting from the beginning, each story ends with a reminder of the Savior and His redemption plan. Throughout the Old Testament stories, it tells of a Rescuer, Jesus, who would come to redeem us and save us from what we deserve because of his Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love. Because of that great love, we have hope in Jesus.

Whatever hard you find yourself in today, this year, this season, would you join me in renewing your hope in a God who knows the beginning from the end and loves us. Don't lose heart, don't give up!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Project 365, Week 42

I realized I have quite a few sunrise/sunset photos this week. They never fail to take my breath away. I love the humble reminder of how big God is and how great his love is for us. As sure as the sun rises each day, his mercies are new every morning.

October 11
Avery and I started day two of the soccer tournament bright and early...7 AM and chilly. And oh so breathtaking.

October 12
Our annual Columbus Day trip to the orchard. The kids were more excited about it than ever this year.

October 13
In the 25 years we've been together, one of my favorite things has been to pull up a seat (most commonly a 5-gallon bucket) next to where Shaun is working to keep him company while he works (most commonly car repair or taping). Its where some of our best conversations have happened.

October 14
We had an impromptu gathering of the cousins, just missing the two big boys. This was my favorite outtake from the 30 seconds we had to work with. :)

Aiden was playing on the playscape and I was reading in the car while the girls were at soccer practice. Aiden came running over, insistent that I had to get out and see this sight, a gorgeous sunset.

October 15
We saw the sunrise and the sunset over New York City, which means I was able to get treatment...and we were there a long time :)!

October 16
I took a nice long nap so I was up for a movie and snuggles when the kids got home from school. So blessed!

October 17
After soccer, Aiden and Pop went fishing, something they've been talking about for a while. Brrr!

I was feeling up for driving the girls 10 minutes down the road to their soccer game and I got the perfect spot to watch from my cozy car. So grateful for gifts like this.