Monday, August 23, 2010

Fall and I are Like Peas and Carrots

September is right around the corner.  It makes me giddy inside.  I have this fetish with fall.  It's the relief of smoldering heat and the welcoming of a nice pair of old jeans.  It's Friday night football games, hanging out on our front porch, making apples a part of every meal, eating hearty food, carving pumpkins, and dressing up for Halloween. 
As I've grown older the feelings get stronger.  When I was in High School, Friday was my absolute favorite day of the fall week, football season in full swing, wearing jerseys, painting faces.  Yeah, Mindy Piper and I had some good times preparing for those football games.  And did I mention a good pair of jeans? 
The fall reminds me of our just getting married, too.  Granted, our wedding fell in Summer, but fall was just around the corner, and I have memories of coming home after work on Aaron's days off with the house clean, dinner in the oven, and the house smelling of warm apple pie from our tart warmer.  Windows were open, house was cool, perfect for cuddling up in a blanket with the hubbs after a long day.  I've never been more attracted to him in all my life, I do believe.
Fast forward some to last year, and now for that matter.  Kids make every season better.  Always.  (Okay, maybe not flu season, but cut me some slack.)  It seems like Aaron and I spend the whole summer trying to find unique things to do as a family.  It's either too hot to be just hanging out outside or it's too hot for anyone to plan anything outside.  I'm so completely stoked to get Bryton out to the apple orchard this year (apples are his favorite food group, I'm pretty sure... and probably his best pronounced word after daddy and momma), to the football games, to the pumpkin patch, and just outside to play like a normal kid!  Can you say corn mazes, apple cider, pumpkin carving and fun!  I can! 
I'm already in the works of planning our Halloween.  I have one of those awesome husbands that will dress up as a family for our trunk or treat, so the goal is to go as Shrek, Fiona, and Puss in Boots (or Donkey).  I'm totally stoked about this if you can't tell! 
And then Bryton's birthday follows right after that! 
Then, right around the corner is Christmas.... ahhhh.  It doesn't get much better! 
My jeans are all clean and in the closet waiting patiently (though few of them may be worn this year without the help of a hair-tie, it may be maternity jeans all the way.)  I've been collecting some good hearty fall recipes for going on three or four weeks now.  I'm already envisioning being able to hang out on our front porch.  And ah, a good sweatshirt is in my near future. 
SN@C this time of year always moves things along for me.  The first week is always hot and summer like, but by the time week 4 moves into view, we're getting a nice wonderful break in the weather. 
Here's to reds and yellows,  browns and orange, warm apple cider, kettle corn, a brisk breeze, and hello to the greatest season of them all!

Chronicles From the Road: Best Seasoned State

Virginia.  Hand's down.  We were there often, at least it seemed like, and besides Arkansas, it was my least favorite state to drive in and out of, especially when driving into it from the West.  (From the south wasn't too bad.)  For this girl that doesn't get carsick, I finally learned to keep some dramamine on hand for the rides in and through the mountains. 
But, the ride was beautiful.  And not just occasionally, always.  We reveled every time we drove through the area because we knew we had seen it before, but every time it took our breaths away.  I'm not even a huge mountain fan, I'm an ocean fan, but wow. 
We rode through those mountains during every season.  Summer was gorgeous and green, and we drove over bridges with sparkling water, and you could see little villages on the mountainsides.  But fall was enchanting, the trees made the moutainsides look like they were on fire, it was absolutely gorgeous.  The 'crisp' in the air made fall in VA oh so wonderful. 
And then there was winter, everything snowed and iced over made the hillsides glisten.  The little villages were all lit up and looked warm and cozy in the midst of the cold. 
And then spring, all of the trees starting to bud again, flowers like crazy.  The state was just beautiful... and friendly.
We liked Virginia!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Baby Stuff

A short update:
Had my first real prenatal appointment yesterday.  Everything seems to be going well, I'm almost 11 weeks,  measuring right on schedule, haven't gained any weight (that's a good thing) yet, and have an active baby with a heartbeat in the 160's.  I'm sure I'll  be posting things here as time goes on, but I've also created a Baby website over at The Bump. 
Feel free to get your baby fix over at

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Chronicles From the Road: May as Well Get this One out of the Way, Hawaii

This blog deserves a preface.  The road was hard.  It was hard on us physically (eating out all of the time, in a car at least two days a week for 12 hours or more each time, late nights, etc).   It was hard on our marriage. (It sounds nice to be together 24 hours a day / 7 days a week, but seriously, it's not nice to be with anyone that often.  The only place we had to go during a fight was the bathroom or the lobby.)  It was hard on us spiritually.  (Not knocking evangelists, but the same 12 messages, coupled with theology classes, don't exactly feed you spiritually over a 15 month time span, not to mention the lack of fellowship with believers who knew us and we knew them.)  So, it was difficult.

I'm not, however, going to lie and say that there was not perks.  There were... and that is what this blog is about, Most Remembered Perk!


This was a dream come true for me on so many levels.  One of my bucket list items is to see all 50 states and 5 of 7 continents before I die.  (I'm debating putting all 7 on there, afterall, it's a bucket list and they DO offer a cruise to Antarctica now.)  I've been to Alaska previously, so visiting Hawaii knocked the other big one off the state list. 

Not to mention I love, love, LOVE the ocean.  It's beautiful, and it's big, and it reminds me how small I am, and it's mysterious, and it smells good, and it reminds me of warm weather, and oh, I just love the beach.  I experience God when I experience the beach, and Hawaii, wow, they are islands, which means a LOT of ocean.  Awww, did I mention I love the ocean?  I do.

So, we got to go to Hawaii.  We got to eat the food, immerse in the culture, hang out with the people, experience a desert and a rainforest on the same island, drive around cliffs where water was beating against the rocks we were driving on, awww, it was wonderful. 

We were on the island of Molokai, deemed the most Hawaiian island, it has not been "commercialized" much... which was nice.  We ate at one little Pizza place often, a little restaurant on the ocean a few times (beautiful), and at Subway (the only chain restaurant they have on this island), once.  We also watched while the pastor ate an interesting little contraption, spam and rice wrapped in seaweed, which he bought from a gas station like we would a burger or something.  Weird.  We didn't try that.

It was beautiful.   The flowers were gorgeous, the ocean was more than I could have ever dreamed, we visited a white sand beach and a black sand (volcanic) beach on the same day.  Not to mention, church was amazing.  Nice little building with four sets of french doors opened up to let the breeze in.  No need for air conditioning anywhere. 

We slept right on the ocean, and I swear we got attacked by bullfrogs every night.  But it was wonderful.

And did you know that Hawaii has no snakes?  Crazy, right?  And when you go in and out of the state at the airport, they go crazy checking stuff.

I can't say enough about it, it was beautiful and wonderful and by far the biggest perk of the road.
Here are some pics to get my point across ;) 

Us just getting to Molokai.  This tree was at the retreat center we were staying at, it was huge!  And the fresh flower leis were great and wonderful of course!

The prettiest beach and water that I ever did see!  Has nasty rip currents, but it didn't keep us from going back more than once!  It's forever long and surprisingly unpopulated!  (The sand here is hot though, unlike the sand at Orange Beach, AL.)

One of many pretty flower pictures I took.  They were everywhere, you really couldn't get them all!

Us at our favorite little Molokai restaurant.  If you look real hard you can see where the waves are breaking way in the background, that is the reef.  This was basically how our little hotel room / apartment thingy set, this was our view everyday. 
I had french toast at this particular restaurant our first meal that came out purplish / black.  It had been soaked in an egg / guava juice mixture.  It was amazingly good!

And this is the black sand beach, though it doesn't look so black in this picture.  This was down on the peninsula that was a leper colony.  I had just hiked down something like 3 miles, which was 4000 feet straight down sea cliffs.  It was an awesome hike, and a really great tour once we got down there.  So much amazing history.  The inhabitants of the peninsula are those that were forced to live there years ago, all of whom carry the disease.  (Controlled now by medication.) 

A statue of Jesus in the church that used to be Father Damien's church.  He was a priest that came to live amongst the people when their disease was not controllable or curable.  He completely changed the way they lived, but eventually contracted the disease and died himself.  It really is a remarkable story.  I really advise you to check out these two websites about it!  It was one of the most remarkable parts of our trip! 
CBS Story Done in 2003
Molokai's Website About Kalaupapa

Finally Felt Like Couponing

Just goes to show you how important staying on top of this couponing thing actually is.  With me not feeling good for the past several weeks, I've fell behind on a lot of things, including buying newspapers, sorting, doing my menu planning like I should (found it was better to eat what I felt like, being that most days it was like one thing that I sounded like I could get down), etc.  So it's been a LONG time since I've had a couponing blog.  That being said, here was yesterday's shopping trip.  (It was just a couponing stock up, not a feed us for the week trip.)

3 boxes of Hefty Ziplock Bags
One Quart of Kroger Ice Cream
2 Boxes of Betty Crocker Scalloped Potatoes
2 Boxes of Regular Cheerios
2 Betty Crocker Cookie Mixes
2 Pillsbury Cans Grands Biscuits
2 Pillsbury Cans Cinnamon Rolls
1 Bag of Gardettos Snack Mix
1 Bag of Chex Mix snack mix
1 Bag of Kroger's Potato Chips

My total out of pocket was $14.61.  Not too bad for stuff we will certainly use and being that I haven't stocked my coupons in at least 4 or 5 weeks.   I've got to get back in the habit of getting a paper and printing coupons.  My binder is almost empty!  Good thing I'm feeling better ;)


Monday, August 16, 2010

Chronicles From the Road: Most Remembered Pastor

So, yesterday it occurred to me how unique our experience on the road really was.  We had amazing opportunities to learn about ministry, God, each other, and traveling.  So, as to not preface this series with too much, I'm sporadically going to post short snip-its of things that stand out in my brain from the road.
This one is dear to my heart:  June 2006 - September 2007, Most Remembered Pastor

The title of most remembered pastor does not come lightly.  One must remember that we were in churches for 4 days at the longest, and were off to go somewhere else.  When you are only in one place for such a short time, and you're on the road for 15 months, it's safe to say we met a lot of pastors.  I can remember a lot of specific characters:  the money hungry pastor, the pastor who golfed in the Hooters tournament, the pastor with the most botox (by far), the pastor who used to be the President of the SBC, and the list goes on.  We met a lot of them.  But the one who sticks out the most in my head is a middle-aged, overweight pastor from a (rich / prestigious) country church in Kentucky, with an average attendance of maybe 150.  He called my Penelope, and I liked him. 

On Sunday morning (our first day at this church) Ken preached, but the message came after.  The pastor sat front and center during the entire message, and after Ken had finished, he went forward weeping.  In front of his church, on that Sunday morning, he admitted to them all the sin in his life... gluttony.  I have never seen anyone be so real so publicly.  I could see the pain in his eyes.  I could see the pain in the eyes of his congregation. 

He wore his sin obviously, but his weeping spirit was more evident than any physical weight.  I cherished the honesty of the head of this church.  It could possibly be the greatest act of leadership I've seen in all of my time in the ministry, for a pastor to come forward, confess his sin to his people, and ask to be held accountable. 

As the week continued this gentleman further spoke to my heart, showing compassion, love, and respect for all of the people he encountered.  I learned a great deal from this man during this week.  Sometimes being a leader and standing up for what is right does not always look like fire and brimstone, sometimes it looks like compassion and weeping.  My experience with this particular pastor this week completely changed my 'on the road experience' with my husband.  And I'll never forget this pastor for such a valuable lesson... and, it helps he called me Penelope ;) 


Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Time for Everything

Let's talk seasons.   This is a good time for that because most people I know are about sick of this 110 degree heat index.  In fact, most people I know are ready for fall. 
Fall is, hands down, my favorite time of year, with May / June being a distant second.  There is some relief about the fall, there is no more of the intense heat and humidity that leaves you breathless as you walk outside.  Routine has set back in, apples come into season, pumpkins are due for carving, sweaters are washed for wearing, and best of all, Christmas is just around the corner.  Have I mentioned that I love fall?  I love fall. 

I hate winter, after December 31st.  I know, I know, but seriously, get me through Christmas and give me 70 degrees.  So really, I don't just hate winter, but I kind of hate spring too.  (Yeah, I said it.)  I don't mind the last sunny, not so rainy, not so allergy ridden kind of spring, I basically hate southern Illinois weather that lies between January 1st and about mid April, and when you hate it, well, that's about 4 months to hate.  It makes for a very long season. 
Such are seasons in life sometimes.  There are seasons that I have just hated... we've called those the desert experiences in the past, but for the sake of this blog we'll refer to those as the after Christmas winter, rainy, nasty, bleh experiences... or my January through April season. 
I can look back in my life and see several of those, but some of those stand out more than others. 

For example: 
- HS sophomore year was hard... lots of family changes and seeming rejections left me hurt and confused.
- HS senior year was harder yet... finally loving Jesus for the first time like I should have been for a long time and facing some major loneliness.  I can honestly say I've never felt more alone in my life than I did during that season.
- And the hardest, the road.  Newlywed loneliness and difficult experience physically, mentally, and more importantly, spiritually, left Aaron and I both very very tired and hurt. 

But January through April have proven two things to me:
1.  The sun always comes and the cold always goes if you can stick it out.  Sticking it out to May may seem hard and pointless, but May brings flowers and green grass, and the warmest sun you ever did feel, at least for the last 8 months or more.  During those cold dark seasons in life, rest always comes somewhere down the line.  Sometimes the season seems long and unbearable, but God promises those seasons are just that, seasons.  Eventually the desert becomes the mountaintop, and the mountaintop will again become the desert.  The deserts, or the January through Aprils, make us appreciate the Mays and Junes.
2.  God always carries us through those seasons and we are stronger than ever before.  God really displayed his love for me through my sophomore year circumstances, I learned more about God, and believe I was closer to God than I've ever been during my senior year circumstances, and God used the road to grow each of us spiritually, pointing out our own sin and allowing our marriage to grow by leaps and bounds, though it was by far the most difficult time I've endured personally, and the most difficult time our marriage has probably endured.  But May came in all of those situations.

And you know, I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't mind experiencing bits and pieces of those seasons over again.  Aaron and I had the unique season of the road to allow us experiences many other couples will never get.  If anyone knows hotels, we do.  (And I love hotels)  We've seen a lot of country together.  (And I love traveling)  We met a lot of great people.  (And I love people)  The season existed for a reason, but during it I literally said, 'I will never miss this,' and though I wouldn't change our lives now for anything, I do miss it some.  Not the ministry part, the relational part and the experience part. 

Ecclesiastes says there's a time for everything, for every season under the sun.  Some will make us miserable, some will bring us joy, and one cannot exist without the other.  With the absence of pain we can not fully experience joy, with the absence of joy we cannot endure the pain.  There is a reason for every season.  What season are you in right now?


It's Hard to Pull It Together

Galatians 6:2 says to bear each other's burdens, in this way fulfilling the law of Christ.

I'm convinced God asks us to do this so that we can be His love to each other through a physical sense.  It's no lie, sometimes life is too much to handle, and if you don't believe that, your time is coming.  Just wait.

But it's true.  I've been there, there's a good chance that you've been there, and we all know someone else who has been there.   There are just times where life seems to difficult, circumstances too severe, the pain too unbearable.  I've been in that boat.

But, never before now have I felt the burdens of those around me as I do now.  Maybe this is a lesson in compassion for me, who knows, but God has suddenly made me painfully and agonizingly aware of the hurt and conflict going on in the lives of people whom I hold very dear to my heart, and my heart feels shattered for them .  It seems as if so many of those we care about are traveling through the desert right now.  So many are hurting, for so many different reasons, and I'm feeling their hurt.  I'm sure it is not to the same extent, but God is allowing me to carry their burden with them.  It was all I could do to hold myself together in church today... and just this past week I was weeping on the phone with Aaron about friends of ours going through a difficult time.

I feel an urgency to 'do' something, to help someway, to be a shoulder, an ear, a hand, a prayer warrior, a friend.  Yet, I wish there was so much more I could do.  I want to weep with now and rejoice with later.  I want to encourage, and I want the truth to win out.  I feel vested in the lives of these people and I can not separate myself.  The hurt is too great in my own life.  I want to hug them all and say, whether the sun shines tomorrow, or next week or three years from now, God willing, I'll be there.  I'll carry this with you.  That would be my prayer for when the shoe changes feet.  It'll be me again someday.

I'm praying now that God would do more, in all of these situations, than we ever guessed was fathomable, or more than we'd ever imagined He would or could do.  I pray for peace and healing.  I pray for relationships restored, strength, and for our God, who holds all things together, to bless the families He has created and will yet be creating.  And to He be all the glory. 

Until we see that mountaintop...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Keep On

The journey is hard -
The road, it seems long -
There are mountains between
here and your home
And when you feel
You've no steam to keep on,
Keep on, dear friend,
Look up and keep on.

Life has turned gray -
You want to turn back,
The sky to your front
seems nothing but black,
And life has you beaten,
You can't seem to hold on,
Hold on, my dear friend,
Hold Him and hold on. 

And when the time of surrender
Is beckoning in -
You can't seem to hold on
Or keep on, my friend -
The mountain, too large,
The wind is too strong,
Pray on, dear friend -
Praise God and pray on.

When you've tired of climbing,
Your energy sparse,
Remember, my friend,
You are close to our hearts,
And we'll climb that mountain,
Together, trudge on,
Take my hand, my dear friend,
Take the hand and trudge on. 

The world will tell us
The mountain's too tough
Back off, come down, you've suffered enough
But on top of that mountain is Calvary's cross,
And over that hill is rest for the lost
And rest for the one who has just lost his way,
Keep on, hold on, pray, dear friend, pray.

Because the mountain's not easy
It hurts and it's hard
But God moves us over them,
through them,
around them,
or maybe he just moves them.

But whatever your mountain,
You're not at it alone,
God brings you through them,
And nearer to home,
And along the way,
He'll give some hands to hold on,
And some mouths to say
Keep on, hold on, pray, and trudge on. 

It's worth it, dear friend,
Don't turn your back now,
Raise your head high,
And carry it out!
Onward towards mountains
It's the narrow path through,
Keep on, dear friend,
For we'll keep on with you. 

Monday, August 9, 2010

I Hope They See Them

1 year, 9 months, and 6 days ago I laid eyes on the most incredible, physical blessing God has ever given us, Bryton.  I held him in my arms, and we knew each other.  It was instant.  Maybe it was carrying him for nine months, maybe it's mother's intuition, but I knew and loved this little boy, certainly, more than any other human being on this earth besides Aaron, and Aaron may agree at that point, even more than he.  I expect that to be a trend throughout his life, and the life of our currently unborn baby. 
I cannot expect anyone else to love and cherish these babies as much as I do.  That would be foolishness.  No, the love we feel for our own children cannot be matched.  With the love comes a responsibility to grow and nurture them, to lead them physically, spiritually, and mentally down the right paths.  The responsibility is heavy and burdensome.  I'd say most parents struggle with this responsibility for the rest of their lives, regardless of what their children's ages. 
But there's a flip in the system.  Though others will never, and can never, love our children as we do, it must be assumed that it takes a village to raise a child.  Try to overprotect your children and your results are children who cannot socially 'make it' in the real world. 
The truth is, we all offer valuable experiences and lessons to be taught to our kids, and to the kids of other people.  There is great wisdom that comes with sharing experiences and knowledge for the sake of growing other people. 
I realize that though I am the one with the well being of my child most at front and center, that my child will not only be impacted by myself and my husband, but also by other influential individuals in their lives.  These people could be teachers, school administrators, church members, Sunday School teachers, Pastors, youth Pastors, coaches, other family members, etc.  The list goes on.  And as I realize that these influential people will also be molding and shaping the spiritual, physical, and mental character of my kids, I can only pray with my whole heart that they will see my children as I do. 
I pray that their motives be pure, their words be gentle, their advice be sound.  I pray that their influence would be righteous and just, that they would act as I would, and would redirect their own actions knowing the impact their choices make on the lives of my children. 
I pray that they would cherish them as their own. 
I also pray that I would reflect the same love and care on the students we encounter in our youth ministry, leading them as I would my own children.  They, and their parents, deserve that.
It seems appropriate, that as school starts, I make a plea to all of you in an influential position:  Be conscious of the young minds you are influencing.  Make sure your influences is righteous, and gentle, and good.  Be encouraging, loving, and respectful.  Make good decisions, and love covers a multitude of sins. 
My prayer is that those who will influence the lives of my children will see them as we do, and that I could see the students in the youth ministry as their parents see them, precious, and desperate for God to move in their lives.  

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Morning Sickness, My Rear End

Just a small vent here... whoever named this awfulness 'morning sickness' should be fired from their job of naming ailments.  My experience with 'morning sickness' isn't just morning sickness, no, it's morning, noon, and night sickness.  I get a short stint of relief in the evening from about 7-9 or about 8-10... and that's about it.  If I stay up to late I can't sleep because it's started back, and I'm queasy to some degree when I wake up in the morning.  It comes on full force between about 9 - 12 in the morning, but keeps me miserable most of the day. 
When I was pregnant with B, I wanted out of the first trimester to know that all was well within, with the risk of miscarriage going down.  This time around, I want out for the same reason plus about 30 other, including the morning sickness. 
Today my nausea 'produced' something for the first time (I'm trying to be very delicate here and not say 'puking' ahem), which tells me that it's time to call the doctor.  I need my life back.
All of that said, I feel awful and guilty for complaining about it.  As bad as I feel I'm so very thankful for the opportunity to have this baby.  I thought for a long time that B may never have a sibling, and it depressed me.  Also, I have great friends going to great lengths to even get pregnant.  I feel like it's a slap in the face to them to complain about my nastiness...
Hopefully they won't be 'trying' much longer and she'll be able to personally remind me what a blessing the nausea is... or maybe by that time I'll be able to remind her ;) 
Until next time...