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Milk Bath

This morning I woke up a little after 4 o’clock, feeling very uncomfortable and wet.  “Oh no,” I said out loud, not really sure why I wanted sympathy, but just that I did.  Matthew was sleeping too soundly to hear me, though.  Yesterday I had washed and line-dried our sheets.  Of course.  This morning I woke up in a puddle of milk.  Which meant one thing: Harry had slept through the night for the first time in awhile.  He had been doing really well before we did our traveling to Nevada, then Tennessee.  So, I was glad for the sleep, but super uncomfortable.  Somehow I managed to go back to sleep for a couple more hours, and woke up to a chattering baby, who had happily slept 12 hours.  I had prayed the night before with the girls: “Father, please help Harry to just sleep.  He’s chubby enough and doesn’t need the milk.”  We all burst out laughing at the cute picture instantly painted in our mind’s eye: thighs for days that squish and squish.  He answered our prayer, though!

Harry is certainly chubby.  We squeal over him every day.  He is seven months old and loves to babble and crawl and get into everything everyone is doing.  He is a tiny human vacuum cleaner.  Whatever doesn’t stick to his onesie, gets put into his mouth.  Today alone I’ve fished out a tortilla chip, a rock, a dice, and a bug.  This morning he found an apple core and was like a puppy who had found a bone.  I watched him chomp on it for awhile, but once he started to bite off pretty substantial pieces, I had to take it away.  He did not like that.  He is a foodie through and through.  He eats and loves whatever you put in his mouth.  We do a little pureed baby food, but he would prefer small bites of chicken, or curry, or eggs, or chili, or lemons.  He loves them all!

This week the two oldest kiddos are away at teen camp.  It is so quiet!  Betty burst into tears yesterday because she missed Nadine so much.  It is SO much fun having teenagers.  There are stormy moments, but we are all learning this together.  We encourage communication, not stuffing of feelings.  If someone is being selfish, serving someone else is a wonderful antidote.  Late night porch talks are their favorite thing.  A big change is on the horizon this year.  Nadine and Elijah will both be going to Linville Hill Christian School this fall for high school.  It was a huge decision but one we are all excited about!

Jack had an acrobatic accident last month which landed him with a spiral fracture of three bones in his right hand.  Nadine recorded the flip before the flip that broke his hand.  It was impressive.  After a month in a cast, he has only one more week of a brace.  He is back to flips and tricks.  Can’t keep a strong young man down!  The only positive side to having his hand in a cast was that he was opted out of writing assignments the last month of school.

Elsie is my resident interior designer.  She rearranges their room almost weekly.  She actually rearranged the dining room last month with smashing success.  I came home to a new look and liked it even better than how it was before!  She has an eye for design with clothing too.  She is starting to bake more, though she prefers riding her bike or swimming.

Betty is a proud second grader.  She loves to read and reads well! Sometimes the words that pop out of her mouth surprise us with their seasoned-sounding wisdom.  Other times she just makes us laugh with her dry sense of humor.  The other day the girls were walking around with their clipboards taking orders and having us sign our names a hundred times for various reasons.  She came up to me and asked if they could have a bowl of pretzels.  “Sign ‘yes’ or ‘no’ next to your name.  Don’t write maybe.  This is a yes or no question.”  I about died.  Then she asked me, “Is your name Amy?  Can I call you Amy?”  This morning we were moving out a bookshelf I had sold online.  Betty took a look at it and said, “How old is that?  It looks like it’s from 1994!”  The laughing emoji face is constantly circling around my head when that girl talks.

This morning Matthew finished up with his third out of four infusions.  His voice seems to be a tad bit better, though we only have symptoms to base any improvements off of right now til he gets his next round of bloodwork done.  We sometimes battle discouragement, but we know that doesn’t get us anywhere.  Yesterday I read a familiar and comforting verse: “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”  It always pops into my daily reading at a time when something larger than I can comprehend is happening.  I remember when Matthew and I were dating and it seemed like we would never be able to get married.  He was, after all, a teenager.  It was one of the hardest waiting times of our life.  Each season is a stepping stone to the next.  Like trees coming to life in spring and then preparing themselves for fall and winter… each season has a purpose and a beauty all its own.  We can declare with surety and confidence that up until today, the Lord has helped us.  He will never quit being Who He is.  He is worthy of our trust and confidence.

We’ve done a lot of traveling already this year!  Matthew and I enjoyed traveling to Las Vegas for the annual Plexus convention.  I’m over halfway through my studies to become a CNHP (Certified Natural Health Professional).  Ever since highschool, I’ve been passionate about how our bodies work.  I’m absolutely thrilled to have this avenue of study to learn more and this area of work to help people with gut health!  It’s so exciting to hear all of the stories that come my way every single day.

Hopefully it won’t be so long between the next journal entry!  Here is a small camera dump of the past month!


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Let Freedom Grow

A word which has shaped and defined this year is freedom.  I’m seeing it played out in so many ways throughout my every day.  For instance.  Today my skirt fell off.  Under many circumstances, this would have been categorized as one of my most embarrassing moments.  Thankfully, I was *only* outside in the front yard, having just walked out to our van to grab something and bring it inside.  The mailman wasn’t there.  No one was walking by.  The neighbors weren’t mowing their lawn.  I speedily pulled it together and ran inside.  This can be categorized as freedom, though not exactly what I had in mind on January 1st.  My box of wrap skirts have taken center stage in my wardrobe.  And I will not let a small setback, such as one falling off of me, deter me from wearing them.  My twenty-week-belly loves the wrap skirt idea.  2016-06-30 17.31.40This week the kids have been able to feel baby Chip move so much.  Their faces are priceless!  Jack sat there with his hand on my tummy for a couple of minutes when all of a sudden his hand shot back and he looked at me with his eyes and mouth about the same width.  It was great!  As I sit on the front porch this evening after a busy day of mommy-ing, attacking the weeds in my garden, and doing the regular mounds of laundry, I feel some kicking.  Baby Chip most certainly had a growth spurt this week, because all of a sudden I make a funny noise when I bend over, forgetting my front has expanded into my ribcage when in that position.  That, and I keep stubbing my toes when I walk upstairs.  I think it’s because I don’t lift my legs as high right before I take a step.  Pretty much on the dot, every night around 11pm the gymnastics starts, and I sit with my hand on my belly, in wonderment at another life bursting with joy inside of me.  Freedom.
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For the past six weeks, Elsie has had a cast on her right arm.  After about a day of figuring out how to do stuff with a perpetually bent arm, she quickly resumed life with a cast, almost as if she had none.  She literally lets nothing hold her back.  Even without the use of her thumb, she figured out how to tie her shoes, do monkey bars, climb, ride a bike and even play baseball!
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Monday was a big day for her, when she was liberated from its confines.  Freedom.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words:
IMG_8590[1]This week I had to say goodbye to a dear, sweet friend.  Our husbands met at a spin class about 8 years ago, which was definitely a God-ordained meeting, since I don’t think either of them have been to a spin class ever since.  Our kids are the same age, and we’ve watched and prayed eachother through some mutually serious health issues.  She is the friend who introduced Plexus to me, and after watching her journey to health and freedom, jumped in to join her.  She has been an incredible source of joy and encouragement and wisdom to me the past few years.  I love how in Heaven others will truly find out how much impact they’ve had on your life.  Thankfully Tennessee isn’t too far, but knowing I can’t just pop over makes me get a little teary.  Letting loved ones go and be and do what they’ve been called to is one of the hardest things on earth, I believe.  Yet, letting them go gives you more freedom to love stronger and deeper and further than before.
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Once a week Nadine has been getting back into the saddle.  It’s the highlight of her week.  She gets to ride with one of her best friends as well, which adds all sorts of amazingness to her week.  To me, it’s scary.  To her, it’s freedom.  She continues to be a huge source of help to me around the house and is growing in her babysitting abilities.  nrw
Today our not-so-bitty-Betty lost her first tooth!  She is growing up, embracing her big sister role already, and is somwhat of an old soul.  Sometimes I look at her and wonder on what wavelength she communicates to God.  He must tell her things I can’t quite fathom.  If you’ve ever had a conversation with her, you might understand what I’m having a hard time putting in to words.  Growing up requires a little bit of pain, which usually results in more freedom.
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Speaking of growing up.  There are these two characters who live in the attic, who often sound like a small herd of elephants when they come down the stairs.  But they are in actuality, boy-men.  Boys trapped in bodies which are swiftly becoming men.  Boys who dream of motorcycles and ammunition and muscles and big stuff like jobs.  Jobs that pay money so Elijah can get his pilot’s license and fly his friends wherever they want to go.  It’s fun to listen to their dreams and know that many of them will come true if we never plant seeds of doubt into their fertile minds.  Freedom.
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Apparently there is a “look back and compare an old picture of you and your spouse to now” thing going on over on facebook.  So, for fun I decided to do just that.  I practically died when I pulled out this doozy of a photo from nine years ago!  Matthew had been sick for about a year and a half, was on high doses of toxic meds, and I was barely surviving as a mom of three.  How incredibly blessed and grateful I am for the road we have traveled, and for the way the Lord has helped us navigate the stormy path.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

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We don’t even know how many prayers have gone up for us on Matthew’s behalf.  So many.  There were times we literally felt like there was no way to go on.  We praise the Lord for the gift of health.  We know we are never guaranteed another breath.  But for every breath we are given, we praise Him!  Matthew is out running right now, his reflective vest on, heart pumping, lungs breathing, windpipe open.  Not something we would have thought about before.  It is the storm which has made our love so strong.  It is being in the pit which has made the air above so clean and worth savoring.  2016-06-28 23.14.09
We pray for open hands to receive both the sickness and the health.  The richer and the poorer.  Til death do us part.  In doing this, there is great freedom.

 


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Saying Goodbye to Try

The other day Betty said to me, “I want to do something I’ve NEVER done before!”  I literally blinked my eyes and stared at her in wonder.  Not for the first time, either.  This girl seems to say things which I feel like have come from somewhere deep inside my own heart.  Unspoken.  Then they find words  and come out of her mouth.  “Really?”  I answered, playing with her hair.  She’s been on big rollercoasters and flown inside a cessna airplane.  I could tell in her eyes she had a hunger to experience the thrill of something new.  Just like her mama.  So, even though she’s done it before, it had been a long, long time.  We decided to take a walk around the neighborhood and she asked to bring her bike.  It’s been about a year since she rode it, and she was nervous about falling down.  My favorite thing about our time together, wasn’t the fact that she did in fact ride the bike without me holding on.  No, my favorite thing was how she talked to herself while she rode.  “I can do this!  I can do this!  I can do this!” she breathed over and over while I slowly let go and ran beside her.  Cheering her on.  Watching her fly alone.  In her hounds-tooth dress and polka dot rain boots.  Her fear lay in a pothole somewhere between our house and 8th Ave.IMG_8061There’s something incredible about what we say to ourselves.  I dare you to listen to yourself when you’re thinking.  It’s incredibly enlightening.  Do you say things to yourself that you would never allow someone to say to your child?  Or to you?  Changing negative thinking has totally transformed my life and is transforming the lives of our children.

Interestingly, Paul didn’t say, “I think I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Nope.  We should never say we will try to do this or that.  Every time we try, we make a small exception for ourselves to fail.  And you know what?  You might mess up and fail.  But that should never keep us from picking ourselves back up and getting stronger.  I CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

I am so proud of these kiddos.  We completed our school year a couple weeks ago.  They have all grown and accomplished so much!  2016-05-06 14.08.57
Being out of school has been just what we all needed.  There has been a lot of imagination and rearranging and purging that comes when Mommy’s brain is free from thinking of school for a couple of weeks.  We started our vacation out right with a broken arm.  Broken in three places, no less.  That girl is incredibly tough. This is the second time this has happened in her short little life.    She doesn’t complain, and she really hasn’t let it stop her from doing anything.  When I told her to be careful on the playground, Betty piped up: “At least I can jump!  Because I have two arms and two thumbs and two elbows!”

New neighbors just moved in next door, and the boys had no qualms about asking them if they could have a bunch of their huge furniture boxes to make a small town with them.  The rest of the day was spent cutting and creating tiny houses.

Earlier this week, Elsie let out a big sigh in front of me and said,”I just want to run a business or something!”  She kept persisting, and finally her dream became a reality.  Older sister and a friend all chipped in to squeeze lemons and taste test the perfect lemonade.  We had some very enthusiastic salesmen and women, who were not afraid to ask the UPS man, the neighbors, and any passersby’s to buy a cup of refreshing lemonade.  Why?  Elsie, broken arm and all, determined it was to raise money for gymnastics.  This has been a huge dream of hers, and I’m so proud of her for looking ahead, past the “impossible” and seeing her arm healed enough to take gymnastics. IMG_8156
Many days are spent gardening and cutting fresh flowers, enjoying delicious berries, and being amazed at how my belly has popped out with pride and joy.  At 17 weeks, baby Chip is kicking and loving the berries I’m eating.  Most recently, Matthew put up a new fence on the one side of our yard.  It was an exhausting day.  But one of my favorite kinds of tired.

So very thankful and daily more in love with this guy.  He takes good care of us.  He feels great, which is something we never ever take for granted.  Once your health has been on the edge of survival wondering at the surety  of your next breath, you never go a day without praising God for one more day to enjoy this thing called life.  Every day my passion grows to help others who are hurting and sick and tired of being sick and tired.

For the next coupe of days I need to get my game on and face my least favorite past-time: packing.  The motivation of having five whole days with Matthew by my side, along with some of the most motivating, loving, encouraging people… I’m not going to TRY.  I will take a lesson from my sweet Betty and whisper: “I can do this.  I can do this.”  I can confidently face my suitcase and smile.

 


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The Best Chocolate Chip

The sound never grows old.  A faint, steady rhythm.  So tiny, yet so strong.  We call him “Chip”, because at one point, baby was the size of a chocolate chip. The name stuck.  Now Chip is bigger, and his heart is definitely beating.  Life.  Hidden and mysterious, but unmistakably there.  On Monday I had my first midwife appointment and got to meet Chip in a super special way, as the tears pooled in my eyes and his heartbeat met my ears.  Every morning for the past couple of weeks I’ve sighed a great hallelujah that my pants still button.  But thirteen weeks into this journey, and it’s time to expand my wardrobe for my expanding wasitline!  I’m definitely tired of sweat pants and feeling frumpy.
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The second highlight of our week was Tuesday.  Hearing a solid “well done” from the kids’ evaluator, marked another year in the books for the Weldon Academy of Natural Studies.  We now officially have one 1st grader, one 3rd grader, one 5th grader and two 8th graders.  Good thing I’m sitting down right now.  It’s been a huge year, full of much learning and growing.  We celebrated with lunch at the Green Street Grille.  What a HUGE accomplishment!  They’re growing up so fast.  In fact, the other day Jack asked Betty how old she wants to be when she grows up.  She thought for a moment and said, “Seventeen.”2016-05-10 13.20.18-1Last month, I had the incredible privilege of flying out to Portland to visit my dear friend, April.  We grew up together for a few years in the middle of Africa.  Her house was just a shout away.  In fact, we would often stand at the bottom of their hill and yell, “Do you have a roll of toilet paper we could borrow?!”  Or “Do you have butter?!”  You know, the essential things.  This is probably one huge reason I love my neighbor, Jen, so much.  I don’t think a week goes by without borrowing something from her… and it is often ONE egg, or TWO INCHES of butter, please.  Having someone who loves you and doesn’t think any less of you because you fail to figure out just how many eggs you’ll need each week… on a weekly basis… is pretty grand.

April and I have been friends for almost thirty years.  I don’t even FEEL like I’m 30 yet, so this is pretty wild for me to comprehend even still.  But we have, because Math doesn’t lie, or something like that.  She is one of the most genuine people I know.  I love her courage and gusto in life.  I love that she doesn’t let fear hold her down from following God’s leading.  That leading happens to be into the middle of the jungle of Papua, Indonesia.  I am so thankful I got to squeeze her and even run a mini “Amazing Race Portland” with her and a friend before she flew back across a HUGE ocean to her home.  As we prayed before she dropped me off at the airport, I was absolutely floored by the goodness and grace of God to weave and keep tight the bond of this friendship which has spanned more time and miles than I can comprehend.

As things grow and change in our family, this guy remains constant and steady.  2016-04-08 07.10.53-1We have had such fun dreaming together.  He is such an encouragement to me every day.  I don’t often feel what he sees, but I choose to believe him, because he’s never lied to me yet.  We are so excited to see how the Lord is going to work out the details of our future.  We sense His stirring in our lives and know He has something amazing in store.

Baby Chip is proof of that.


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Sweet Summer

Since school is beginning very soon, I thought now would be a good time to do a quick overview of our summer so far.  It’s been delightful to say the least!  June started out with a half marathon, which I completed with two friends.  It was much harder than anticipated, but I finished and was thankful for the challenge!June 2015 phone photos
July was full of some sickness, but was trumped by the ocean, soccer camp, girls’ camp, wrestling camp, and family time.
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So far, August has been beautiful.  Our dear friends came to visit us from Ohio.  Ruthie and I go all the way back to age ten.  Lots of front porch talks, a trip to the beach, and seeing our kids play with each other was such a joy.  The garden is bursting with color.  Matthew made the girls’ room a lot more fun by hanging their bed from the ceiling.  It is only accessible via a ladder and monkey bars.  Notice, my oldest daughter has to bend over a bit to look like the same height as her mother.  Matthew is doing marvelously well health-wise.  More on that later.
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God has been so faithful and good to us.  Summer isn’t over yet, and it’s been grand so far.


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Run Wild With The Hope

Amazing experiences are like pearls hidden in a shell.  Unless you know there is treasure inside, it is just an ugly shell.  This weekend may have looked like a crazy-dirty-roll-my-eyes-at-another-race-type-run to most people, but if you can be patient, I hope I can unpack and share with you some treasures I found hidden in the rough.
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It started as a team of twelve people I barely knew.  Names painted onto a van.  It ended very differently.
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We had two vans, with six runners per van.  Every runner had three legs to complete, so we made check boxes for each of us to fill in as we finished.  Art meets brawn.  Or something like that.DSC_5035
As second runner, I waited for my first run and tried not to think about how cold I was.  I imagined the warmth that would soon be coursing through my blood once I got going.  Once Bonnie tagged me, I was off.  DSC_5041
I had a two-mile climb before cresting the hill and experiencing an incredible view.  The van drove by me to yell through the windows, words of encouragement.  And I listened to words of worship and blessing through songs in my ears.

And the single hawk bursts into flight
And in the east the whole horizon is in flames 
I feel thunder in the sky 
I see the sky about to rain
And with the prairies I am calling out Your name…
And there is still a faith
That can make the mountains move
And a love that can make the heavens ring
And I’ve seen love make heaven ring…
From the place where morning gathers
You can look sometimes forever ’til you see
What time may never know
How the Lord takes by its corners this old world
And shakes us forward and shakes us free
To run wild with the hope
The hope that this thirst will not last long
That it will soon drown in the song
Not sung in vain
And I feel thunder in the sky
I see the sky about to rain
And I hear the prairies calling out Your name.

I slowed my pace to catch this view with my phone.  It doesn’t do it justice.  I felt so free up there, maybe a bit like how a bird feels when he’s flying across the beauty only visible between earth and sky.  I could feel the glory of the mountains breaking into song and the trees clapping their hands.  I was spectator to the majestic song of praise that is constantly being sung.  My feet kept time, I met with my Maker up there, and it felt like holy ground.

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At the second exchange, I tagged runner 3, and we were off to encourage him.  Sometimes it meant screaming through open van windows, and sometimes it meant using sidewalk chalk along the craziest climb of the race. rr3
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Through each exchange, each runner tagged the next.
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There was a particularly breath-taking view along the way, right before Matthew’s first run.
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Who spoke the Earth and sky to form
Who sets the sun and calls the dawn
Who breathed me out of dust to life
With the will to trust or run and hide

I will stay should the world by me fold
Lift up Your name as the darkness falls
I will wait and hold fast to Your word
Heart on Your heart and my eyes on You

Who loved me through my rebel way
Who chose to carry all my shame
Who breathes in me with endless life
The king of glory Jesus Christ

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After Matthew ran in to finish leg 1 for our van, we headed to another exchange to wait until van 2 finished their first leg.  We slept, refueled, and played Phase 10.  It’s always more fun when you win.
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I was a bit nervous about running through the night.  Donning my headlight, strobe light, and reflective vest, I headed out into the darkness.  They weren’t the only things lighting my way.

For all of this life
Your Spirit ignites
A heavenly fire
Untouched by the night

You opened our eyes
Turned death into life
Revealing all truth
There’s no one like You.

In the midst of the darkest night
Let Your love be the shining light
Breaking chains that were holding me
You sent Your Son down and set me free
Everything of this world will fade
I’m pressing on till I see Your face

At a few points during that run, my team pulled over and got out of the van to cheer me on.  I’m having a hard time putting into words how that actually made me feel.  It was a condensed version of life, really.  We all go through dark times, when fears are tangible and light is dim to nonexistent.  The second I took my eyes off the light from my headlamp, and darted them into the woods lining the dark road, my heart could feel the darkness.  When our eyes are fixed on the light and power that is Jesus Christ, we are truly set free from the fear of darkness.  Because darkness is really just the absence of light.  Dark times can also be very lonely times.  There was literally not a speck of life on some stretches of that road.  When those cheering voices came into view, the feeling of loneliness and isolation was immediately overwhelmed by love.  Love stands outside on a cold dark night and yells your name until you smile and find more strength in your weary legs.
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When we finished our night runs, we were able to rest for a couple of hours at one of the exchanges.  The third and final leg began right at dawn.  My legs were sore, but quickly the adrenaline gave me an extra boost I didn’t think was possible.  We had a few people’s cell phone’s taking pictures along the way.  This one is not from my particular leg, but every run had the ever-encouraging “one mile to go” sign posted and blinking.  It was pretty exciting to hand off the bracelet one more time, and then revel in the joy of being finished.
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Finished running, maybe, but not finished cheering on my team.
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When we all completed our legs, we ate a delicious meal before driving to the finish-line in Washington D.C.  I even managed to wash my hair and self in the small bathroom sink at Panera.  Glory.  rr2
The view was gorgeous from the finish line, and then it began to pour.  Van 2 team did an amazing job of enduring over very difficult hills, through the night, and in the rain.  A few minutes before our last runner crossed the finish line, the sun came out and smiled on our tired but happy team.
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Driving home, the sun kept on shining.  Check marks on the windows reminded me of hundreds of miles run.  Goals accomplished.  Hills conquered.  Darkness overwhelmed by light.  No longer just names painted on a van.  Real souls, with stories of their own.  Real hearts that pump blood through their bodies.  Bodies capable of more than each of us thought possible at times.  Names turned into friends.  Friends who made me laugh to my core, and changed me in some intangible way I haven’t quite figured out yet.  But I know I’m better because of them.
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I’ve been shaken up a little.  Pushed out of my comfort zone a lot.  And somewhere out there on the road, I found a part of myself I didn’t know was missing.
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When I agreed to this race, I only saw the shell.  I was skeptical of the entire idea.  Yet through the hard work and grit and grime, a real pearl emerged.  It reflects teamwork, laughter, determination, and friendship.  Unique and priceless.  Press on.  You never know where the next road will take you.


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365 Days From Then

The van is cleaned out, laundry is going, and sand still sticks to the bottom of my bare feet, escaping from every corner of every bag brought home.  Our skin is more tan and our hearts are full of good memories.  A year ago, our lives looked quite different.  I am blown away at God’s mercy and grace to us this year.  From sparing Matthew’s life, to getting out of debt, to providing a “new” vehicle for us… the list goes on.  Thank you, Father.  A year ago, instead of vacation at the beach, we hung out in a hospital room.
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This week was quite different!  It was sung to the tune of ocean waves and time away as a whole family.  We have never had a vacation for a week with just ourselves in all of our married years!  A lovely opportunity came up for us to do so, and we gladly accepted the offer.  I think the last time I played in the ocean every day for five days in a row was… this week!  Like, IN the ocean, not just on the beach watching one of my babies play in the sand.  Elijah actually came up to me in the ocean and laughed out loud, “I love seeing you all wet, Mom!”  I played with the “biggie board” as Betty calls it, and made an entire city of sandcastles one day!

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Our week was full of front-porch talks, VW van sightings, a ride on the log flume with my two littles, bike rides, “biggie boards”, a visit from dear friends, a visit with family one day, and delicious food.  Unfortunately, I forgot to pull out my camera except for a couple of days.  I did catch a few extras with my phone, here.
Phone Photos August1
It is hard to see the week come to an end.  But new adventures await us as we start school in earnest, and an exciting change is in store for Matthew next week.  I will share more about that later.