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A Permanent Paint Job in My Hair

“Is that paint in your hair?”  He grinned.  I think I glared.  He knows perfectly well that even though I am the one to get paint in my hair while painting, that none of this has been going on for a few months. He kept grinning and then said, “I LOVE your grey hairs.”  He actually gets kind of giddy about them.  I guess they are factual of our journey from teenagers to pushing forty.  It is a beautiful thing to grow old with someone and know your grey hair makes them excited.  He’s actually getting a tiny swath of grey himself, which I find very attractive.
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I could name a handful of reasons for a few extras which may have popped up this month.

Earlier in July, Nadine came downstairs one morning with an incredibly stiff neck.  We had done massage, chiropractor, essential oils, and more, but she steadily got worse.  More sore, feverish, and absolutely exhausted.  A few doctor’s visits later and bloodwork drawn, I noticed a nice red circle on her leg.  And her shoulder.  And her arm, and torso and so on.  The number hit 17 bullseye rashes.  Her body felt and looked like it was shutting down.  We had spent so much time in prayer over her and Lymes kept running through my head.  As horrible as those bullseyes were, at least they showed up to confirm my thinking and get us on a path of treatment for her.  Just 24 hours later of being on strong antibiotics, she was sitting, standing up, and walking without having to collapse into bed.  She even swept the floor!  If people think I am anti-medicine because I’m a crunchy-granola-Plexus-mama, then they’re misinformed.  There is a time and there is a place, and I thank God for the ability to research and choose and make informed decisions.  I do not take antibiotics lightly.  So thankful too to have a quality probiotic to counter the nasty effects it will have on her good gut flora!

A few days after she started feeling nasty, I was grabbing some groceries and meeting my mother-in-law to pick up the youngest two who had been having a week at grandma’s.  We were waving goodbye as we backed out of our parking spot when all of a sudden the gear shift popped out of place and the whole gear shaft just started spinning around.  Thankfully, Linda hadn’t driven away yet, so we pushed the van into a safe spot and we all piled into her car where she drove us home!  Thankfully, it was not a huge fix!  Yesterday something else happened and we had to tow it again, but it’s fixed already.  We’re getting to know our local tow-truck drivers!
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I spent a lot of time sitting still and being quiet that first week of July.  Not my strong point.  Our front porch is my summer haven, and it gets a lot of love.  Between a broken arm, a broken vehicle, and a broken down body… I was pretty broken myself.  But God.  He’s in the business of fixing and providing and healing.
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One of the biggest blessings of this trial was seeing the rest of the kiddos rise to the challenge of taking over Nadine’s chores and jobs and serving her in many different ways.  From getting her icewater, to cleaning the kitchen, to hanging out with her while she couldn’t do anything but lay there.  It was refining for us all!  We also saw her faith grow in Jesus by leaps and bounds, as she audibly thanked Him for the sickness, and acknowledged He knows what’s best for her.  Do you know how hard that is to do?2016-07-13 14.19.53
As her body started to heal, God did another amazing thing for our family.  Because of the many broken things which needed money to fix them, we had to tell the kids they weren’t going to be able to go to soccer camp this year.  It was super difficult to tell them that, but we reminded them how God had the power and ability and means to provide for them if He wanted them to go.  So we laid it before the Lord without telling anyone else about the need.  On Saturday, one week before the camp would be starting, Elijah said to me, “Mom, camp starts in 7 days.”  I told him to keep praying and trusting God would provide if they were to go.  The next day, we recieved a phone call from someone who wanted to pay for our kids to go to camp if that was something they were wanting to do.  Seeing their faith grow when we told them the news was incredible.  At that point we weren’t even sure if Nadine could go!  We didn’t shop for her, until two days before they had to leave, when she was showing signs of having enough strength to handle a week at camp.  God provided in more ways than we could imagine!
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Now camp is over, and we are on our second day of school!

We are still celebrating summer, with later nights and a bit of sleeping in, but I always need a week or two of slowly easing into what our year will be looking like for the next ten months.  This gentle beginning also gives me room to purge from last year.  The last couple of days have seen six trash bags exit our house, lockers cleaned out, shelves re-organized, new books introduced, and a general feeling of newness and anticipation for the year ahead.
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I’m incredibly thankful for these amazing blessings entrusted to us for a time.  For the five independent ones downstairs eating icecream, and the one who is sending me love kicks from my womb.  We actually decided to find out whether “Baby Chip” is a boy or girl.  Here is the video of the kids’ reaction to the news:

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There is so much more I could write, but I have a few things left to do with my quiet evening, which my greying husband gifted to me tonight.  Thank you, love!


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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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There Is No Way on Earth Those Pants Are My Size (and other snippets of my day)

There’s a bowl of pretty-well-licked-out melted chocolate chips next to me.  I’m on my third cup of hot tea for the evening (decaf of course) and my head has a slight ache (chocolate helps that, right?).  It’s been one of THOSE days.  It began well.  Very well, in fact.  I came downstairs to find the children playing school.  I mean, we homeschool, so I thought the possibility of PLAYING school was out of the realm of possibility.  It helps that as of yesterday evening, after finishing our first term of school without one, we finally have an actual school table.

We had a blast at IKEA yesterday, picking out our school table!

We had a blast at IKEA yesterday, picking out our school table!

A new table apparently makes doing school super exciting.  I even overheard the teacher telling her students: “That test is going to be very severely graded!”  It was all fun and games, but then I turned my body and saw a huge pile of STUFF in the corner.  Something went off in my head, and picking EVERYTHING UP OFF THE FLOOR THAT ISN’T FURNITURE became top priority.  (That is my favorite thing to say, by the way.)  I may have gone a bit crazy.  End result: full trashcan, clean floor, settled mama.

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Somehow in there, the clock decided to jump ahead a few hours to it being the time we were supposed to be headed out the door for Elijah’s guitar lesson.  Thankfully, his teacher is super flexible, and we were able to scoot out the door a couple hours later.  Meanwhile, because time likes to be ornery, I couldn’t figure out why everyone was yelling and crying and not getting their math problems… until I actually looked at the clock and saw it was way past noon.  Everything stopped.  Eggs were cracked into frying pans.  Sriracha sauce was uncapped.  Avocados were cut.  Bread was toasted.  Bellies were filled.  Math made sense again.

I do love how every day is different.  Though there are some things that happen almost every day.  Like, a cup of hot tea in the morning.  And Nadine cleaning up the kitchen every night.  She has become quite proficient at it.  I encourage all you mamas of pre-teens… get them started!  Nadine has been hard at work doing this job for over a year, but has it down to a perfected science.  I am usually at my most exhausted, and she somehow almost always gets a second wind around 9:00.  Win, win!  I found that she does a much better job when I leave the room and don’t micromanage how she does it… because, surprise of all surprises… we have VERY different approaches when it comes to how we get it clean.  The end result is pretty much the same, however.  Thank you, darling!  (She can read this… because she’s a teenager now and subscribes to her mama’s blog… I am BEYOND touched and love her so much!)

In the midst of the chaos that was today, I did chisel out thirty minutes of quiet, alone time with the Maker of the Universe.  How’s that for a date?  I think sometimes I only see Him as that and get all nervous to lay my requests before Him and wait in expectation.  So, today I did just that.  The peace which overwhelmed my soul was indescribable.  Before, the sky was cloudy and cold.  After, the clouds were stunning with glimpses of sunshine pouring out like beams of pure gold.  He has a way of reminding me of how close He really is, even though my heart strives constantly to do and go and accomplish.  He says to just be.

A few other chaotic things happened today after that peace, but isn’t that life on this side of Heaven?  One of them was disagreeing strongly with the man at Goodwill that the pants I was buying for Elsie were in fact for a child and not for an adult as he was ringing them up to be.  I even took them from his hand, held them up to my body and told him that there was no way on earth I would ever fit in these pants which clearly fit on my daughter… and I held them up to her.  He didn’t budge.  My blood was boiling inside because it was very clear who was right and who wasn’t.  There was a long line and so I chose… peace.  I mean, I wasn’t really upset that I was getting them for $2 instead of $1;  I was just upset because I was right and he was wrong.  Yeah.  That’s super.  Anyway, I didn’t blow up and I even made out with an amazing $2 necklace… which goes great with my plaid, don’t you think?
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By the time we arrived home, supper was zero percent away from being started, I was hangry, and it was 5:30 and dark outside.  I threw ROCK HARD FROZEN chicken into a pan with salt, pepper, and lemon juice and miraculously didn’t burn it.  Matthew always can tell when I don’t cook with a little bit of love poured into the food.  I think it’s because my dear friend, with her beautiful smile and loving self, walked into my kitchen at that exact moment and the love started seeping out my pores and into the pan of chicken.  It didn’t burn, and tasted amazingly delicious all chopped up in our salad.  The evening was spent with my friend, dreaming and building our business together.

Now my third cup of tea is cold.  Time is playing tricks on me again, because it keeps telling me hours have passed since I last looked at the clock.  My children keep getting taller and making food non-existent in our refrigerator and cupboards.  Betty said the funniest thing the other day.  I have no idea what was going on, but she told me: I have a feeling of myself.
Really?  What do you feel?

Like Jack and Elsie are going to find a real mouse.  I have a bad feeling.

Then, the other day Elsie and Betty were playing house, complete with pretend money, and I overheard this very upset showdown between mother and daughter:
You  bought a dog?! You just wasted all our money!– Elsie
But she gave me a change! said Betty cheerfully.
It’s still not enough! -Elsie

Now my fourth cup of tea is hot, because my intuitive husband just came and gave me a refill.  I’m excited to snuggle up with him tonight.  I’m so thankful I am his and he is mine.  Elsie just came and asked if she can listen to jazz music to fall asleep.  Every day is so full of moments of gratefulness and awe.  I’m so thankful for many things, but mostly I’m thankful for God’s grace, and that my life is not a test to be severely graded, because it would be an utter failure!


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I Just Want A Yes

One thing which bothers me is when one of my children asks me for  a snack as I’m cooking dinner.  About a week ago, my littlest was doing just that.  As I looked at her and firmly told her, “No,” she sat down on the floor, tucked her head in between her knees and cried dramatically: “But I just want a yes!”  The outburst stopped me in my tracks.  It almost felt like her words were being interpreted from my own heart’s silent prayer to my Heavenly Father.  I just want a yes.

This week was a rough one for me.  That same particular little girl started having a fever and alarmingly swollen lymph nodes, warranting a doctor’s visit and a round of blood-work.  2015-06-01 14.07.46
Thankfully, the blood-work came back normal, but the next day she developed a scary-looking rash on her forehead/scalp area.  To make a long story short, 3 doctor visits later and an incredibly high temp of 105 at one point… she was diagnosed with Lyme’s disease.  Lyme’s is a tick borne disease and nothing to take lightly.2015-06-05 13.03.17-1
This was the point where I began to ask others to pray for us.  It was going on five days of constant fever, and Thursday night she was unable to walk up the stairs or move her leg from standing to sitting.  She hadn’t really complained yet, despite how wretched she felt, so when she started to cry about her leg hurting so badly, I knew she was in a lot of pain.  God promises us tremendous power is made available through a good man’s earnest prayer. (James 5:16)  I just wanted a yes, but realized God wouldn’t change in any way if He said no.2015-06-05 19.00.04-1
We went to bed Thursday night, the only difference being we were completely surrounded by the prayers of so many.  It was like a thick blanket or wall, surrounding her on all sides throughout the entire night.  It was palpable.  On Friday morning, I woke up to a sweet, smiling face in my bed.  She had climbed up without any pain or problem and said, “Look at my ear!” (which is where the rash had started).  It was completely normal, and there was no rash anywhere.  Her fever was gone completely.  She was smiling.  I’m so thankful He said, “Yes!”
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The night before, I had told the Lord again that she was His.  I am convinced of God’s goodness and faithfulness not because of what He will or will not do in my life, but because of Who He is.  We can not sit on the floor and scream: I just want a yes!  If we interpret what He does based on what we think is good, or what we think He should do, we misinterpret His character.  Our definition of good is limited by time and space and is tainted by our own selfishness.  We can’t see the big picture. Just because I told Betty “no” to having a snack, didn’t equate me as a bad mom.  In fact, I said no because there was something even better just ahead if she would just trust me and wait for it.  God always acts in accordance with His character and not just according to what we think is good.  Having Him take one of my children is something so difficult that I can not even begin to imagine or even dwell on it for one second because of the ache it produces in my heart.  However, I was swiftly reminded this week that everything God has given to us can be taken in an instant.  Yet, no matter what, God does not change in His goodness, His faithfulness, or His nearness.

Jesus said in John 14:27- I leave behind with you- peace; I give you my own peace and my gift is nothing like the peace of this world.  You must not be distressed and you must not be daunted.  This verse popped up twice on Thursday.  Once, on a crumpled piece of paper that survived an entire heavy duty whirl in the washing machine.  (When does paper ever survive a wash?)  God knew I needed to hear from Him and be reminded that circumstances don’t change His gift of peace.
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The scariness of the situation didn’t shift the truth of God’s nearness.  I also read this reminder: Never forget the nearness of your Lord...He is right here with me.  Don’t worry over anything whatever. Whenever you pray, tell God every detail of your reeds in thankful prayer, and the peace of God…that peace He knew we so desperately needed, so He left it with us when He went back to Heaven… Which surpasses human understanding… if you’ve experienced it, you know it…  Will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.  This peace doesn’t come and go, but is like a sentry over our hearts and minds: keeping worry out and keeping peace in, so we can rest.


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Only 179 More Days

Last night I pulled out the half-dead morning-glory vines and squeezed back tears.  My feet crunched dead-ness all around, and I fought the yucky pit in my stomach that creeps in every year around this time.  This morning I put on shorts, somewhat in defiance, but succumbed to long pants because my body just can’t take anything below seventy degrees.  Then I heard somewhere how today it’s fall, which means my favorite time of the year is over.  So I did what is only natural for an African-born gal to do.  I cried.  Mourning the loss of barefoot days, flowers in abundance, fireflies at night, and countless hours spent outside, without having to worry about a coat or something to cover my feet.  I may have even found a counter to check off how many days are left until spring.  There are 179 more days.  But who’s counting?

So, yeah, I cried over the phone to my ever-patient husband, who didn’t laugh at me for the hard morning I was having as a mom and as a summer-loving girl.  But I’m not the sulky eleven-year old that I used to be.  Yes, I still resist the urge to slam my bedroom door, and sometimes the door swings out of my hands a little faster than I was hoping it would, and makes a louder bang than I truly intended it to make, but I’m growing up.  So, when seasons change and I let my dislike of it get to my very soul, there is a problem.  I’d like to think there’s a problem with the thermometer or perhaps even the entire earth, but honestly, there’s a problem with me.  There’s this tricky little part in all of us that quickly gives in to difficulty.  It’s the part in us that needs words like, “In everything give thanks,” and “Endure hardship like a good soldier.”  So when everything is wrong with the world, and people who love fall move to my hit-list, there is  problem inside my heart.  I have failed to give thanks, to see the beauty in change, and to wonder at what this change will bring to my life.

Things that thrill me no matter what season: sunshine, my man, running, fresh veggies, aromatherapy school, my amazing children, and music.

So, I choose joy.  Even though I want to curl up in my bed, with chocolate and hot tea until the first day of spring, I simply can not.  I will embrace this colder season of life with dignity, grace and strength provided from the God who made me, knows me, and never leaves me.  I will keep donning my sneakers (along with many other layers) and run with endurance.  I have goals to accomplish.  Children to teach.  Things to learn.  Places to go.  Life can’t stop just  because the sun is further from my part of the globe.  It’s time to pull out my scarves, check my thankfulness-meter, and perhaps buy a few mums to brighten my dead-looking garden.  


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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.