Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dear Blog, I Miss You

Obviously, I was not able to fulfill my "Coming Soon" promise from my last blog entry. It's been killing me! Between a slow, overloaded computer that I am beginning to hate more and more every day and some of the busiest weeks that I have had in a really long time, I have fallen terribly behind on my blog. And that drives me crazy... and makes me kind of sad. I have several posts that I am hoping to get on here once I have a chance... Don't hold your breath (Oh? You weren't?), but I might get to them late next week. From now until then, I must continue running on this crazy-busy track that I am on. Our family has some big, exciting, happy days ahead that I have been getting ready for, and I am anxious to write all about them.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Coming Soon

I've been home from my fabulous sister-getaway for about 48 hours, and I am absolutely chomping at the bit to share the photos... but my computer seems to be offended by the number of photos that I am trying to import, and it doesn't want to welcome them to the almost 33,000 photos that I already have housed here. Rude. I know. One of my favorite things to do while I am on a trip - or any time, for that matter - is to take pictures. Washington was a fabulous place for me to enjoy my hobby. Seriously, it was one of the most beautiful places that I have ever been. Top 2, I am pretty sure. I guess that I should not be surprised that I took about 550 photos over the weekend. Today, my sister Emily, put several of them on her blog. Until I can get them uploaded here, you can take a look at the highlights of our trip over at Courage To Be Real.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Tomorrow, Tomorrow, I'll Love Ya, Tomorrow

This is where I will be tomorrow...
Yep, tomorrow I am heading to Seattle, WA with my two sisters, Sara & Emily, for the weekend. (Don't mind that high-pitched noise... it was just me squealing with excitement.)
While the two of them have traveled together quite a bit, I have never joined them on an adventure. So, this is our first official Sister Trip. (Our mom & sister-in-law, Adrielle, were invited to come too but couldn't. We'll miss yall!) Thanks to Emily's husband for giving us his extra flight passes and to all of our husbands for being Mr. Mom for the weekend, we get to go have a Girls Only get-away. (Well, except for the nursing baby boy that will be chaperoning us, compliments of Emily... but that's okay.) We are so blessed!

I am so stinkin' excited!

We are going to spend some time in Seattle then we are headed out for a weekend road trip where we will drive through the National Forest to the ocean. This is the place that we are going to stay during that part of our trip. (Thank you Roxann for the recommendation!):

Could it be any more beautiful?!?
I fully intend to sit on the banks of this lake and soak in the silence and the mountain air.
And, since we are going into rainy territory... there is a quaint little sunroom that we can sit in just in case it is too wet outside.
We also plan to do some hiking. This beautiful waterfall is about a mile and a half from the place that we are staying.
When the opportunity to go "somewhere" came up, we talked about a few places that we would like to go. Emily's requirements were: 1. some place cool 2. somewhere that we had never been. The northwest clearly became a good destination to consider, and we began to talk about Seattle which we quickly got excited about... Then it dawned on us! We could go to the towns and places that are the setting for some little books that we have all read called the Twilight series. You might have heard of them... ;) Come to find out, this drive from Seattle to the beach is a well known drive that many tourists make. The scenery is supposed to be spectacular. I can't wait to find out for myself!!! Here are a few glimpses at the beach in La Push:
I am not sure why the other pictures imported larger and these are so small. Sorry. I'll bring home gazillions of "real photos" home and post them here ASAP. In the mean time, you can follow all 3 of us on Facebook while we are gone. (I have a reputation for updating my status a lot... maybe too much. ;) ) I am sure that we will be posting often and will include some Mobile Photos of all that we see.

Until next time...

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Rainy Day

This afternoon it has been my favorite kind of "rainy day"... the slow-falling, calm, cool-weather sort of rain. The kind that begs you to put on your pajamas and a pot of chili. We kept the back door open most of the afternoon and evening, so we could smell and listen to the lovely rain. At some point Allie & Cooper went out in the front to try out rainboots and umbrellas, and I could not resist taking pictures.

Here are a few of the photos that I took of Cooper:

~ Allie & Cooper's feet in rainboots ~
(There is story behind those red ones... coming soon.)
As you can tell from the first photos, the lighting outside was not too great... I was standing on the porch to protect the camera from the rain, so it was too far away for the flash to help. It was cloudy and rainy, afterall, so I guess that those photos capture the true mood. Several of the photos that I took were way too dark, but I liked them enough to "play with them".

I think that this one of Allie turned out kinda cool & funky.
And I love this one of Cooper! His little hidden face, his mismatched outfit, his rainboots, his reflection... Can you tell that I kinda adore that little boy?!?

Surprising Allie

Yesterday we got to surprise Allie with something that we have been waiting to do for her for a long time. Our baby girl turns 13 this month (gasp!), and we have known since before she was even born that we wanted this birthday to be celebrated in a big way. One of the main things that we have planned to do with our kids is to take them on a trip, with just Corey and me, when they each turn 13. Allie did not know that, but she did know that she wanted to go to New York City. I am not sure why she was so enthralled with the idea, but for a long, long time she has been saying, "I don't want anything else for my birthday. I just want to go to NYC." I would bluff, "You know Allie, kids don't just get to fly across the country for their birthdays." "I know Mom, but I just want to go so bad!" I would say, "What would you even do if you got to go to New York?" And she would list off thing after thing after thing. Most of those things are just sight-seeing things in the city - Central Park, Time Square, The Statue of Liberty, the subway. So, for probably a year, she has been helping me to plan the trip that I fully intended to give her but that she was not planning on receiving. She was hoping but not counting on it at all.

Months ago Corey and I bought the plane tickets and our hotel, and our trip was officially scheduled for the day after her birthday. I was planning to tell her on her birthday that we were going to leave the next day, but a friend who had recently taken her daughters to NYC suggested that I tell her a few weeks in advance, so she would have time to anticipate the trip and plan the things that she would want to do the most while we are there. I am so glad I took her advise.

So, in the last few weeks I have been planning a way to creatively tell Allie about her birthday trip. I decided on having her do a scavenger hunt with a clue and a small gift at each location on the hunt. She was to collect the gifts but not open them until we arrived at the final destination, and that is when she would find out that her dream for her birthday had come true.

Yesterday afternoon, I told her that she could get on the computer. When she did, she received as a private Facebook message with the first clue.

Clue 1

It’s time for you to take a break

From checking Facebook & Twitter.

We are going to play a game

That will make your heart patter-pitter.

It’s a game full of clues and driving many miles.

Now go to the home of your friend that brings to your face the most smiles.

Allie was thoroughly confused and anxious about what she was supposed to do but finally jumped in the car with the family and headed to her friend Katie's house where she received a clue from Katie & her mom, Donna. Then Katie joined Allie for the rest of her scavenger hunt.

Clue 2

You’ve got Katie. Good for you.

Now it’s time to play a game that will make your dreams come true.

Go to the house of your aunt, uncle, and cousins,

And see if you can collect a clue (and some lovin’).

~ Emmie, Claire, & Jacob gave her her 2nd Clue ~

Clue 3

You’re doing good, but there are more clues to deduce.

Head to the place where we buy produce.

When you arrive purchase a Snapple,

And maybe a yummy big red apple.

The third clue was in the grocery store sitting in the Big Apples. (Get it?)

Clue 4

There is a phrase made popular by Dorothy.

Think of what it is then ride there with me.

~ Allie and Katie at "Home" ~

Clue 5

Every year you receive a silver gift to add to your collection.

Now that you are getting tall,

It is time to go get one at the mall.

Each year we give Allie a silver charm for her charm bracelet that symbolizes that year of her life in some way. This year, she received a Statue Of Liberty charm.

Clue 6

Head to a place to meet some friends

Where the good times never end.

It is a play area where we’ve hunted eggs,

And ran a race with tied up legs.

The trees there are big and tall,

And it is a great place to celebrate in the fall.

We actually have a park in our area named Central Park! (What are the chances?!?) So, that was the perfect place for us to end our hunt and for Allie to open the gifts that she had been collecting. I have been gathering NYC themed things for a while, and those were her gifts.

~ a calendar with black & white photos of the city ~
(perfectly "Allie")
~ a Travel Journal ~
~ a map of the city ~
~ tickets to a Braodway show ~
(I love her look in this one!)
~ the 3 tickets ~
She also received her charm, a Travel Guide for NYC for kids, a t-shirt that says New York City, and a soundtrack for the Broadway show Wicked that we are going to see.

~ reading the letter that Corey and I gave her explaining why we wanted to give her this gift~
~ the travelers ~
Cousin Claire (and her mommy & brother) met us at the park.
I had put this t-shirt on Cooper under the shirt that he was wearing, and he revealed it to Allie at the park.
We are so excited that next month at this time we will be in New York City with our girl!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

My Thoughts On Storms

"Sometimes God calms the storm.
More often than not, He chooses to let the storm rage and chooses to calm His child."

I love when God talks to me, and I know - as clearly as I know that today is Thursday - that what I am hearing is something that He has chosen to convey to me. It is personal and sacred and draws me to Him.

That happened earlier this week. I was
ummmm... reading Twitter, and Sandi Patty had tweeted this quote. Yes, I am a firm believer that God loves Twitter. ;) I mean, seriously, if He can use a burning bush to communicate to Moses, I am sure that He can use the Internet to communicate to gazillions of people today. And He did just that for me earlier this week.

Moving on...

So, I was thinking about why I love this particular quote so much. It is no secret, if you read my blog regularly, that I have struggled with some storms in recent years. Not only have I struggled with the storms, but I have struggled greatly with the aftermath of the storms as well. Much of that struggle has been within myself, some of that struggle has been with my husband, and some of that struggle has been with my God. In the past, as I wrestled with the pain and confusion and anger and depression that was left in the wake of the storms, I was frustrated with myself for not trying hard enough, not working smart enough, not being "spiritual" enough to get myself out of the mess that
was my life. I would beg God to help me, save me, change what was happening around me. And while I am sure some of that was necessary, I have learned that surrendering to the sovereign will of God is the only true way to live a peace-filled life. Allowing Him to calm me - which is not the same as Him taking away my "storm" - has been the key to the peace and contentment that I feel like I have lived in the last several months. Don't get me wrong, sometimes that is painful and it is a fight to surrender my hopes and dreams and desires to God, but in the end - and in the midst of it, for that matter - I can literally feel Him close to me. Comforting me. Bringing me clarity and the contentment that my soul has longed for.

I posted the above quote on
Facebook today, and a well-meaning friend commented with a "similar" quote. She said, "Don't tell God how big your storm is. Tell your storm how big your God is." There is some good in that. I am all about knowing that I have a powerful God and depending on His power to make it through this broken world, but I have to say that that mentality is exactly what left me frustrated and wallowing in confusion. The very idea that I cannot or should not "tell God" something is contrary to everything in me. Telling Him everything - depending on Him for everything - is the one and only way that I know how to survive this life. Also, "showing my storm" something insinuates that I - Amy - have some sort of power. I want to be the first to say that I wholeheartedly believe that "I can do all things through Christ" like the Bible says, but as I did a Bible study on contentment last year I was struck by the verses that were immediately before that one. They have forever changed the way that I view Philippians 4:13.

"For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength."
Philippians 4:11 -13

In these scriptures it is clear that Paul had lived a very hard life. At times, he lived a life of need, hunger, and want. If it was as easy as changing his circumstances because "he could do all things", then I betcha he would have not gotten so hungry. As it was, God allowed him to endure hardships - learn from hardships - and chose to bless him with contentment in the midst of it. That is as miraculous as anything that I have ever heard.

I believe, now more than ever, that God chooses to allow storms - pain and suffering and tests and trials and confusion and heartbreak and need and hunger and want - into our lives for the purpose of refining us and bringing us to Himself. He made us. Created us. HE understands what we need to be exposed to for those processes to occur, and He loves us enough to let us live through them. While there is still so much that I don't understand, I believe that if we allow Him, He is waiting right beside us as we ache and break and suffer... willing and ready to "calm His child" like the quote at the beginning of this post says. And that brings me peace. More than anything that I have ever tried to believe, that settles well with in heart.

I don't always understand Him, but I choose to always trust Him. To me, that is faith. And that is a soothing balm to my soul in the midst of the storms of life. I can honestly testify to the fact that as I have learned to understand this concept, He has calmed me. And I am thankful.

A side note: While I was writing this, there was a torrential storm happening outside - rain, high winds, tornado sirens and all. When Allie went outside afterwards, she came back in and said, "Mom! You have to come see this! It's the brightest rainbow I have ever seen!" Not only was it a rainbow, it was a double rainbow. A beautiful reminder that God is caring for us - even in the storm.

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