The Sunset Tree, in all its brilliance, has held so many rainbows high on the horizon, so many sunsets in the forever stretching western Kansas sky. The weight of that glory from a million sunsets and a few hundred rainbows was too heavy, as the trees arms grew tired with wind whistling at her back […]
We moved from Indiana to Kansas on May 2. Every single day since then, I have had a lesson in the form of humility from one source or another. Every place I go, I have to rely on Siri or my instincts to figure out where I am and where I am going, and how to get there. The days I rely on my instincts, I get lost.
Other than daily getting lost or finding myself driving down the wrong way on a one way street, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know Kansas. Our new church family, Westside Family Church, has welcomed us with grace and peace and so, so much kindness.
Every day is a new introduction. A new something somewhere. I am a deeply settled person. I enjoy roots, predictability, and the peace that comes from knowing what happens next. Learning the in’s and outs and shortcuts will take time, I’m sure.
As I am being humbled by learning all things new, I thought I’d take a minute to blog about what I DO know. These are the people I know best in the world–their in’s and out’s, their shortcuts, what makes them who they are. I’d like to introduce my family. Understand these are bird’s-eye-view introductions. Each one of us is incredibly complex. Our girls are very spirited–The dynamics of raising three girls in one family are intense, insanely fun, and keep Rob and I on an incredibly high learning curve .
Rob and got married 21 years ago when he was 21 and I was 19. We were close friends from the time I was 12 and he was 14. I still remember clear as day the first time I saw him. He radiated joy and warmth and he was the funniest person I knew (besides myself, of course)
Rob is a phenomenally gifted communicator and teacher of Jesus and His ways. He is a wonderful husband and amazing father to our three girls. He is patient and kind with them, leading them by his example and courage to follow Jesus wherever He leads. Rob is a guitarist and musician. Music oozes out of him wherever he goes. It’s in his soul and spirit. He’s a dreamer of really big dreams, and a huge believer in helping others implement their own. I’m proud to be his wife.
Maddie is 15. She is an old soul in a young body. She’s an introvert, a Noticer, and deeply compassionate. Maddie is wise beyond her years and can spot a faker in a second (someone who says they are one thing but really are not who they say they are). She’s deeply intuitive and an amazing photographer. She’s hilarious and fun, practical and precise. She is a wonderful role model to her younger sisters. I am so proud to be her mom.
Whitney is 14. She is the tallest of our girls, and is made of solid muscle. She’s a strawberry blonde beauty. She’s intense, incredibly fun, an extremely strong leader, bold, loud, confident, and courageous. Whit is the kind of kid who is a friend to literally everyone she knows and an underdog for the outcast kind of kids. She has a gift for making those around her feel loved, included and important. Whitney makes me laugh every day. I’m so proud to be her Mamma.
Isabelle Joy(Belle, Isabob, Corndog, LIttle Mac, Is., Peanut)
Belle is 10. She exudes joy and life like no one I’ve ever known. From the minute she wakes up until her head hits the pillow at night, she oozes life and radiates joy. She is so much fun, non-stop. She is a Rainbow Loom genius, making bracelets and crafts several hours a day. She is deeply sensitive, is easily hurt, but comes alongside those who hurt because she knows how it feels. Belle is a best friend and buddy to whomever she is with. She is the definition of joy. Her smile and laugh light up a room like magic. I’m so proud to be Belle’s Mamma.
Me – I’m 41. I’ve written for several magazine publications over the past 10 or so years about family life and spiritual matters. I am a mega introvert. I need lots and lots of time alone, and people often misunderstand this part of me as snobbishness or aloofness. I promise I am neither of those. I love people. I love Jesus.
I love my family with all of my heart. I love anything artsy or creative or fun. Driving my Jeep with the top down, taking photos along the way with the sun on my face (or even in the pouring rain) fills me up. I’m often in nature alone, photographing stuff that point me to my Creator. I see Him through my camera lens, and hear His voice in the wind.
That’s enough introducing for now. Your eyeballs are probably tired from this very, very long post. Go take a nap and give your eyes a break. It’s been so lovely getting to know you all. Thanks for being gracious and kind as we humbly get to know you back.
In case you didn’t know, I really like to take pictures. One thing I like to do every year is sort through my own photos on my camera roll and pick out the top 100, 30, then the top 10, then my top 3, just for fun. Since I am immobile until I get my cast off next week, it’s a good time to do my “Year in Review” stuff. Right now I have 900 or so from the past year to sort through. One of the secret reasons I take so many photos is because it causes me to reflect deeply on all the beautiful moments we shared as a family. As I’ve sorted through them in the past few days, I was struck by a few things I thought I’d share.
I’m proud of my family for sticking together and pulling closer to one another than we’ve ever been. I’m proud of my girls for loving each other well, sticking up for each other, cheering for each other and making our lives better by becoming the beautiful young ladies they are inside and out.
I’m proud of my husband for pulling through the most difficult year he’s ever had-for loving me when I’m unloveable, for supporting his mom through the death of her husband, for driving the girls to a hundred practices, and being the dad who is all up in their face at every lacrosse game taking their pictures, watching them shine, making them glow with the joy of being deeply loved.
I’m humbled by the grace I’ve come to know through brokenness. My physical body and my heart have been broken this year, but I’ve come to see God and His ways a little more clearly. I’m humbled by the love of many people poured out to our family through meals, gifts, calls, cards, and a thousand acts of kindness.
My extreme independent self is humbled to have to send my husband twenty texts a day, asking for things I cannot get for myself because of not being able to walk for the past two months.
Looking back I see with blazing clarity that Grace and Love and Light and Joy are mine. I’m grateful for the ways God is showing me sides of Himself I would never see if it weren’t for the circumstances of this year-the high’s, the low’s and the in-betweens.
God is Good. He is love. He is light. These things are true. These things I know. And I’m grateful. Though everything around me is changing, He never changes. And that, my friends, is good news.
I’d love to hear what you’re reflecting on as this year draws to a close. I have nothing but time as I will be immobile for at least another week or so. Drop me a message. Send me an email. Write me on Facebook. I sincerely would love to hear from you. If not, have a very Merry Christmas!
I mentioned in a previous post that one of the unexpected surprises for me personally along our sabbatical journey this summer was the way I saw God everywhere. The God who made me made the Grand Tetons. The God who made me made Old Faithful to spout, spray, and show off every 88 minutes or so. The God who made me saw Pike’s Peak before Katherine Bates hiked up in 1893 and was so moved that she composed the lyrics to “America the Beautiful” at the top.”
Our friend Steve at the Potter’s Inn made a point to tell us as we sat on his porch with his wife Gwen, “See that mountain over there…Pikes Peak? God made that mountain. God made you. Katherine Bates wrote a song about how beautiful the mountain was. But God wouldn’t sing a song about a mountain. He’d sing a song about YOU.” And we all got it. God loves US, His Beloved.
The beauty we saw while wandering in the west this summer stunned our souls. We had so many moments where all we could say was “Wow”…or even better, just nothing.
So, I made a video today of some of the pictures I took along the way. The very last photo of the lightning hitting the Grand Tetons was taken by my amazingly gifted daughter Maddie.
Our family is moving at a high rate of speed, bumping and rumbling alone in a rented RV somewhere around where Wyoming meets Utah. I’ve personally never met Utah, so surprise awaits us all I am sure. We have just spent an absolutely incredible week in Yellowstone and the Great Tetons.
In one day, I’ve watched the landscape around me change from towering jagged snow capped mountains to rolling green hills and now the greens of Wyoming are slowly giving way to the browns and oranges of Utah.
Driving across the West has taught me a few things about myself, my family, and my Creator.
I am a camping Diva. I never used to mind the “roughing it” part of camping. Now I do.
I like to eat way more than I like to cook. Especially in an RV.
Being in the wide open for so long has brought me great joy. The deep satisfying kind of joy that sticks around for awhile.
I am a noticer. I notice all sorts of things other people pass right by. I used to think I was odd for this. But I’m starting to realize it is a gift.
I could sit and stare at the mountains for hours and never get bored.
We collectively are very funny. There have been more tears of laughter than tears of frustration. This has been good for all of us.
We are better “together”. Wherever we are and whatever we are doing is just so much more awesome because we are all doing it together.
We all have extremely strong opinions about everything. We are learning to share those opinions with grace and compassion.
We all love adventures equally and passionately. We are so grateful for this time we have together doing what we all love to do.
Walking wildflower paths on snow capped mountains, watching my kids swim in a mountain lake, wandering outside at midnight in awe of the sky, so bright with stars, they lit up my eyes, then my heart, I have seen a Great Artist behind it all.
The Great Artist knew we might occasionally feel alone, so he put the stars and the mountain tops and the green green grass right where we could see them so we’d know He’s right there. We are never alone.
In the darkest pit of a cave, no lights at all, my hand invisible in front of my face, His voice moved in my heart, whispering, “I’m here.” Swaying in a hammock from the breeze coming over the mountain, The wind saying, “Shhhh….” through the treetops. “Know I am here.”
We are so, so grateful for every second we get together as a family on this sabbatical. We truly are Better Together.
Imagine Fun Fair Food had zero calories and only benefited your health in every way. Which would you choose?
Elephant ears, funnel cakes, strawberry shortcakes. Dairy barn ice cream, blueberry ice cream, cotton candy piled to the sky on a twirly cardboard cone. Fried zucchini, fried snickers bars, fried cheesecake. French fries, deep fried curled potatoes, broasted potatoes. Barbecue turkey legs, corn dogs, pork tenderloin. Lemon Shake ups, on-tap root beer, or a diet soda if you really feel bad about all the other calories.
Fair Food. Fair food is so, so fun. Expensive, yes. Unhealthy, yes; but so, so good.
Our family loves to eat. Yes, with the health food revolution , we stand firmly by our cause. Fair junk food. Fair junk food heaven–Junk food paradise. Mind you, only once or twice a year. If we ate Fun Fair Food more than that, we’d be both broke and bloated, so we choose our Fun Fair Food binges carefully.
Before you speed dial Jamie Oliver or Michele Obama to tell on me, put the iPhone down and look me in the eyes when I talk junk food. Hear my heart. This is important. I’ll eat a carrot and a flax seed too, (whatever that is), when I am done writing this article. I promise.
Whether it’s the warm air mixed with the fair grime smell or some sort of fair magic, It draws you in…when you are at a summer fair, the smells, sights, blinking neon signs with promises of fun, happiness and elephant ears. The crowds, the people, the noise…and the food–it’s all a part of the fun.
Our family is mesmerized by the fair magic and we are drawn to the neon lights like hungry little caterpillars to that Hungry Little Caterpillar book. We love fair food. Over the years, we have grown in our love of fair food and our strategies to consume it in the most efficient way possible. I thought I’d share our strategies with you, in case you plan on being drawn in as well:
Divide and conquer
We go four ways. The older two girls get in line for their Walking Tacos and Corndogs with explicit instructions not to look at or engage any boy, man, or stranger in any conversation whatsoever between the time they leave us and return to us, this saves time and a lot of confusion with teenage girls.
Rob, my husband is in charge of buying 5 super duper extra large lemonades with all the gritty, sugary stuff at the bottom…He is also in charge a few more the main dinner item(s). A Philly cheesesteak sandwich, a barbecue turkey leg, and about 50 napkins to stuff into his cargo short pockets. Me and Belle, our youngest daughter-we are the fried food girls. We get the deep fried veggies with about five vats of ranch dipping sauce. And also about 50 more napkins.
We text and call each other to find a designated meeting spot at picnic table or if it’s too crowded, we just plop down on the grass and dump all the food in front of us. And we seriously indulge. We take a few bites of whatever is in front of us, pass it on for the next person…unless you’re like me and you’re not really into sharing. We eat it all. Every bite. Some of the food ends up on clothes or spilled on the ground for the more than five second rule. We don’t fuss. It’s no big deal. It’s the fair!
After licking our fingers clean and wiping faces for fair presentability, we head to the rides.
Spin and Repeat
Velocity burns calories, right? Absolutely it does. So we figure if we ride the really fast, spinning rides, most of the calories will disappear. At least that’s what we’d like to believe.
For those of us with milder spinning ride dispositions, we wait by the exit and try to manage holding the 5 refillable lemonade super extra large plastic up things with the really cool long bendy straws, the hats, the purses, and all the random accumulated fair items.
After we’ve ridden the rides, we split up and hit the lines for dessert. The same process as dinner, split up, text, call, meet back up, share or not share, depending on your degree of dessert hoarding (my level would be really high again here).
But really, if I were to let you in on a secret, and I am sure you already know this. The Fair isn’t just about the food. It’s about the fun and the friends you see with their kids, doing the same thing as your family is doing. Enjoying the rides, being silly, eating mounds of cotton candy, laughing and having a great time.
The Fun Fair Food is a great bonding experience for our family, something we laugh about and strategize about together through the year. We keep our lemon shake up cups with the bendy straws and occasionally someone will say, “Remember when…” and that’s the whole point right there. Remembering, making memories and being together.
So next time you are at the fair, take our family’s word for it. Divide and conquer, Seriously indulge, Spin and repeat. Worry about what’s healthy the day after the fair. Eat all your veggies un-fried that day, eat a flax seed, whatever that is, and scrub the fair grime out of your kids’ clothes. Most importantly, have fun remembering all the joy your family experienced along the way.