A Reunion Ablaze

Last weekend one of my very best friends flew into OKC to commence our bi-annual Roomie Reunion. Jane is a gem. She is stunningly beautiful, oh-so-genuine, encourages my heart, has dance moves like you’ve never seen and is one of the bravest humans I know. I wish everyone could know her.

Janie with Finn and Navy

Janie with Finn and Navy

Taylor, Al, Lindsey and I are so grateful she flies up to visit us and has adjusted to our new “mom schedules.” This past weekend, however; Lindsey, Jane and I drove to Arkansas to stay at my parents’ house on the lake…without the kids! photo 1 photo 2

IMG_3824Taylor met up with us the following day after work, and Al met up with us all on Sunday morning. I forgot to bring pants to AR. Yep. So we had to make a pit stop at the Gap for a pair of skinny jeans before lunch on Friday afternoon (I am wearing yoga pants with knock-off Sperrys and a sweater in the pic below).

Linds, Jane and I

Linds, Jane and I

Relationships are a lot of work, right? If you want to sustain the good ones–the ones that have changed you for the better–you have to be intentional. Involved. Prayerful.

Linds, Jane, Tay and I

Linds, Jane, Tay and I

Me, Jane, Tay and Linds

You have to juggle five work schedules and squeeze your way onto one anothers’ busy calendars. It takes sacrifice on everyone’s part. But the laughing and the crying and the reminiscing are all so worth it.

Arkansas welcomed us on Friday with trees ablaze in autumn color. photo 1 copyWe walked and talked for about two hours on Friday morning and could not get over the beauty of the trees! photo 4 photo 3

I believe I must live in a place where there are large trees. This is what was missing for me in San Antonio. Trees that transform with the seasons, rooted in rich soil and reminding me it’s okay to change…natural to change. I am a tree and I am bare and shivering, then budding with new life, then full and fruitful and finally fiery but frail. The more I resist change–in relationships, myself, my views about God, my career, my child, my spouse, my living room rug–the less I grow.

Al with Finn and Me

Al with Finn and Me

Al, Jane, Tay and I

Al, Jane, Tay and I

I’m thankful my relationship with these girls has lasted life’s seasons.

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Pumpkins and Pot Roast

The leaves aren’t changing in Norman yet, but fall is creeping into October nonetheless.

I love change. I crave it. Change is normalcy for me: moving eight times as a kid, changing careers from English teacher to personal trainer, four homes in seven years of marriage, three jobs in the last four years….I’m not sure how I’d even handle sameness.

I love this cooler change of weather, the way Norman swells with excitement on game day, boots and scarves, hot coffee instead of iced at Starbucks, pumpkin harvest candles and pot roast in the slow cooker.

Finn is changing too. He’s talking all day long…to himself in the mirror, to Jersey, to us. He says so many words and has so many expressions. We couldn’t be more thankful for his communication skills. photo 3

photo 5This also affords the opportunity to see quite an array of emotions, including the occasional irrational tantrum. photo 1 photo 2

And he’ll do just about anything for a laugh…the scrunchy face usually works.photo

Here’s to a fabulous fall season! Hoping you’re embracing the current changes in your life–the good and bad, natural and unnatural, minute and monstrous changes.photo-1

Dawn

About an hour south of Norman nestled in the Arbuckle Mountains is a quaint community called Davis. It’s main attraction is Falls Creek, the site of the largest summer youth camp in the world. Churches from all over the state own and rent out cabins there to students, ministers and guests looking to get away from life “on the grid” and to reconnect with the Lord.

This weekend I helped sponsor a college retreat at Falls Creek. Joey led worship and did an excellent job leading us in a discussion about time. How we abuse it, are enslaved to it, selfish with it and have manipulated it to serve us.

Finn get so little attention at church. ;)

Finn gets so little attention at church. 😉

God’s idea of time, found in the creation account of Genesis, seemed to be simply day and night. Sunrise and sunset.

Naturally, the students went on a sunset hike. I wasn’t able to attend, though I heard it was beautiful. My arm was dangling (numb and tingling) over a pack-n-play for about 30 minutes, rubbing Finn’s back to help him fall asleep in a strange place.

At dawn, Finn and I tagged along with the students for the sunrise hike.

Early morning...boys making coffee

Early morning…boys making coffee

photo-1We topped the hill and waited, scanning the expanse below. Fog hovered over the valley like a ghost. A Holy Ghost, I imagined. “…darkness was over the surface of the deep and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Gen. 1:2).photo-3

I imagined God hovering over me and my little life. Protection in its most intimate form.photo-2

We all watched in expectation, waiting for the first sign of morning to appear over the horizon. For the sun, the reliable one, to reveal its glorious head, crowned in light. It came, as it always does. I breathed in deep the crisp air now illuminated by the sun, in awe of its raw beauty.photo-5

My middle name is Dawn, after my mom’s pretty younger sister. So I always pay special attention to verses that mention the “dawn.” Several places in Psalms, the psalmist writes that God will “awaken the dawn.” I love the idea of God having to rouse to awakening the morning itself.

I thought of this particular verse as I watched the sunrise Saturday morning:

Commit your way to the Lord. Trust also in Him and He will do it. He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. (Psalm 37:5,6)

When I choose to commit my life to the Lord, something beautiful happens. Something sunrise-worthy.photo-4

All my mundane, everyday moments and my grandiose life-shaping moments blend together to project His light into a darkened world…as surely and as poetically as the dawn swept radiance into the foggy valley below, transforming it into something beautiful.

Worry

My grandparents had a lake house in Minnesota. Mom’s side of the family used it for vacations during the summer and weekends. It was a three-level “A” frame cabin with bright red carpet, a screened porch, a hammock stretched between two aspens and wooden stairs that seemed to stretch downward to the lake for miles. Gunk Gunk, the pet frog, lived on the shore.

My most favorite childhood memories are of fourth of July’s and summers spent at the lake. I learned to water ski when I was five and loved when Grandpa would take all of us cousins out to the middle of the lake, hand us each a sponge and tell us to, “Jump off the boat and scrub!” Cleaning was never so fun.

The lake meant rest for my family. A place to leave your worries.

I’m a professional worrier.

I’ve been doing it for at least twenty-five years now, sometimes daily; and although I’ve gotten better in recent years, I still struggle with worrying about the future.

I think I do this because I like control. And I can’t control the future, so instead I worry about it. I’m worried that by telling you I worry you’ll think I don’t have my worrying under control. 😉 Stupid.

The opposite of worry, I think, is trust. The more I trust God with my life and my moments and my people, the less I worry.

Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things [necessities from previous verses] will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt. 6: 33,34).

I’m so thankful my parents are able to continue this lake legacy. They recently sold their home in San Antonio and moved to Bella Vista, AR. photo-1 photo-2 photo-5 photo-6

They live in the most beautiful home right on a private lake, Loch Lomond. It’s more like a treehouse than a home, actually.photo-3 photo-4

I love that Finn will grow up with similar childhood memories as me.

This weekend was the last and only of the summer that we could make the four hour drive out there, so we invited some friends to follow along. It was so much fun to share it with them.the boys9484032672_bdd7ebec3e_z

Feeding the koi fish.

Feeding the koi fish.

Aaron and Finn

Aaron and Finn

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My grandparents (the ones who owned the lake house in MN) also bought a home near my parents, so we were able to hug their necks this weekend too. I’ve said it before…but in terms of family, Joey and I are filthy rich.

Gigi, Poppy and Finn

Gigi, Poppy and Finn

Gigi (great grandma) and Finn playing catch

Gigi (great grandma) and Finn playing catch

At the lake, I tend not to worry too much. 9481199981_e291f0656a_z 9481187099_dfe159644b_z

The trees are so beautiful and the wind feels so good in my face and I love the sound of the water lapping the wooden planks of the dock. Tomorrow has enough worries; right?

Finn never worries.

Finn never worries.

Beautiful Things

At some point in April we plant seeds. Onions, tomatoes, jalapenos, cilantro (can you tell we like to make homemade salsa?!), basil, zucchini, brussel sprouts, broccoli, lemon verbena, mini snacking peppers, green beans…photo-4

And the following day Jersey jumps the garden fence and digs, scattering the seeds in the northeast corner. Every year.

And then sometime in May once we’ve had plenty of showers and tornado sirens, followed by plenty of sun-shining days, little plants peek up from the soil like submarines. First come the green beans. Then the zucchini. Peppers are always last.photo

Despite the hail storms, the days/weeks we forgot to water, Jersey’s destructive paws, amateur homemade compost, Oklahoma heat, lack of fertilizer, and general inattentiveness from me;

Something good always grows.photo-3

I’m crazy about the song, Beautiful Things, by Gungor.

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

photo-2I think about how my life is so much like our garden.

Despite my carelessness, I have too many blessings to count. My life often lacks the meticulous pruning that so often produces healthy buds and luscious fruit.

Yet something good always grows.

Spina Bifida feels a bit like chaos sometimes. Like the monster that crept under my son’s bed and stayed there. I’m often surprised that anything good can come of this menace.

But something good always grows.

Encouragement from a local news story about a three year old wheelchair racer, our therapist declaring that Finn is “so incredibly smart,” an SB cover story on a friend’s running magazine, watching a disabled friend ride his hand-cycle around the block.photo-5

Something good always grows. Even from our often neglected garden, the birth defect that crippled my son, and the dust of my life. Something beautiful.

Bovec: A Memoir

You say it, “Bo-vets.” It’s this gorgeous Alpine village in northern Slovenia, just south of Austria and east of Italy.

I always think about camping in Slovenia this time of year. In fact, Joey and I tented in our backyard on Sunday night. It was just what I needed after a stressful week. My “fix.”photo 1photo-1We lived in Slovenia for an entire summer exactly 5 years ago as part of Joey’s MDiv requirements. He wasn’t actually required to spend a summer rafting, rock climbing, hiking, canyoning (WILD STUFF) and sipping espresso…but he was required to get some cross-cultural missions experience.

And that’s what we did. We collaborated with the American missionaries in Bovec to provide a children’s VBS and continue the effort of ministering to local outdoor athletes. DSC04476

We focused on building strong relationships with the locals (several of whom we still talk to today).

DSC04483We told them the story of how Jesus changed our lives. And that He could change theirs too. We prayed for the city of Bovec sitting atop Mt. Svinjak after a nearly vertical 8 hour hike.DSC03906

Buds

Buds

Joey, Josh, Katy and I yelled for “pizza!” a good portion of the way down the mountain, knees throbbing, and stomachs aching with hunger. Cracker-thin, cheesy pizza and dark chestnut espressos were our comforts that summer. They were warm and familiar. A hug from home.

Kava Z Mlekom

Kava Z Mlekom

We made such fantastic relationships with the locals in Bovec. The kind of relationships where, by the end of July, they knocked on the glass of their storefront windows as we passed on the sidewalk, invited us to play Bocce or go to a festival, and gave us a ride from town to our campsite near the river about two miles away. They waved across the streets and we waved back, knowing all their names. Joey even played on the winning team in a local sand volleyball tournament.DSC04535

Bovec

Bovec

This was the summer we walked at least five-ten miles/day. Uphill. In the rain. We rock climbed several times a week and hitch-hiked from southern to northern Slovenia, relying entirely on the kindness of foreign strangers for their hospitality. DSC04317One particularly exciting car ride was from Osp, a small rock climbing town, to Vrpolje. We were literally piled into a toy car much like this one…euro-renault-twingo-470-080

…four of us in the back seat and three up front. No seat belts. The men who offered their vehicle were loud, boisterous Spaniards; firemen on vacation together. I knew in those moments that I wouldn’t be able to explain what that car ride was like, but that I wanted to remember it forever. Only one guy spoke broken English, and somehow we managed to relay to him that we’d like to be dropped off in the next town.

Vrpolje was a beautiful valley town tiered with lush vineyards and grazing sheep. DSC03703

The ruins of an ancient castle sat high upon a rocky crag, overlooking the village below with weathered pride.

Hiked to the castle...and couldn't quite get the camera timer to cooperate! :)

Hiked to the castle…and couldn’t quite get the camera timer to cooperate! 🙂

For the next several nights we slept in the backyard campground of one of the most hospitable families I’ve ever met. They offered us homemade prosciutto and wine, allowed us to eat out of their garden, and maintained the cleanest, most sparkly bathrooms. DSC03694DSC03699

The Kobals

The Kobals

We rock climbed in the morning, fell asleep in our hammock mid-day and played cards in our tent at night. Dinner was a loaf of crusty golden bread, 75% dark chocolate and fresh cheese.DSC03714

This summer changed my life. I felt so adult. So self-sufficient.

I was pushed WAY outside my comfort zone into tiny, stinky bathrooms without a flusher on the toilet. Into dark homes like caves where I was offered strange foods. Into tiny European cars that veered dangerously along steep mountain roads. Stuck in a tent while rain pelted the nylon for days on end. Tepid showers once or twice a week. Challenging, dangerous climbing routes. Difficult spiritual questions without easy answers. No transportation. Fierce homesickness. Frustration and fatigue and flight delays.

I needed Jesus and I needed Joey and I needed the generosity of strangers–people I would never see again but who etched their memory on my heart. Memories I especially think about the first week of June.

Cooped Up

Sometimes I just feel claustrophobic. Like I need to GET OUT. Usually this means I’ve spent too much time indoors.

I blame this on my parents. Every vacation growing up was outdoors. Hiking, rafting, fishing, hunting, kayaking, swimming, water skiing, camping. We even stayed at Camp Mickey when we had a family reunion at Disney World. My parents honeymooned in a cabin in the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota. I used to think we were kind of dorks–staying in a tent or pop up camper for our vacations while all my friends stayed in nice hotels and beach resorts. But then I realized my friends’ moms couldn’t start a campfire or take a fish off a hook and their dads didn’t teach them how to spot an eagle on a far off tree branch or count the points on a buck in the forest.

Now I appreciate all those adventurous outdoor vacations. We plan to replicate them. Sorry it took me so long, mom and dad.

This weekend I finally made it out. We drove down to the Wichita Mountains for a hike. photo-4

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Jersey was the perfect guide, leading us energetically and with perfect directional sense. She had a blast, and Finn did too.

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Girl loves to swim

It was way too windy, but Oklahoma weather has been a bit schizophrenic lately, so you have to take what you can get.

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Made it to the top of Elk Mnt. Picnic!

That evening we went to a fun birthday party for our friends, Gabe and Olive. It was at a farm. We roasted hotdogs around a bonfire while the kids rode a train and trotted on ponies. I was thinking this actually may be a birthday party Finn could participate in someday. It was a beautiful, chilly night. I purposefully didn’t take a shower so I could smell the campfire in my hair just one day longer. I know; gross.

Twinsies in our plaid and shades.

Twinsies in our plaid and shades.

Sometimes don’t you just feel cooped up? Stuck under piles of laundry and opened envelopes on the counter, smashed between groceries that need to be put away, folded under sheets that need to be changed, lost under scattered puzzle pieces. I felt tired of being a parent this weekend. I just wanted to go back to the days under my parents’ roof. When life was simpler and my questions for God weren’t so big and unanswerable.

Usually this means I haven’t been in the Word.

So I took some time to read my Bible alone on Saturday morning, talk through life with Joey, and shed some cathartic tears for Finn during my “nap.” Feeling better.

Matthew penned it best:

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).