Sunday, December 10, 2017

A Belated Birthday Post for Lily: 5 Years Old!

 
Well, Lily's birthday has come and gone, and she's three weeks into being 5:) We were in the midst of so many things the week of her birthday, including getting ready to move, that I never carved out the time to sit down and do a birthday post like I usually do for each of my girls. We are almost settled and I finally got my office semi-done, and I'm sitting at a real desk typing this out! Hooray! (I've wanted an office space for SO long!)
 
Lily, what a resilient child you are! In the past year of your life, you've lived in three houses, not including staying with Gran and Granky for two months and Aunt Danna for two weeks. You've traveled countless hours in the van tucked up close to your big sis and stayed in at least 8 hotels with all five of us. You've said goodbye to friends and worked quickly to make new ones at a brand new church, and then returned home to your old friends with enthusiasm. In all the craziness in the past year of your life, you remained the same day in and day out: sweet and silly. You are always a helper, jumping at the chance to help me (or anyone else for that matter) with whatever needs done, you delight in seeing others happy. Just last night, Izzie was screaming over something or other, and you dashed to get your special blanket and several animals and tucked them all around her. Never, ever let anything harden your sweet heart!
 
Here are your current favorites:
 
Food: Pizza
Dessert: Brownies
Color: purple, pink, white and blue
Season: Fall
Holiday: Christmas
Movie: Beauty and the Beast
Book: Wise Words for Little People
Place: Hotels!
Bible Story: David and Goliath
Thing to do: Build sand castles at the beach
Favorite number: 7
Favorite Letter: S
(she came up with those last two questions and insisted they be included;) ) 
 

Happy belated 5th birthday! I hope and pray 5 is a wonderfully fun year for you! xoxoxo

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Move

After spending nearly three months in Nashville, we are back to Montana. It's always hard to leave loved ones behind and say tearful goodbyes to dear family, and we had found a church we absolutely loved as well. But those two factors aside, leaving the city to come back to big sky country was an easy decision. There were reasons to numerous to count and I won't go into detail because this post isn't about that anyway. When we first started talking about the possibility of loading the U-Haul back up and driving back to Montana a short three months after moving away, I kept thinking about what a huge mistake we had made. I mean, who actually uproots their family of five, sells half their stuff, loads what's left on a truck, drives four days to the other side of the country, decides it's not right, loads everything up again, and drives back, having faith that everything will be alright? (Turns out we aren't the only ones, as people keep telling us about other families they know who have done the same, which makes me feel a lot less crazy!)

 
From the outside looking in, it appears we made a huge mistake--whether in going there in the first place, or coming back so soon. I kept calling it a mistake too, until I started a list one day. My list was threefold: Reasons we needed to leave Nashville; Things we love about living in Montana; and things I/we had learned along the way. (I made the list after we had made the firm decision to move back home. My heart can fool me so easily and I didn't want to be swayed back and forth, letting my emotions of the day rule.) As I kept adding to the list of what I had learned, my mind began to shift from thinking that it was a mistake, into thinking that maybe it was a necessary trial to teach us and shape us in ways we couldn't have learned or grown otherwise. God sees the big picture; I only see in part. When we pray prayers like, "God, make me more like you," he does, and he does whatever it takes to do so. While some of my darkest days came this past summer, when I felt like I was being stretched and pressed more than I could bear some days, when I couldn't see light at the end of the tunnel of hard things that just kept coming, God had a perfect plan. He was lovingly teaching me and making me a little bit more like him, day after day, trial after trial. I couldn't see it at first. In fact at one point I was out for a walk and I asked him, "Please just show me something, anything, of what you're doing so I don't feel like I'm stumbling around in the dark!" After that prayer, he immediately started revealing things to me little by little. In James 1 in the famous passage about counting trials as "pure joy", the Bible tells us that God will give us wisdom if we ask for it in faith. Reading it in context, this is referring to wisdom regarding our trials. So, we can stumble around through the difficulties in life, being angry at God for not making things easier and remaining in the dark as to why the hard things are happening, or we can trust that God has a greater purpose, that he actually does make all things work together for our good, and we can ask him for wisdom regarding our trial. He may not show us everything and he may not show us right away. But if his Word is true--and it is--then we can ask for wisdom in faith and he will show us, at least in part, what he is doing through our trials. (This makes it a lot easier to "count it all joy.")
 

 
And so, we are back. We are home. We no longer have the old farm house rental we loved so much, nor does Brad have the job he loved, with insurance and a salary and regular pay raises, but we are walking in faith, knowing that moving back was the right thing for our family and that God will take care of us like he always has. We moved into a house that was for sale, and it has sold, but again, walking in faith that he will provide the right house like he's done time and time again. Though our three months being away felt like years, now that we are back it feels like we never left. The week we returned, I went for a gloriously crisp, cool, fall walk on familiar streets, my breath rising in the air as I breathed the scent of pine and watched low clouds move across the mountains in the distance. And I knew, everything is going to be just fine. I am home. I have learned what home is. We have roots here. We may have uprooted, but we're back to dig in deeper than ever. I am thankful beyond words. I've learned that there is no perfect place, that I will always feel some amount of tension between living in Montana and missing Tennessee, and that that is okay. The last two months of long winters here will probably always be hard, but I've learned in a very tangible way that "the heart is deceitful above all things" (Jeremiah 17:9) and that just because my heart tells me every March that "I hate this place and I can't possibly go on living in this God forsaken tundra, get me out of here!!!!" (dramatic, I know), doesn't mean I should act on those feelings. This is home, and when I'm fed up with winter, this too shall pass. I've learned that I'm not in control, and through that I've been able to deal with some of my fear issues, replacing them with faith.
When you lose control of your circumstances, you have a choice: fear, doubt and despair, or faith.
 I started this journey in the former; I'm coming out with a bit more of the latter. I can fear my circumstances and dwell on all the possible negative outcomes, or I can have faith in a good God who wants what's best for me. I'm learning to preach truth to myself. It's one thing to read the Bible every morning. It's another thing to believe what I read, to meditate on it and let it take root deep in my heart. Right now is where the rubber meets the road. Do I actually believe the words in the Bible I've been reading for so long? Do I believe that God is working ALL things to my family's and my good because we love him? I make a choice every morning to believe that. I can't pick and choose which parts of the Bible are true: either it's all true or it's all a big fallacy, and I know it to be true, thus every single word is true. It's that simple. So, with every trial that has (and continues to) come my way, I preach truth to myself, and I have peace.
 
His love never fails.
He will never forsake me.
He is working all things for my good.
I can count trials as pure joy, because he is producing completeness in me.
When I have withstood the test, I will receive a crown of life.
I don't have to be anxious about anything; By prayer and petition, he will give me peace.
His yoke is easy and his burden light, if only I would let him carry it.
 

 
 
I started this post the day after we got back; I haven't had time or internet connection to finish it until today, a month later, sitting at my parents house, an unusually early November snow softly falling outside as I type. My heart is happy. I've spent the better part of my life torn between two places on opposite sides of a map. I've cried so many tears and lost so much sleep over the years, saying goodbye to one place, hello to the other; saying happy hellos and painful goodbyes to family visiting across the miles. Even now, I feel sad over the family we won't see again for a long time, for the multitude of cousins our girls were just getting to know and love. But, I have perhaps learned the secret to being content in this matter; That is, knowing and accepting that there will always be some sorrow in my heart and I will always miss the place where I am not, and keeping in mind when the sorrow comes that neither place is my home. I was made for Heaven, and until I get there, no place will be the perfect, sorrow free place and I will always long for something better, and nothing--not Montana or Tennessee or anywhere else will fully satisfy, because
He has set eternity in the heart of all humans.
 
And so, we will keep putting the miles on our minivan! Our kids are pretty good little travelers at this point;) I hope to finally settle soon (we have to be out of the house we're renting in a few weeks) and I hope--please God!!!--that this will be the last time I have to pack moving boxes for a long time!
 
 
 
 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Filth and Grace and Memories and a Bunch of Other Stuff

It's been four weeks today since we bid adieu to our home in Montana. My heart still aches and I have to fight back the knots that feel like rocks in my stomach. I wish I could say otherwise, but the truth is, I'm sad. And my being sad has hurt feelings here in our new "home" (I added quotes because it doesn't feel like home yet). The only way I can describe it, especially to the people here who don't understand why I could possibly be feeling sad about being here, is that I'm not devastated to be here; I'm devastated to have left there.
 
 One of my earliest childhood memories is driving across the country, my parents, my brother and I making the same cross country move that my own little family did, only in reverse. We moved from Nashville to Montana when I was just shy of seven, and I remember crying my eyes out. From that moment on it seems, I've been torn between two places; two sets of people; SO far apart.
To be totally honest, in the past six years (spent in MT), I fell in love with the state I was raised in. I always saw myself as more a city girl, but ever since having kids and moving to the little city of Helena, I became more and more in love with the slower pace, the wide open spaces, the laid back attitude and atmosphere, the quiet, the lack of traffic, and the simpler way of living. We've taken our girls hiking literally hundreds of times, as we had trails out our back door no matter what part of town we lived in. I even fell in love with winter--at least the first half of winter! We made the most amazing (lifelong, I hope!) friends we could've ever asked for, got involved in a wonderful church that we call our family, and were part of a community that far exceeded our idea of what community looks like. When our family went through the ordeal of accidentally buying a meth house (which sounds kind of funny now, but was devastating when we went through it), not only our church, friends and family rallied around us, but so many in our city came to the rescue. We planted roots deeper than I ever imagined, and it's been a painful process ripping those roots out.
We moved to MT when our first born was just a few weeks old, and my girls have had the privilege of growing up just hours away from their "Grammy" and "Papa", who I might add, are the best grammy and papa. I never knew the joy I would feel as I watch my parents interact with my kids. I've just loved it! And walking away from it feels impossibly hard, as does walking away from siblings and the girls' first cousins--their most favorite cousin and friend, Olivia, and their brand new baby cousin James. Face Time will do, but it's won't be the same. Not at all.
 
Enough lamenting. Seems to be all I do lately. I've vacillated between feeling guilty about being so sad; ashamed at my negative attitude toward this move; angry at my husband for making the decision; at peace and rest believing God is in control and that he has a plan better than I can choose for myself; in inner turmoil not trusting that God is in control; emotional about all the good things we left behind; excited about things to come; angry; bitter; happy; excited. Yes, my mind is all over the place. Generally I wake up happy and feeling strong, ready to take on another day of uncertainty over where we will live (we still haven't found a house) and trying to wrangle our three wild ones in other people's homes. But as each day wanes on--some of the days impossibly long--my mind seems to take a plunge and swirl down the toilet. My breaking point comes at night after the girls are in bed and I have time to think too much and come unraveled. I feel like I'm still in my body, but living someone else's life. It's so hard to keep my mind from wandering to where we were four, six, eight weeks ago. Snug in our little farmhouse with acreage that our girls ran wild all over, taking daily hikes, planting flowers, enjoying time with friends, vacationing at my parents, serving at church and being active in our little city. Strolling farmer's market, hitting up story time, going to familiar parks. Knowing the streets inside and out and never being in the car for more than fifteen minutes at a time. No traffic to fight, no gunshots heard ringing through the air sending chills down our spines, no need for Siri to guide me everywhere I go. Every single thing about life is upside down and inside out, it's uncomfortable, and I don't like it one bit.
 
And YET...beneath all the fear, worry, anxiety, sadness, and unfamiliarity...beneath all that, my faith is there and it is the rock I stand on. Right now, ALL else is sinking sand. Christ is the only rock. Everything else is shaky and uncertain, but He remains the same. I often feel like my faith is puny compared to Brad's "super faith". His is loud and bold and boisterous. He never waivers or questions.
Yet, I'm learning that my faith is my own and it looks different than his or anyone else's and that's okay. I hold mine close to my heart and it is deep and thoughtful and sometimes I wrestle with it, but even when I have the most ferocious wrestling matches, faith always beats doubt.
Faith is what brings me back to a peaceful place after my "episodes" of fear and worry and doubt.
I wish I could say that my heart is always still; always peaceful, regardless of my circumstances. But then again maybe, just maybe, I can rest knowing that God made me this way and that it's okay to struggle. Maybe he allows me to struggle because he knows that that is what will keep me close to him. When I get too comfortable, I tend to think I'm superwoman and I leave God out of the details. But when I'm needy and nearing the end of my rope, I call on him constantly. I talk with him; I pour out my heart to him; and I am working to be still and wait; to listen to him.
 
The Bible admonishes us to be joyful always; to pray continually; and to be thankful in all circumstances (for this is God's will for us in Christ Jesus). I long to be the kind of person who is joyful--even when I don't get the house I wanted or to live where I wanted or whatever the case may be. I long to have a heart that is steadfast, that remembers to pray without ceasing, through good days and hard days. I long to be truly thankful--thankful for my blessings and all things beautiful and good, but also thankful for my trials and tribulations. Thankful for the hard things life brings, remembering that the testing of my faith produces perseverance, which leads to maturity and completeness. I see progress in my life in these areas, but to be honest, I've basically been a giant pile of crap through out this particular trial. And a pile of crap is not pretty. It's smelly, and gross, and ugly, and...well, that's probably enough, I'll leave the rest to your imagination. Basically, I've been mopey and rude and anxious and bummed out. And I've spent a lot of time beating myself up over my attitude. Preaching to myself that I should be more thankful, wondering what is wrong with me? Why can't I just get it together like a good little Christian should? Then, I was reminded at church this morning that no one is perfect. And by no one, that would include me. If I were perfect, what need would I have for GRACE? None! It is my weakness, my ugliness, my failures, that draw me to the foot of the cross over and over again, remembering that I am but a lowly human in need of my savior. And no matter how ugly I've been, he looks upon me with love because I am his daughter, his beloved, and all he really wants is for me to lift my eyes to the heavens and receive his grace. And so I do.
 
Today, we've been gone for a month. It still hurts, but I will hold my head up. Tomorrow the new school year starts for Brad and I will support him and get in gear for homeschooling Addison for Kindergarten and get outside to enjoy the sights and smells of my home for now, the south. I will do my best to live in the present, but I won't beat myself up if I shed a tear for what I miss. I'm a "feeler" and I've decided that that's ok:) Sorry "thinkers", I know I must drive you a little nuts.
 
Happy Monday all! Here are some photos of our last few weeks in MT, such cherished times with everyone. We love and miss you all!!! xoxoxo
 
(also, mom, how did you escape all the pics? Sad.) 
 














Thursday, July 6, 2017

Happy 6th Birthday Addison!

 
Well life is chaotic right now, but the world keeps spinning regardless of how I wish it would just stop and slow down for a moment, and as time keeps ticking, another kid has another birthday and I find myself celebrating my baby girl who just turned six: Addison Elaine, born July 5th, 2011 after a grueling 32 hour labor in Nashville, TN. Five short weeks later, I was on an airplane, just she and I, headed to what has become home to our now family of five: Helena, MT. I remember crying a few tears, wondering why I was leaving TN and the good life we had there. And now the tables are turning once more, same time of year, six years later. We will get into our van and drive away from family and friends and this beautiful place we love, and once again, I shed tears, wondering the same thing I wondered when we left TN: "Why are we leaving?" More on that later...
 
For now, let me just say Happy Birthday to my girl who is so in love with life. Addison, your smile makes me smile on the worst day. It takes over your whole face and lights up the room, and I just love it! You have a love for life and the energy to make the most of every single minute of every single day. No time for naps, not for you! You love learning, be it by books, exploring, asking a million questions, or just watching things with curiosity; I see you soak it all in. You are so smart and I'm so excited to start Kindergarten with you soon! You may bicker with your sisters and pick at them, but most of the time, you look out for them and love them dearly. I pray everyday that you three would remain friends your whole lives. I recently asked you what your favorite thing to do is, and you replied, "Spending time with you, mom!" I hope that never changes either. I love hanging out with you; not only do I love you, but I just genuinely like you. You're so much fun and mommy loves spending time with you too:)
I pray that the Lord blesses your sixth year and that you grow in your knowledge and love for Jesus. That you would never lose your childlike faith, and that you would share that faith with others who need it. Love you so much, Happy Birthday!
Love, Mom
 
Current Favorites:
Color: Blue
Food: Pizza and cottage cheese
Dessert: Lemon cake and apple pie with ice cream
Things to do: Ride bikes, swim, play soccer
Favorite Book: The Book With No Pictures
Movie: Peter Pan
Place: The fair
Animal: Giraffe
Bible Story: Naman
Season: Fall
 


 
 
 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Seattle

 
 
Last weekend, we went to Seattle for my sister's graduation from Northwest University. It's supposed to take nine hours from where we live, but somehow it took closer to 13, so needless to say, it was a LOT of car time, followed by a day and a half in Seattle before getting back in the car again. However we decided to split the trip up on the way home and stopped in Spokane for the evening, before heading back to Helena on day four. Anyway, we did make it down town twice and had a blast with Kate. We went to Gasworks Park across the lake from downtown on Saturday night (great views, though my phone took not-so-great pictures at dusk...), and spent Sunday morning leisurely strolling and eating our way through Pike Place. I told the girls they could each pick one thing, anything they wanted. Oh they were excited about that! Addison got lemon curd gelato, Izzie got a "unicorn tail"--some braided pastry with frosting and rainbow sprinkles, and Lily got a monster cookie the size of her head (really...it was the size of her head). Then they had sips of my coffee for a treat. Yes, they like coffee, straight up, no sugar. And then, we made it to the car before everyone crashed. They absolutely loved it though...the tall buildings, the people everywhere, all the sights and sounds, everything. They even told me the next day, "Mom, we should start house hunting in Seattle!" Ha! (not happening)
While we won't be moving there, we did enjoy it and hope to visit again, when we have more than a weekend to spend. Spring in Seattle is gorgeous, by the way...SO green and SO many flowering bushes and trees, it's absolutely beautiful and smells so amazing and fresh. And of course the food...oh, the food (I adore big cities if nothing else, than for the sake of all the delicious foods!)
Here are a few pictures. Thanks for having a graduation Kate, sorry it took us four years to drag our butts over there to see you! ;)
 



 We hung around the giant piggy bank for a few minutes, until the famous 'fish throwing' ensued at the fish market. It's pretty silly, but something that must be seen if you're at Pike's!
 


 Of all my attempts to get a good shot of these four, this was the best I could do! :)
 





 (This was at a state park in Idaho that we stopped at for lunch. We are actually standing in an old mission, and the oldest building in the state. Beautiful!)
 

 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Spring Thoughts and Life Lately

Hello!
I've been wanting to get on here and update this little blog for some time now, and woke up this Saturday morning, grabbed my coffee, and decided to do just that! Life isn't really all that crazy, but with another blog, writing for a local publication, and [trying] to get into freelance work, I rarely get to this special spot, my first ever blog, the place I realized I loved to write. Since most of you are long-distance family/friends, I thought a little update on life and some pictures would be fun!
 
Spring just may have finally arrived here in MT. It takes a good two months longer (or more...) to get here than it does down south, which always makes me a bit melancholy in March and April. I'm working very hard on being content in all things, and this includes where we live. Contentment with where I live is a struggle for me. I always want to be somewhere else. To be more specific, I always want to be somewhere warmer. And it really hits me in the springtime, when I'm desperate for the spring blooms that I remember of TN. Interstates lined with pink and purple trees, sweet smelling and strikingly beautiful. Parks overflowing with vibrant red and yellow tulips and golden, buttery daffodils. Green grass and parks bustling with joggers, walkers, families, moms with strollers, and elderly couples holding hands. Spring picnics and garden planting! I digress.
And so I am desperately searching out beauty right where I am. Yesterday I took a walk through the field behind our house with the girls and was happy to see if full of tiny yellow flowers (weeds, to be more specific, but still pretty!). The grass is slowly changing from yellowish brown to green, the lilacs have tiny buds, and the Meadowlarks are singing--a sure sign that warmer weather is soon arriving. The beauty is here; I just have to look harder than I did in the south.
 

Many people have asked about the house situation; it's actually a continual question without a concrete answer. Here's the scoop: We are half-heartedly house hunting, but not really. We were full force trying to buy for the last few months, but the housing market (from the buyers perspective) has gotten progressively worse, and simply put, it would be very unwise to buy a house in MT right now. What we could afford here wouldn't fit our family, much less guests or (potentially) more children, were we to have any more. Even if we did buy something small, we would most likely take a loss if/when we decided to sell. We even saw a news report saying that the housing market is at an all time high, making it nearly impossible for the middle class to buy a decent house.
And so, unless something just perfect and amazing comes along, we will continue to rent the farmhouse we currently live in. Though it's drafty and expensive to keep warm in the winter, we love it the rest of the year. It's spacious and has a fabulous space outside for the girls to run around and play and explore. Our landlord said Brad could build me some raised beds wherever we'd like, and even offered to help, so we will have gardens! I've missed out the last two summers due to moving/traveling, so I'm beyond excited to garden this summer!
 
Our family is well. This winter brought more sickness to Helena than I've ever seen, and was also the coldest, longest winter I've ever seen (the two go hand in hand I'm sure). I think we are in the safe zone, as far as colds and flu bugs are concerned...I hope!!!! We are healthy and getting outside and opening windows in the late afternoon when it has warmed up a bit. The girls have been taking their little sandbox buckets and going for 'nature walks' and collecting all sorts of things from the field. We had a woodpecker in a tree in our yard yesterday and that was so fun! I will be homeschooling them in the fall. Addison will officially be in Kindergarten, Lily in pre-K, and I'll have to find puzzles and little things to make Izzie feel like she's doing school too; she wouldn't have it any other way! She has to be right in the center of everything, and that includes school:) We're still doing some school work, but I've backed off from the schedule we began last fall. I had a realization that struck me rather hard, that life as I have known it for the past almost six years is going to change once Addison is in Kindergarten. Not in a bad way, but it will be a big change for all of us. I realized I could back off with the rigid structured school mornings; they are coming soon enough:)
 
We will be traveling to Seattle for Kate's graduation in the beginning of May, and then four weeks later to Corvallis for her wedding! Summer will kick off busy, but then we don't have any major travel plans for the remainder. We will try for another 'big trip' next summer. We're hoping to go south every other summer if at all possible...the perks of Brad being a teacher and having summers off!!
 
Well, I started this Saturday and now it's Tuesday afternoon and the girls are supposed to be napping, but just as I put them down, a cement truck came to do work nearby (like right outside their window), so I don't think there's much napping going on, and I'm going to curtail this, throw some recent pictures on here, and call it good!
 
Hope you are all well and enjoying spring wherever you are!
 
 They love taking their magnifying glasses and sketch books out to the field to explore
 Spring break in the Bitterroot, on a nature walk with Grammy (looking at a birds nest??)

 Saturday morning hiking date:)

  
 Yes, he dressed as a pseudo-leprechaun for St. Patty's Day
Well, this is what you get when you have three daughters!
 We've finally done away with bottles, but still fighting over the paci...she adores them both!


Her happy place:)