Monday, July 1, 2024

Summer Camp(s) 2024

 

This was the first year that ALL FIVE OF OUR KIDS went to the same summer camp together. But first, Rainy joined the Elementary kids at their camp. She came home EXHAUSTED but had a great time!



She had enough time to come home, sleep, do laundry and pack back up and join the middle and high schoolers back to the same campus for their week at camp. Jude has finally graduated to STUDENTS and is so pumped so that meant they got to experience the week together.












June - That's A Wrap


 This month is a blur of activity and sweet memories. It started with Zeke taking his very first solo roadtrip. He went to VA to spend a few days with a couple of his cousins, then they caravanned down to us for the rest of the week. I'm pretty sure those boys devoured at LEAST 78 eggs during their 3-day stay. It's all about the protein, ya'll. They wore themselves OUT! They spent the majority of their time at the gym working out, going on 15-mile skateboard rides on the greenway.  Poor Eli got stuck with a scooter because all of our bikes are out of commission! He was so tired he fell asleep on Berkley's bed in the middle of the day.



We got in our 12th annual Father's Day pic yet again. We have all of the pictures stacked behind themselves in the frame and Josh and I may have shed a tear or two looking back at the kids over the years.



Alethia got CURLS! We did a new kind of hairstyle and she looks GORGEOUS! It took me 8-9 hours because braids take longer than twists for me, and it, but it was worth it.


We'd been warned this was coming. We even got a roadsigns in our front yard to remind us about it. They closed our road down due to the Rolesville expansion project going on and I'm not gonna lie, I don't mind it nearly as bad as I thought. We've found our way around most of the blocks to get to where we need to go. It almost feels like COVID again with the lack of traffic going by.


The rest of the month was spent spending plenty of quality time together as a family with a couple brief visits from family and our sweet foster loves.

We closed out the month with ALL FIVE kids going to camp! Jude has finally arrived to life in the Student Ministry and Rainy, although she graduated has stayed connected and went as a middle school leader. So naturally Josh and I rearranged our week and took 2 amazing days to go to the beach!







Garden Update



I've had a tough go with my garden the last few years. This year I am seeing a bit of hope again! My arch trellis is actually working this year. I've got cucumbers, peas, watermelon and cantaloup doing their thing and I can't wait to see if we actually get any fruit with the growing vines.

I also tried okra for the first time and I actually got a handful to cook up for dinner. I'm super stoked about that. I planted more flowers to attract pollinators this year so maybe that helped. I've got the usual herb favorites, squash and peppers. My pepper plants are TINY but they have been producing peppers so I guess that's all that matters, lol.





Saturday, June 29, 2024

Colony Mom Reads

 


Becoming Free Indeed was a beautiful book about the journey Jinger Duggar Vuolo went through as she sought to wade through the lies she had grown up believing. I love how she phrased it as a disentangling instead of a deconstruction of her faith. Deconstruction takes every piece apart, throws it away, clear down through the foundation, and seeks to build something new while disentangling is the slow process of sifting out the truth from the lies. Picking out the pieces that don't align with the Bible and who Jesus is while holding fast to the foundations of truth.

Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing by Matthew Perry...oh my heart, reading this after his death... This memoir is not for the faint of heart. It is gut-wrenchingly honest. He holds nothing back, even his wrestling with God. The way that he could talk about his past, while still completely owning up to and taking responsibility for his own choices, in spite of his disease and misfortunes in childhood, gosh, what a testimony to his character. He offered so much grace for everyone along the way, which can only come from someone who knows just how much grace and  mercy has been given to him.  I pray this book is truly a life-line for people like Matthew Perry. I pray people come away with a clear vision of God's grace and presence, even if the answers to so many prayers are a "no" or "hang on, not yet". Make sure you've got some tissues for this one, and plenty of time to process it afterwards.

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Recent Reads



We are going to go from top to bottom in this stack.

1 - The Bible. Several years ago, when my first couple of kids were tiny, I saw someone write about this idea of reading through a Bible for each of their kids and then presenting it to them when they turn 18. I tucked the idea away for a few years and then dove in. Obviously I started with Rainy's first because she was going to turn 18 first. I found a pretty journaling Bible, a reading plan that would take me through the Bible in a year, and then began. I underlined things, I jotted down prayers in the margin's and wrote little notes all throughout about insights I'd have throughout the year with Rainy on my mind and in my prayers while reading the Word. After a couple of years I jumped into another one for Zeke. Same idea but different reading plan. Then on to Alethia's. Well, this past week I finished up Cai's. It is so interesting that you can read the same book over and over and in different ways and come away with new insights. And when you have a particular child in mind while reading it, the words come alive in a new way. In another year or two I'll get one for Jude and finish out the tradition.

2 - Pursue The Intentional Life by Jean Fleming. This was a sweet read. An older woman writing her journey of trying to capture her days, each and every one of them, and live her life towards eternity, while being intentional in today. Thank you Sarah for the borrow!

3 -  Mockingbird Summer by Lynda Rutledge. This story had my heart. It is set in the time period of counter sit ins in the 60's. I thought it gave really great perspective of this time period and some of the struggles during that transitional time. Highly recommend as a summer read to get totally lost in!

4 - The Winners by Fredrik Backman. Ya'll know I love Backman and his novels. Alethia knows that too and spotted this one in one of those book trading boxes at our park and snagged it up for me. This book didn't disappoint, but I have to say, it was a LOT of words. This book is by far the longest book I have EVER read! In fact, I got over 100 pages in and got caught up the Mockingbird Summer (and couldn't put that one down) that I had to skim back through the initial pages of the Winners again to get reacquainted with the multitude of characters. So many names! I almost gave it up but was determined to make it to the end. I'm not typically affected by cussing in books, but this one definitely topped the number of F* bombs in a book. Also, I wasn't a big fan of the ending...but it was good and I view it as a personal accomplishment to have read such a large book, lol.

5 - Counting The Cost by Jill Duggar. We've all heard of the Duggar family. Many of us watched those kids grow up. I personally had only seen a couple of the episodes, but we ALL heard about the scandal of the eldest brother and I encountered first-hand experiences growing up from the ripple effects from the IBLP movement and their teachings.  So when Shiny Happy People came out it reignited my interest. It's always interesting reading personal stories and reading their perspectives. I for sure recommend this one. This book is an excellent example of how much grace is needed in relationships. I really loved the ending on this one. I'm reading her sister's book right now so I'll let you know how that one is when I'm done.

Monday, June 10, 2024

Play It Out


When one of our kids was in elementary school they had an IEP.  One of the written allowances was extra time, or no time limit at all, when it came to test taking or projects. Being on the clock caused his extreme anxiety to kick into high gear and he would either shut down and nothing would get answered or he would just guess at everything just to get done. (Or on more than one occasion he would take off running!)

The older I've gotten, and the more in tune with my own anxiety I have become, I have seen the same to be true with me. No, I don't rush to bubble in whatever random answers will finish the task the quickest, but being on the clock for sure triggers my anxiety. Whether I am on my way to an appointment or cooking dinner in the kitchen, when I have a certain time limit restraining my freedom I feel trapped and paralyzed. 

When the child I mentioned before was going to counseling, his therapist worked with him at trying to look ahead, far ahead of the task at hand, to the final outcome. This would help to level the playing field a little bit and would help eliminate the "what's gonna happen if..." question that causes the anxiety.

I have thought about that a lot over the years. I have tried to begin to do this myself too, since me and my child are so much alike! And honestly, this practice has helped to counter countless anxiety-inducing fears over the years.

For instance:

Let's say I am on my way to an appointment and traffic has the arrival time on my GPS creeping up minute by minute. I begin sweating and my breathing becomes shallow (I know this seems a bit excessive to those of you who do not struggle with anxiety), but in that moment I cannot control any of that. But what I can control is the mental battleground that is causing my body to respond this way. I begin walking forward in time and mentally role-playing the scenario out. Traffic has me walking into my appointment 5, 10, 15 minutes late. What happens next? 

This actual scenario has happened. Last year. I walked into my appointment and literally started crying when the person at the counter said I was too late and they gave my appointment to someone else, and "when would be a good time to reschedule"? I wanted to say, "Never! I need to have my appointment today and be done with it!!!"

*sigh*

What happens when I proactively walk this out though is that I can settle into that option being a pretty good chance at happening BEFORE getting there and falling apart. I can call the office and tell them I'm running behind and see what my options are before getting any farther down the road. Or maybe I show up late and the front desk checks me in anyway and I walk right into my appointment.

But in either one of these outcomes everything really is ok. I have either had my appointment and it's done. Or I have to reschedule, which is for sure a nuisance, but again, it's done for today and I am ok.

This next one happened today. This week is hair week for our ethnic-haired beauty and we have a new thing we are doing. I was so nervous about it because I want my daughter to like it and I want it to be what she wants, but I was doubting my white mama skills in executing it the right way. I also know I have other responsibilities this week, because you know...being a mom... and doing hair typically takes about 8 hours of my time. (yes, you read that right)

So I'm sitting here starting to get all worked up, wondering if I'm going to actually be able to get it all done in time, especially since it is new hair. And here it comes again...the reminder to take a deep breathe and walk out all the scenarios. In this one, I alone am the one trying to put time restraints on this to-do. We gave ourselves plenty of time (we've learned a lot over the years) before she goes off to camp or have any outside obligations. This allows us to work in stages. So what if I don't finish it today or tomorrow like I am wanting to? Why can't I squeeze in another hour here and there throughout the week? Nothing will happen to her, to me, to our family if the hair doesn't get done in the next 2 days like I'm making myself feel like I need to.

This practice works like a charm when trying to herd little kids around. Early on into parenthood I decided that I would always try to NOT be in a hurry with the kids. Because, as every caretaker knows, for some reason as soon as a kid senses that we need to hurry they begin moving like they are wading through molasses and this mama would lose her ever loving mind! And that is not the mom I want to be. (This also clearly becomes a recipe for disaster to my aforementioned child who struggles with feeling like he has to be in a hurry!) So I would practice looking forward. What if we don't get to the grocery store and then back home in time for the nap that will ensure a happy heart at the event I'm playing this evening. Nothing. Nothing would happen. I might have a slightly grumpy baby from a late nap, or no nap. I might have to rearrange the rest of my afternoon. I might even have to cancel something. But the day would go on and it would be OK.

I KNOW this is easier said than done, but the next time you feel the heat rising in your body or the fear and anxiety bubbling just under the surface, try to stop, take a breathe and start looking forward.

And most of the time, life will just go on.

There might be a need to pivot the day or some of your other plans.

But...

Everything will be ok.

And in those rare circumstance where something terrible does happen, God is in that too. You can give that to Him.

He promises to provide because he truly does care about the best for us, even if the scenario ends in the worst case scenario.

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

May - Endings and Beginnings

 I'm sitting here writing this at my desk. Right above my desk is my calendar. It is open to June and June is LOVELY! There is so much open space on my calendar that it makes me shoulders relax and my inhales deep and my exhales long.

But that is NOT what my calendar looked like in May. I hardly have any photos to recap May so the quantity of pictures don't give justice to the month we lived. But I've also been trying to get better and just being in the moment without my phone all the time, which I consider a win.

Highlights:

Josh ran his beast with his brother to complete his Spartan Trifecta.


I was asked to speak for the New Sandy Creek's Seniors group. It was like a family reunion. (You can click THIS LINK to read the talk I gave that I rewrote as a blog.)

Our church released the first volume of our Living Room Sessions. We recorded these in our living room during COVID and it feels so redemptive to have these moments captured live and now out in the world on all major music platforms. (Search "Seven Marks Worship")



Cai finished up his club soccer season with the rec cup. No I did not pay $35 for the picture! Goodness. But I did grab a screenshot just to document his team. They really pulled it together toward the end of the season after a rough start. We have loved the coach that he's had with NCFC for the past few years. 

One of our bass players on the team helped open up an Argentinian bakery and we went to show him some love after opening day. We are SO excited for them!  If you are ever in the Raleigh area, make sure you stop by Milonga and try something. I promise you'll love every bite.



My grandmother made a family history book for each of her grandchildren before she passed away. It is for sure a treasure. Some of the pictures date back to the 1800's! After watching A Small Light, a Prime Video series based on the perspective on Miep Gies, a Dutch woman who helped Anne Frank and her family, we began talking about our own family and where they were during that time. Which brought out the book. I captured Jude's curiosity as Josh went through some of the history with him.



And last, but not least...we finished up another year of Homeschool. Goodbye 7th, 9th and 11th grade!


Cai has two days of exams next week and we are all officially into summer. And we have a FUN summer ahead!

Monday, May 20, 2024

Letting Go Of The Past To Embrace The Present


If any of you have ever been to our home, or even our little "small town bright future" space on the map for that matter, you may have noticed a HUGE change over the past year or two. LOTS of construction and change. We have the perfect location. Directly behind our property and all around to the right were open fields used for fort building, pretend camping and anything else the imagination could conjure up as our kids grew up. The fields weren’t ever ours though. We’ve been in this house nearly 15 years and the property had been for sale even longer than that. We knew eventually the day would come that the fields would be bought up and building of some sort would begin. A couple years ago that day came when we saw people with clipboards walking around the field. And then we saw them again. And again. We were soon informed that a private youth volleyball league had bought the 3 lots surrounding our home and would be building a gym, parking lots and beach volleyball courts. As you can imagine we were devastated to see the hills being leveled, our favorite tree cut down and the field slowly turn from grass to pavement.


Yes, there were actual tears shed at this loss.


We’ve had to grieve the loss of what was.

We’ve had to reckon with what we wish we still had.


This may seem pretty trivial but I have noticed this pattern with other circumstances in my own life and maybe you can begin seeing it in your own as well.


As you know we have 5 kids. A High School graduate, another well on his way to adulthood, two in High School and one bringing up the rear as a 12-year-old middle schooler. We are in the trenches of full time jobs, part time jobs, some kids driving themselves to activities, sports and other extracurriculars and friends coming and going. Where we used to pick up a child, place them in their carseat and head off to wherever WE had planned to go we are left trying to match schedules and activities to get at least the majority of us together for an outing or even holiday. This season has left me feeling disoriented as the idea of family time is rapidly shifting.


I have had to grieve the loss of what was.

And I’m having to reckon with what I wish we still had.


Or how about this example.


Friendships sometimes have a way of slowly finding themselves to be in completely different seasons of life that have a tendency to leave little to no time for the friendship. I have had the hardest time with these gaping friendship voids in different seasons of my life, and I'm typically not great with change anyway, so when I find myself here I feel stuck and alone. I remember calling my mom in tears on more than one occasion in college as I transitioned from home to school.


I have had to grieve the loss of what was.

I’ve had to reckon with what I wish I still had.


Maybe none of these examples have hit close to home yet.


But what if I circled back to 2020?


COVID rocked us ALL. Many of us suffered great loss. Whether it was the loss of a job, a relationship (gosh, the tension and hatred that was birthed in this season has left such deep wounds), or even the loss of a loved one. Or maybe it was as simple as a loss in routine and what used to be “normal”, or as complicated as a fallout causing deep hurt and relational betrayal. 2020 was not biased. This season left no-one unscathed. That period of time is such a fog for pretty much all of us. It’s as if we lost nearly two years of our lives in respect.


For Josh and I, this season turned into one of the hardest, darkest seasons of our lives and our entire family felt the ripple effects of the aftermath which went deep and wide.


We had to grieve the loss of what was.

And we were faced with reckoning with what we wish we still had.

On top of fear of the unknown of what was going to be.


But you know what?  After I look back at these specific examples (and I’m sure we could all come up with dozens more) I was reminded of something.  When I get stuck longing for what WAS I neglect the blessings in the what IS.


Yes, grieve what was. That is an important part of the healing process. In fact, God even tells us to look back in remembrance. To recall what He HAS done. But if we get stuck in the past or quickly try to push through to the future, it becomes nearly impossible to see the now.


When I find myself in the backyard with yet another car shining their headlights into our living room I can really quickly find myself going into a negative place. But I have a choice. I can stay here and fall deeper and deeper into that hole, as I long for what used to be, affecting everyone that is around me with my negativity, or I can choose to get out. At this point I try to remind myself of what COULD have been built behind our house, like a building complex, busy business, or condos, and I am quickly brought back to the reality of the amazing space God has allowed us to have. A big yard, plenty of parking for the non-stop flow of people that come in and out of the front door, the places that our kids can walk, the park trails directly beside us that open themselves up to miles of running potential or to hours of conversation as we process life. And thank goodness the gym is not directly behind us so we can still see our beautiful sunsets!


I have to be present in order to see God’s good for us here.


When I get stuck sulking over the lack of family time and let’s face it, the things I used to feel like I had control over, I miss the amazing season we are in with the kids. The independence they have in this season is truly freeing. The friendships I am forging with the oldest ones gives me a glimpse into what I hope to have with all my kids as they get older. Watching our kids friend and work and learn boundaries and navigate relationships and begin thinking for themselves…it’s all so beautiful, and exhausting, but beautiful. I really wouldn’t trade it for anything, except maybe a little more time when we are all together, lol.


I have to come back to the present to see God’s good for us here.


Oh the friendships I have had to grieve over the years. It’s hard to see friendships change over time. Grieving the way a friendship used to be is ok, but I cannot stay there. I have to stop trying to fit that friendship into a space it no longer fits so that it can find where it DOES belong now. Just because a friendship looks different doesn't mean that it isn't still a beautiful thing. This also opens my heart up to the people that are right next to me right now. And God is so gracious to give us just what we need.


I have to be present to appreciate God’s good in my friendships, whatever season I might find them in.


But what about when it comes to the gut-wrenching hard things? When we find ourselves on a merry-go-round that just keeps spinning out of control?


There is no magic formula that has worked for me here, and I bet you would say the same. But our God is in that too. We wake up, we pray, we release it all to Him, we put one foot in front of the other.  We cry, and try to find SOMEthing to bring joy and laughter, and then we do it all again the next day and the next. The living in the now is hard, but as we pull from the deep well of faithfully walking with God we get glimmers of grace along the way.


We have to be present to appreciate God's constant grace in the chaos as we wait patiently for the season to pass. Joy and chaos can coexist. 


So, for whatever it’s worth, I invite you to walk with me today, to see what God is up to right now. Not as if the past didn’t happen, or that the future doesn’t matter, but today is the only thing we are called to worry about, for tomorrow will have enough troubles of its own. 


Dedicated to the New Sandy Creek Saints 

who have walked with us through so many seasons of life.

You are a blessing in our NOW! 

I am thankful for the opportunity to have shared these words with you last week. 

It was truly an honor to be with you all. 

Thank you for being a shining example of Christ's bride.

(adapted for public audience) 

Monday, May 13, 2024

April

As we look back in the rearview mirror of april we see an end to Cai's track season, Jude's last soccer game, beautiful sunsets, and Rainy's Earth Day Festival gig, as we welcome lazy Sabbath days coming back into view!