We Are Headed North

We were lucky enough to join in the time-honored tradition of heading to the Northern part of the state for Memorial Day weekend. Some dear friends of ours recently moved to a city on the water and we came for a short visit. The trip was filled with laughs, walks, sightseeing, s’mores, relaxing, some adult beverages, game night, and staying up WAYYYY too late for a meteor shower. The trip was a welcome rest in what has been a busy, and at times stressful, past few months. We loved the active, outdoorsy, and simple ways of life up North. The lifestyle seems a perfect fit for our friends and we are so happy it has all worked out for them.  And, of course, they treated us like royalty-we barely lifted a finger the whole weekend.  We are already dreaming of our next trip. Here are some photos from our wonderful weekend.

The big kids

The big kids

Two of my very favorite ladies

Two of my very favorite ladies

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This was a trip filled with silly faces

This was a trip filled with silly faces

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Ukelele jam

Ukelele jam

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View from the UP

View from the UP

Silly faces

Silly faces

 

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Learning From Storms

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After a particularly long winter, our spring has been a stormy one. The weekly forecasts call for rain almost everyday. Six straight days of rain can really impact your mood, especially when you have two little voices begging to go outside and play. It’s enough to make one weary. But I can’t help but think that God is trying to teach me something with all these storms.

Our family is going through our own storm right now. It all started back in January. About a week after our move, my mom came to visit and help us unpack. I could tell when she arrived that something was bothering her. That first night, after the kids were asleep, she broke the news to N and I. My brother had recently had an MRI on his ankle for an injury we anticipated to be a stress fracture at worst. He is a personal trainer and he been teaching some really intense classes. His ankle bothered him after the classes, so my parents thought he should get it looked at. No one could have foreseen the result. The pain my brother was having was not caused by a fracture. He had a tumor growing on his bone. Words like tumor cause hearts to skip beats. We were of course worried and a little scared, but we all resolved to be optimistic until the biopsy results were in.

The next two months were an emotional roller coaster as biopsy results proved inconclusive, specialists from all over the country were consulted, and surgeries were scheduled and postponed. The doctors were fairly sure the tumor was malignant, but couldn’t pinpoint the exact diagnosis. Our hopes were all lifted when a third doctor said he was fairly certain it was a benign tumor and my brother underwent surgery to remove it and complete a more thorough biopsy. Then, on March 28, my father’s 56 birthday, we got the news. Cancer. How do 24 year olds get cancer? Why do 24 year olds get cancer? So many questions with no good answers.

Since that time, we have a definitive diagnosis of the tumor and my brother is currently receiving chemotherapy treatments. We are all optimistic about the outcome and are willing to help in the fight in any way we can. But there are still days I feel worried, sad, or angry. Gloomy days seem to be the worst. But this week, God has placed some truths on my heart that have deepened my faith in this situation and given me some new perspective.

What I am Learning from the Storms

1. Storms Happen

We are not guaranteed an easy life here. In fact, Jesus promises we will have trials and that life won’t be easy (John 16:33). Ironically, the current sermon series at our church is about the storms of life. Our pastor said in the first sermon of the series that we are either coming out of a storm, in the middle of a storm, or going into a storm. Some storms are quick and violent, others are long and tiring. We will face storms, but we don’t have to face them alone. The fact that most of my days I feel peace about the situation I can only attribute to faith. The verse mentioned above has two parts, “In this world you will face trials. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (emphasis mine). God is carrying us through this.

2. Storms Cause Growth

I see this outside my window daily. The rain is causing everything to green. Buds on leaves and flowers are dripping with rain one day, opening in vibrant color the next. Without the rain, nothing in nature would grow. It’s the same with us. You find out who you really are in a storm. It tests your stamina, your will, your faith. At first, you are in shock. I think of the little tomato plants we transplanted to the garden last week. We have had almost 2 inches of rain since they were planted. They look a little weathered. But I know the strong plants will be made stronger from the rain and we will see, feel, and taste the fruits of this growth. We are over our shock, I now see the resilience and strength in my family as we rally around my brother to fight. This storm won’t be short: a 28 week intensive chemo protocol and scans for life. But we will get through it and I think we will emerge stronger as individuals, and a family, for it.

3. Storms Make Us Appreciate the Sun

In the midst of a storm, it’s easy to lose sight of the sun. But blessings remain despite the dark. While under tornado warning this week in one of our spring storms, I calmed the kids by reminding them of our blessings: a safe, sturdy house, a cozy basement to wait in until the storms past, electricity and TV that alerted us to the possible danger.

I am overwhelmed by the blessings in my brother’s situation when I begin to count. The fact that he lives close to home, that my mom works part time and is able to get him to appointments, the fact that my parents decided to keep him on their health insurance one more year, the amazing specialists he has access to at a state of the art cancer center, having a few oncology nurses in the family who help us know what to expect, friends and family who’ve rallied around us with prayers and practical care, finding the cancer early before it spread…the list goes on. I am so encouraged by my brother.  I can’t imagine what he is going through, but he is taking it in stride.  He is stronger than he knows.  It’s a blessing to help him in any way I can and this storm has made me pray for him daily. Counting your blessings surely brings perspective on dark days. People often ask God “why” when these hard things happen. I am sure I did from time to time. But now I am asking two new questions: “where?” and “how?”. Where is God working in this situation? How should I respond in light of His work? It’s impossible for me not to see God’s hand blessing our family even during difficulty.

4. Storms End

This one seems simple enough, but it’s easy to forget when you’re in the storm. Rainy days feel like they run together, nerves still get frazzled when high winds send objects from one end of the yard to the other. But the storms pass. Sometimes, it’s just as simple as the clouds moving on. Other times, there is mess and destruction and you have to adjust to a new way of life. A little over a year ago, N’s uncle’s family lost everything they owned in a horrific tornado. No house, no cars, no clothes. No wedding photos or grainy videos of baby’s taking their first steps. They lost every tangible piece of their former life. When contacting them to see how we could help, Uncle K had the best perspective. He said you learn very quickly what you can live without and it all didn’t matter because he, his wife, their daughter, and grand daughter were safe. Life is still hard, but you can choose to see the good.

I don’t know how our storm will end. But there is a lot of joy on the horizon. In just a few weeks, my brother and his girlfriend will welcome their first child into the world. As a parent, I can’t wait for that moment for them, know how it will change them, and give him a new will to fight and live. Treatments should be over in October, giving our family much to celebrate when we all get together this Christmas. It’s going to be quite the party.

After a crazy deluge this week, our yard was full of puddles. C and J asked to go outside to play. I told them to put on their boots and have fun. A few minutes later, when I went to check on them, my first reaction was shock. They were covered.in.mud. I had never seen my children this dirty. But after watching for a minute, the thing that outshone the mud was joy. Crazy, jumping, squealing joy. I immediately ran for the camera ( you can see the pics below). Seeing this reminded me that one day, all there will be is joy. A promise that every tear will be wiped from every eye. Storms will continue to rage. But even in the storms, I choose joy.

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The Great Easter Bunny Fail of 2014 AKA a trip to the ER

N and I often joke that since becoming parents, there are so many phrases we say that 10 years ago, I never would have imagined would ever come out of my mouth.  Things like, “Put that down, it’s poop.”, “Yes, doctor, he swallowed a glass bead.”, “Animals are not to be licked”, “Please stop eating mulch”…. I could go on and on.  A new one to add to the list just occurred a few weeks ago on Easter Monday.  The Easter Bunny was out shopping at Target and noticed some adorable metal and wood children’s garden shovels. The Bunny knew these were the perfect basket items for C and J, who were very eager to start work in our garden.

And of course, C and J were delighted with the shovels when they found their baskets on Easter morning.  They liked the shovels almost as much as the candy that they would later that afternoon hide in their room and EAT ALL AT ONE SITTING.  I must have been having a very naiive moment when I allowed them to take the baskets up for nap.

Monday morning, the kids were so excited to try out the new shovels.  So as soon as it was warm enough, we all headed down to the garden and started digging up weeds.  We worked for a good 2 hours before I heard baby M wake up on the monitor and I ran inside to get him.  As I came back out with the baby, I noticed J was walking up the hill crying.  And then the blood started.  Oh my word, do heads bleed!!!  And C was as white as a ghost.  He quietly admitted that he threw his shovel into the air and it came down on J’s forehead.  My first response was “Why would you throw a shovel?!  We don’t throw shovels!” (One of those things you never think you will have to say).  After taking J inside and getting her calmed down and cleaned up, it was pretty obvious she would need to see a doctor to determine if stitches were necessary.  Coincidentally, my good friend was on her way over to hang out for the afternoon. With her 4 kids. So she was able to watch the boys while J and I went to the local ER (she is up for sainthood in my book).  Thankfully, we were seen quickly and the doctor, who happened to be the same doctor we saw when C swallowed a glass bead last fall, was able to close the wound with dermabond and a few steri-strips.

J is almost fully healed and shovels have been removed for use only when supervised. And I am prepared with Frankincense and Helichrysum for any scarring she may have. But this experience, just like the many before it, reminds me that we are never fully prepared for what parenthood will throw at us.  Especially when that something is a garden shovel ; ).

-L

Spring…Finally!

 

 

After what seemed like the longest winter ever (and I am normally someone who tries very hard not to complain about weather), it’s finally starting to feel like spring around here.  There is nothing like feeling warm sun mixed with cool breeze on my face in the early morning when I go let the hens out on the run.  The mornings smell like dew and earthworms.  We check buds daily to see what is opening in the yard.  One day crocus, the next day daffodils.  Seeing the renewal of the earth never gets old for me.  I love this time of year.  Here are a few pics from the last few weeks.

 

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Hens on the run. We are getting about half a dozen eggs a day now!

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