Song for the Sabbath

Yesterday Kevin and I came to my home in Indiana to celebrate my dad's birthday this weekend.  Last night, after a super fun time of playing disc golf and getting our childhood favorite ice cream, he played his new favorite song from his Wow 2004 cd.  It's a hilariously cute christian rap song.  Who knew my dad and I shared the same hip-hop heart?!?  I love that!  Happy Sunday!


Tears of A Teacher

Well, there are only 3 days of school left.  Wow.  It is really hitting me today.  My first year of teaching has been nothing short of incredibly challenging in so many ways, yet has taught me more than I could have ever imagined... and oh, how I have come to love those children!  Several times today, my mind has started pondering the absence of these amazing little people in my daily life, and I start getting choked up.  I have had a 3rd and 4th grade mixed class, and many of you remember, those years are definitely impressionable ones.  I will truly miss getting to pour into their hearts, minds, and lives every day, and see the shaping of their individual personalities, no matter how exhausted it has allowed me to be over the past several months.  It will be so hard to see them go in their many different directions.

How wonderful it is that these precious kids get really sentimental and sweet this time of year, showing their true colors of how they really feel.  I am determined to make the next 3 days incredibly special for each of them.  Because at the end of the day, I know that the most important things I have taught them can not be found in books.  I pray I have led them well, and spoken truth to them that they will hold in their hearts forever, even if they forget it for some years between now and then.

Yet I know that they are ultimately God's children, he is their greatest teacher, and he has such a great plan for their lives.  He can take care of them...and I can forever pray for them.  At this point, it is impossible to know what the future holds, or if I will ever teach a class like this again.  But God placed me in that school for such a time as this, and I will never doubt for a second his purposes in doing so.

Now I must not spend the roughly 21 hours I will have with them worrying about what I didn't teach them or the times my frustration was apparent.  Instead, I must focus on the moments God was evident in me, and poured out His love through me.  Although I was far from perfect for these kids, they taught me more than I will ever know, and more importantly, they know above all else that I am for them in this life.

I can't wait to share the memories that will be made in the next few days.  Until then, here are some pics of our zoo field trip last week.  It was so much fun.  Unfortunately I can't show you their sweet faces, but check out these beautiful examples of God's amazing creativity.  Love it!


Happy 60th Birthday Dad!!!

Today is my dad's 60th birthday!!!  It is incredibly hard to believe, especially since he looks like he's 40, and is as athletic as a 30 yr. old.  I have always had a great relationship with my dad, and he is his kids' biggest fan.  He used to call me "Pagey-wagey-doodle-all-a-day," (that's how I remember it!), and when I was little he would tickle me until I laughed so hard I couldn't speak.  I loved the early mornings as a little girl when he would drive me to piano lessons, and we would listen to Steven Curtis Chapman in the car.  We both love music, and have been to some pretty fun concerts, including the American Idol concert in Cincinnati that I surprised him with after the second season! 

My dad would always pick me up from dances and attend each and every sporting event my brothers and I participated in.  He loved coaching our teams and helping us practice.  He was the loudest cheerleader and one of my biggest encouragers during the five years I ran track, the four years I was a cheerleader, the two years I played basketball and volleyball, the two years I ran cross country, the two years I played the french horn, the two years I played tennis, and the one year I participated in speech tournaments!  As far as I can remember, he never missed a meet, a game, or an event of any of his kids.

He and my mom loved to take us on yearly family vacations, and they made sure we always made the best memories.  We were blessed to experience Disney World, Mackinac Island, Kings Island, Indiana Beach, Niagara Falls, and many other fun places together.  When they owned the Christian bookstore, he always let me sit in the 'kid section' and read as many books as I could devour.  Then, when I would sweetly ask him if I could keep the book I just couldn't put down, he could never manage to say no.  My dad is a kid at heart in the way that he loves to laugh and even to this day enjoys playing games and having fun with his kids.  He used to play basketball and soccer with my brothers, and would run with me during cross country.  He taught me how to play tennis, and still loves teaching me today.  Even this weekend he has big plans to 'do it all,' including tennis and swimming at the Y, playing frisbee golf at the park, and golfing with my husband and my brothers.

My dad has supported every crazy dream I've ever had, and has told me he believes in me when I've felt like no one else did.  My dad hates to see me sad, and he feels great joy when his family is joyful.  He loves when we are all together, and wishes we could be more often.  Some of my favorite memories with my dad are the times when it's just been he and I, out together for a meal, sharing conversations about life.  We have a special relationship, and I treasure being his only daughter.  I used to love it when he would pick me up from school just to take me to lunch at "The Sweet Shop" in our small town.  We always shared the best milkshakes!  My dad loves a good meal, and especially loves to follow it up with a good bowl of ice cream.

He loves telling people about his kids, and how proud he is of us.  He was so excited when I met Kevin, and loved him from the start.  It was so sweet and meaningful to me when he was so intentional about talking to each of us about the way we desired to love and commit to the other before he gave Kevin the okay to ask me to marry him.  Now he loves whenever he gets to spend time with his only son-in-law, and I love that my dad so respects and admires my husband.  I know how very much he loves to see his daughter loved well.

The heart of my dad loves, worships, and follows the God he raised us to know and obey.  He has faithfully served at our church for over 30 years, and he is a friend to many there.  We used to love going to Kroger with him early on Sunday mornings to pick up the donuts he would take to church to set out with the coffee he would make in the church's kitchen.  (We loved getting the free cookie!) Then we would help him set up the communion trays for the services that morning, which he prepared for over 20 years.  He set the standard for us at home when we were growing up that we respect God and his word, and obey all that we are called to be as Christ followers.  He models a life that submits to God's word, and deeply knows our Savior.  My dad also loves his community and is always willing to help and serve where he is needed.  He works very hard, and strives to do his very best at what he does.  Many people have enjoyed the fruits of his labor, and we are so proud of him for his commitment.

I am so thankful as a daughter to know in my heart and soul how deeply my father here on earth loves me.  I know that directly correlates to my knowledge and grasp of how deeply my Father in heaven loves me.  There is no greater gift my dad could give me than to love God and love our family as he has been called to.  It gives me confidence and courage to be built up, prayed for, and believed in by my dad.  He is a great man in my eyes, and I can't wait one day for my children to get to experience his love and kind heart as well.

Dad, thank you that you are willing to love us like you do, and that you delight in the family God gave you.  We are so proud of you, we believe in you, and we love you so much.  I praise God for giving you the gracious gift of 60 years, and I pray that we get to enjoy you for many more.  Thank you for loving Him, and teaching us to as well.  You are so much fun, and we have made some great memories.  Happy birthday!!!  We love you!


Baby Shower Bliss

Well, the "pink party" was a success!  Kevin and I had quite a crazy but fun day Saturday with all the baking and last minute preparations.  It was well worth it, and such a fun way to celebrate the princess to be!

Traci, fully expressing her lively and creative side with pink accents in her hair, absolutely loved it and had so much fun being celebrated.  She was especially a fan of the flower poms, the banner, the diaper cake, and the cake pops.  Using my inspiration from the lovely blogging world,  I (WE - thank you Kevin!), made everything except the candy in the jars and the cupcakes (which her husband made).  The only bummer part was how hard it was to get a good picture of the table because of the sun shining in!

These are chocolate chip cookies made with the best recipe ever!  My high school youth minister's wife and a sweet friend of mine is known for these delicious cookies.  I'll be sure to share the recipe soon!

Well, bakerella definitely knows what she's talking about!  These cake pops were a hit.  I did use yellow cake mix though, and I incorporated the entire batch of homemade cream cheese frosting I made, which made them a little mushier inside than I would have liked.

Powder puff strawberry chex mix from chex.com.  I thought this  was a bit too tart, but the kids loved it!

I made a yummy pink fruit dip with an 8 oz. container of sour cream, a 3oz box of instant vanilla pudding, an 8 oz. container of cool whip, a splash of milk, and red food coloring.  Yum!
I found these bud vases for $1.99 at Michael's.  Love those peonies!

The branches were "Blessings for the Baby."  I had little note cards that guests could write sweet notes or prayers for the baby on.  The tray has strawberries and oreos covered with Wilton candy melts.  I also found some adorable pink pearl candy to sprinkle on the oreos.  Fun!

I loved that the diaper cake turned out.  However, I didn't totally follow the directions as far as buying the "swaddler" diapers.  The infant ones have blue on them, but you can't tell too much.

I mod podged a cute piece of scrapbook paper onto a $5.00 frame from Michael's.  Baby girl is looking quite cute!

Xavier and Armani helping their mommy unwrap her new chair that was a present from one of her customers at her coffee shop.

Kevin enjoyed the fruit of his labor by playing golf with my brother that afternoon.  He was such a huge help in putting all of it together!

Congratulations Traci!  Enjoy your new baby girl in only a couple weeks!


Endless Wonders of the iphone

This is the coolest thing.  I'm amazed...I couldn't stop watching!


Private Reward

You have got to listen to this message.  Actually, grab whoever is around you and listen to it together.  I have all kinds of thoughts swirling in my head about all the right words I could use to blog about how honest and powerful it is.  But (sigh), I'm tired.  And I'm honestly just finding it difficult to put all the words in the right order to describe my many thoughts...

Seriously though, this is par for the course for Erwin McManus' sermons.  He's crazy good at using the gifts God gave him, and he is certainly one of the 'heroes of the faith' for Kevin and me.  We listened to this one last night and were taken right back to how, from the beginning of our relationship, we've gotten fired up for life, ministry, God, and all that includes from the holy spirit's work in Erwin's life.  He is an unassuming man living an unbelievable life of ministry.  Check it out.  Keep in mind, he is eccentric, creative, and not afraid to be bold or messy.  Not exactly typical or predictable, but definitely refreshing, and certainly producing the fruit of great wisdom and service to God.  If you listen, you might want to take notes...and it will certainly take some pondering.  (FYI - Kevin says the one he listened to tonight is amazing as well.)

One of our favorite quotes from the sermon:

"The measurement of our life is not our need for public recognition, but private reward." 

Recommended summer reading:


"The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy"

While the process of planning the previously mentioned baby shower is filled with hope and fun, an entirely different reality is the one that has been tugging on my heart.  The other night I read a blog that many are familiar with called, "Bring the Rain."  I ended up sobbing for probably an hour as I read the beautiful, heart wrenching story of a mom who lost her baby girl two hours after she was born.   It's the story of a sweet gal named Angie, who's married to a guy in the Christian group, Selah.  Just last week her book, "I will Carry You," was released, telling the story of her "sacred dance of grief and joy."

I have thought about her story for two days, and have felt such sorrow for the moms who have lost a baby or a child.  I have many friends and family members who have suffered the kind of devastating loss that I can't even imagine, and whose children I have grieved for.  I have prayed and cried out to God for these women, pleading with Him to fill their wombs and overwhelm them with his mercy and healing.  And I know I can only offer so much encouragement, as it would be impossible for myself to come close to understanding their loss.  I've also read and listened to the stories of other godly women who have traveled down this road, like Molly Piper and Raechel Myers from Finding my Feet, as well as people in my own life, who have had to surrender all control while crying out and trusting completely in the Lord for strength.

In the meantime I've been having a conversation with God concerning the "whys" of the prevalence of this kind of loss, and the fear that tempts to plague my own heart while I'm in the praying stages of getting pregnant myself.  I have prayed for years that God would prepare my body and that of my husband's to be able to produce and deliver healthy babies, though I know I cannot plan and do not hold the future in my hands.  Knowing that fear does not come from God and I am called to trust him completely, I know that I must pray for the Holy Spirit to give me the ability to surrender.

Reading the story of Angie's precious baby girl, Audrey Caroline, was a powerful experience for my heart.  It has filled me with a soul stirring perspective on the journey of being carried by God in times of seemingly unbearable pain.  She has beautifully written the conversations she has had with God, and shares through her story what peace that passes all understanding, a product of God's faithfulness, truly looks like.  It is painful to read the specific vulnerability and honesty of this mother's grief, as I feel such deep sadness for the loss of this sweet baby girl.  Yet it is also unexplainably comforting to see the way Angie shares God's hand of faithfulness in the midst of it all.  Their story exudes the peace that comes only from our strong and steady God who does not change.  The stories from these godly women have brought forth the truth that while we consistently endure the highest of highs and the lowest of lows throughout our lives, He remains the same.  His promises do not change, his love does not falter or waiver, he continues to hold us as close as ever before, and He is always drawing us into his presence.  His grace alone covers all the ugliness that is endured while here on earth.  And he alone knows how he will carry us through.  Audrey's beautiful story is one that speaks of surrendering to this truth.  She is just one of the many beautiful little ones who are desperately missed here on earth, but are now dancing with our Father in heaven.

 I pray today for my own heart and the hearts in all of us, that through every moment and any kind of fear, grief, sorrow, loss, or pain, we would clearly see, know, and believe in the absolute fullness of God.  And that we would know the inexpressible and glorious joy that comes from doing so until we can stand before him and enjoy the promise of no longer knowing the experience of pain.

And I sincerely pray for God's love to pour out on each and every woman with a child waiting in heaven.  I pray that God would provide the strength they need to persevere until the joyful day when they will reunite with their precious little ones.  And until then, that He would pull them close and graciously pour out an unexplainable joy.

Pink Party Progress

Well, the baby shower is almost one week away, so my prep time for this pretty, pink princess party is quickly fading.  Thankfully I found a few more beautiful inspirations to help me with my very amateur party planning skills. 

 I have a lot of work ahead of me in the next few days, but I just keep reminding myself to keep it simple and sweet...and within budget!   I haven't quite settled on the favors, and I am still trying to decide on the perfect crafty gift to make.  I would gladly take suggestions!  I'm just excited to celebrate this little gal - better known now as the "princess in progress" - who will join her 4 brothers in a just a little over a month!

Anthropologie Pink Birthday - Kara's Party Ideas

Princess Party - Kara's Party Ideas

Anthropologie Pink Birthday - Kara's Party Ideas

Pink Elephant Party - Hostess With the Mostess

Pink Princess Cupcakes - The Decorated Cookie

Pretty Princess Tea Party - Kara's Party Ideas
(I found a great tutorial on how to make tissue paper pom flowers at Design Dazzle)

Diaper Cake - Made by Jill


Tea Time

(Sontu tea cup and saucer by eva designs)

I haven't had coffee for 3 1/2 days.  (But who's counting??)  I think Starbucks sent out a search team, but I can't be quite sure.  It's quite a shock to the system, but I'm actually doing just fine.  I reached a breaking point Monday when I felt absolutely awful and exhausted, so I came home and drank my weight in water, then decided to stick with that and tea for the rest of the week.   I've done this "cold turkey coffee intervention" twice before.  It takes about two weeks of headaches and hot flashes, and then it's not too bad.  To get me through,  I simply move on to tea.  Which, as made obvious by my previous post, I'm a big fan of.  An added bonus - it's much cheaper than coffee.  Well, my idea of coffee, which is a lovely, lovely latte.  But any old tea just won't do.  First of all, you have to know what you're going for.  Black tea has the most caffeine, green tea is filled with antioxidants, and white tea is light as well as a great anti-bacterial for the body.

(loose leaf teapot from Gabriel Teas)

(picture from Nashville Tea Bar)

I think the flavor of loose tea is the best, but for a great tasting, inexpensive tea I love the "Stash" brand at the grocery store.  My basic yardstick for measuring the quality of tea is by whether or not you feel like you have to put anything in it!  The following are my favorite flavors.  (Who knew Chai came in so many different varieties!)

I will say that when I'm trying to lose weight, several cups of straight green tea a day have helped a lot.  (Kinda might be why I'm getting back into it?!  Some people have baby weight...I have the "first year teacher 10"!)  Plain green tea can be a little earthy, which is why I like it in one of these flavors, because it seems a little sweeter.  And Starbucks has a great green tea you can get on ice.  Again, not nearly as rich and luxurious, but much cheaper than my beloved Caramel Machiatto!  Also, you can get a minty hot tea there called "Refresh," and it's so "happy" tasting that it kind of makes me want to laugh when I drink it.  Crazy, but true.

When Kevin and I visited Asheville, NC in the Fall, (loved it by the way!), we stopped at a cute and wonderful shop called "The Spice and Tea Exchange."  They sell all kinds of wonderful and unique, well, spices and tea!  It looks like they have one in several different places, so definitely check it out if you live close.  Unfortunately we don't, but we do have the cutest little place called Sisters Tea Parlor that I was blessed to attend last year for the 13 yr. old birthday party of a sweet little friend of mine.  It was absolutely adorable.  We all put on these big, fun hats, and ordered personal little pots of teas with flavors like "Almond Cookie" and "Belgian Chocolate," which came wrapped in cute little tea covers.  And the food was delicious.  So much fun!  I so wish I had pictures of that sweet tea party.  I'm normally not a frilly girl, but these kind of frills are too fabulous!  The younger girls at the party were loving it too.  This is a great idea for any kind of girly get together!  Oh the lovely lost art of tea.  Here's to bringing back "tea time!"