Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Happy New Year

And just like that.....another year has ticked by and it;s time to turn to a fresh page.  Just writing that sentence makes me want to buy a new calendar and pull out my rainbow fine tipped Sharpies and get busy planning my life!   Hello 2019.

Last night the kids had a little party at the house.  They each had a friend or two over and we had pizza, a chocolate fountain, toasted the New Year with Sparkling Cider and sprayed confetti in the Living Room.  Those were the highlights. 

There were so pretty low spots in the night too.  Tears were shed.  But being surrounded with friends made it bearable.

Such is life.  Highs.  Lows.  Fun.  Sorrow.  Relationships

Each new year I can't help but think of how to make the coming year better.  What to do....I mean I need to eat right, exercise, clean my house better, manage my money better, take more time for myself, study God's Word more, serve others more, care for extended family more, and read more and blog more and make more memories and disciple my kids better......and go more places and do more things......It's a bit overwhelming to be such a hot mess.  Oh and as I glance around my cluttered bedroom I'm remind I definitely need a better laundry plan and should certainly pack rather then blog.  I'm moving in 3 weeks people!

As I was talking to an acquaintance a couple weeks ago about how delicious the coffee creamer I was indulging in made the coffee I was drinking I said jokingly that I may make it my New Years resolution to drink coffee with creamer every afternoon.  I joked that may be one I can keep.  Except the more I think about it the more sure I am sure that I wouldn't keep that resolution either.  I am absolutely sure I can't even manage to do something I love everyday.  That is just how I am.  I'm not lazy, well I sorta am, but I'm also sorta a boss at accomplishing tons each day.....its just not everything.  It's just not everyday.  I'm just a total work in progress.

So this years resolutions are a little more general.  I want to exercise more then I did last year and lucky for me I set the bar low with very little exercise last year.  I probably averaged once a month....so if I did once a week I'd be killing it, but even once every other week would be an improvement!

Last year I resolved to read more books, and I did read more, but not counting the Bible....
I read:
What was Mine
12 Ways Your Smartphone is Changing You
Women of the Word
and am almost finished reading:
Therefore I have Hope: 12 truths that comfort, sustain, and redeem in tragedy
That is only almost 5 in a year.....so I can probably do better this year.

But really this year I don't even want to focus so much on what I'm doing, but rather who I'm becoming.  I want to be a more mature woman of God.  I want to KNOW God's word better.  I want to be kinder and more patient with my family.  For this to happen I'm going to have to be more sanctified and that will only happen by the washing of myself in His Word.  So last year I just wanted to finish reading the whole Bible, but this year I want to really study books of the Bible.  I want to memorize passages from the Bible.  That is all that will change me.  I'm too halfway.  I'm too chill.  I'm too sinful.  I can't change on my own, but I can keep growing in the Lord and he can keep chipping away the rough edges.  So the process continues.....

Happiest of New Years to all of you.  I wish you all clean houses, great health, fabulous bodies, fat bank accounts, and dream vacations.  But in reality I know this year may be filled with love, happiness, riches, joy, tragedy, heartache, poverty, or sorrow I have no idea, probably a sprinkling of it all.  I do know that God is faithful.  I do know that he loves me and has a beautiful plan for each of our lives.  Let us walk in it.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Big News!

I really am thankful I've blogged over the years.  There are times, I've probably shared too much and displayed too much of our life to the world, but I honestly have thoroughly enjoyed being able to look back over the years.  Things get busy with 5 kids and life zips by fast and I really don't have a great memory anyway, so this blog, this space I've shared our lives, our photos, and our stories of God's faithfulness has been a treasure to me.

It gets tricky as the kids get older.  I'm excited and I want to share so much of what is happening in each of their lives, but I also want to honor their confidences and I don't want to share anything that would make others feel left out.  I also don't want to come across as prideful or as having it all together.  I will tell you now, I don't have it together at all.  I don't mind sharing some of my struggles, but I'm very guarded in sharing my kids and others struggles.  I don't think that is my stuff to share, so I do share the highlights for the most part.  Trust me.....the people I live with don't have it together......and neither do I.   I don't think they are perfect but I sure do love them and I know I'm not perfect either!  So this blog is honest and its real and I do my best to make it unscripted, but its not everything.  Its a snapshot.

My children LOVE to read my blog, when they are bored, especially Lyds and Audrey.  They are constantly begging me to blog.  So I am thinking that I may give it another whirl.  I was telling Lydia, the problem was I really have nothing left to say.....she assured me that I did and encouraged me to blog.....for a record of our family history.  So.....here it goes.

First I'll do a super quick intro because it has been so long......

Randy is still working for the City as a building inspector.  He is not running right now due to a pretty persistent injury, but hopes to ease back into his routine in the new year.  He is still a coffee loving Steelers' fanatic and excited about an opportunity he has to work with a specially selected group of individuals chosen by the city for their innovation to help solve problems.  I'm really proud of him!  Oh, and now he wears bifocals, so that is exciting!

I am home full time now, as working full time and caring for the kids and trying to help with my extended families needs was a strain on me.  I am LOVING being home and being able to minister better to my people and to others.  I still love ERA and may return there at a different season in my life, but I am happy to still be connected through the kids.  ERA is a wonderful school filled with wonderful people, many of whom I consider dear friends.  I spend my days doing laundry, cooking, cleaning, and driving.

Andrew is a junior in college.  He is going to be 21 in a couple weeks which is CRAZY!   I can honestly say 3 John 1:4 is TRUTH.  "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in truth."  Andrew is making major life decisions in the coming weeks. Decisions that could take him far from home for extended times, decisions about life and career and I can honestly say I am totally at peace.  He loves the Lord and he is seeking his will and consulting wise counsel and that brings me such peace and such joy and such assurance.  I am excited that I get a front row seat to his life!

Sophia is a 15 year old sophomore in high school.  She is an excellent student.  She has her permit!  She is swimming for her schools swim team and is spending her free time working very hard on a Congressional Award.  She is a life guard at Duke and a social butterfly.

Jackson is 12....almost 13.  He is in seventh grade.  He is really enjoying playing basketball for his school and spends most of his free time shooting hoops and eating cereal.  He has matured so much this last year!  It is very fun to see!  One of my favorite things about him is how he is not self conscious.  He is who he is and he is not one bit ashamed.  I love that and hope it never changes!  He's enjoying having Andrew home for Christmas and I love hearing Jackson parrot Andrew, "Is it luck or is it God's providence?"

Lydia is also 12.....and almost 13.  She too is in seventh grade and playing basketball for the school.  She is not shy, but she is the quietest Stewart.  She is also the only Stewart that will have a room to themselves in the new house (more on that later).  She really enjoys creating a beautiful space.  She makes our dinner table beautiful.  She keeps her room beautiful.  She adds little touches to life that just make things special.  Even her penmanship is beautiful!

Audrey is 11.  She is in the sixth grade.  She is an absolute hoot.  She has such a quick wit and is hilarious. She still loves blankets, dogs, and anything soft.  She is in a singing group at school.....at least I guess that is what you would call it.....maybe they are a comedy troupe.....I'm really not sure.  They call themselves The Ugly Ducklings.  It is made up of Audrey and 2 of her very cute friends.  They do concerts during recess.  They have quite the following.  It is actually too funny!  They are on Instagram, have recently been sponsored by a fellow classmate, and enjoy signing autographs.

Mindy is our almost 11 year old golden.  She has arthritis and is really slowing down.  She is as sweet as can be.  She likes to eat, take naps on the sofa, sit in the sun, and be rubbed.

Duke is our cousin dog.  We have been dog sitting him since September and he will return home in January.  He is a huge and energetic 2 year old Bernese Mountain Dog and Poodle mix.  Duke likes to eat socks, chase rabbits, bark at delivery people, and wrestle.  The kids love him and are very sad he is leaving.  .  I think Mindy will miss him too.

The big news is......

Randy and I have been wanting to move to Hillsborough.  I spend a lot of time driving back and forth to school and it seems so much of our life is in Hillsborough now.  So we started looking and thought we had found our dream home.  It was a short sale and seemed too good to be true.  We spent several weeks chasing that dream, but in the end decided to move across the street to a smaller home on a smaller lot that cost more money but was move in ready.  We put the house under contract on Saturday. Our house is already sold and we are planning to move by the end of January.  So if I do decided to resurrect this blog....it will mostly be about moving in the coming days!

We have moved a lot in our years of marriage.  When Randy and I first married we lived in a cute yellow house in Wilmington, NC.  A few years later we moved to Oxford, NC and lived in an old farm house on a piece of property that the Stewart's owned while we built our first house in Durham.  About every two years we would build and move, one of the joys of being married to a builder.  Moving was a great way to make money....Neff Street, Lipscomb Drive, Callahan Circle, Garcia Drive, Old Buggy Trail, Bivins, and then Fox Run Court.  When we got to Fox Run Court we had 5 kids under 10 and I was exhausted and we stayed put, for about 10 years.  Then 2 years ago we built a home right next door and that is the home we currently live in.  We thought we may stay in this house forever.....but it was just a couple years.  This will be house #11 in our 22.4 years of marriage!

I am spending an average of 2 hours going to and from school each day.  It is only 20 minutes away, but 3 round trips....drop off, pick up, sports pick up.....adds up quickly.  If one of the kids forgets something, or has an appointment, or there is an after school performance, it can quickly turn into 4 trips.......So we are going to cut the commute down to a 90 second commute and I am thrilled!

So as Christmas kicks into full gear I am trying to focus on the festivities and the joy and the food and the family, but to be honest I am also making lists.....of everything that needs to be done between now and January 22!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018


Fall Break turned out to be a much longer break than I anticipated!  In fact, mine started last Tuesday.  The kids returned home from our church youth retreat the Sunday before and were filled with stories and overflowing with excitement, but they were also fairly exhausted.  So when I heard Audrey had fallen asleep at the end of the day IN CLASS, I attributed it to exhaustion.  However, she woke the next morning with headache, stomach ache, fever and so I ended up being home with her Tuesday and Wednesday.  She rested and I spent much of the day catching up on household chores and decorating for fall.  I used to always decorate at the change of seasons, but had kind of quit over the last few years, but being home unexpectedly and with Audrey's persistent encouragement I made the trek to the attic and actually really enjoyed decorating.  We even lit candles!  I love being home.

Audrey started to feel better on Wednesday and we probably would have made it back to school, but school ended up being canceled for the impending Hurricane Michael on Thursday.  So we were all home and Thursday, we did NOTHING except sit around and talk and eat and watch TV and chill and nap and it was a fantastic day.  Friday, would have probably been a 2 hour delay, but since our fall break was slated to start on Friday and we were only scheduled to have a half day, school was canceled on Friday as well!  Friday was a fun day!  I took the kids to breakfast at Grub.  We ate on the rooftop.  It was great.  Then we ran to get Lydia a prop for her halloween costume.  Sophia was anxious to take some pictures on her new camera, so we walked around downtown and took pics of Lydia and Audrey.  Jackson had all the fun he could handle so he pleaded to be dropped off at home first.  We had to get home because I had a doctor appointment.  It was a pretty low key day.  I enjoyed being outside with the kids, just enjoying them.  We got home and I fixed dinner and we had a nice quiet evening.

Saturday we slept in a bit and then I ran Sophia over to the Caring Center at church where she is volunteering.  While she was there I made a quick trip to Costco and washed my van and cleaned it out.  After I unloaded the car and finished cleaning, I went to pick Sophia up and dropped her off at home to grab some lunch and a shower.  While she did that I gassed up the van and vacuumed it out at the car wash.  Then I picked Sophia up and we headed to the Starbucks in Wake Forest.  Sophia was meeting with a friend of mine in Wake Forest that is advising her as she works towards a Congressional Award.  While they met I sat outside and enjoyed an iced latte and my current book.

SIDENOTE: I'm currently reading a book by a guy named Cameron Cole.  It's called Therefore I Have Hope: 12 Truths that Comfort, Sustain, & Redeem, in Tragedy.  I'm only on Chapter 3, but I like it and I wish I had read it before Matthew died.

ANOTHER SIDENOTE: While I was sitting there reading I was also inadvertently eavesdropping on the 2 people next to me. As the guy shared about his search for a church, I continued to think he would LOVE our church.  As I sat in Wake Forest listening to this 20 something seeking church in Durham....I felt compelled to tell him about mine.  I think I must be officially old.  I butted into their conversation and admitted I had been eavesdropping and proceeded to encourage him to checkout FBC.  I NEVER would have done that even a couple years ago!

After Sophia finished her meeting we raced back to Durham and  on the way back I got to talk to ANDREW!

LAST SIDENOTE:  I MISS ANDREW SO MUCH!  I have not seen him since he left for school in mid August and I still have to wait another month to see him!  I love to hear from him though.  He had a one day fall break and was able to spend it in the beautiful Shenandoah National Park with his Campus Outreach Group, so I know he had a great time.  He is a Junior at American and studying finance.  He is doing very well in his classes this semester and really enjoying his studies.  He is in leadership with Campus Outreach and he loves the Lord and this brings such joy to me.  I truly love to see him walk with the Lord.  I am so thankful that he is not wasting his college years.  I LOVE that he spends time in the word, and that he meets with other guys to study God's word, and that he witnesses to the lost and disciples and is discipled.  I love that he goes to church.  I love that he is in small group with people of various ages and stages of life.  I was not doing that at his age and I am so thankful for the work of God in his life!  It is so encouraging to me.  I just want him to come home, so I can see him!  He is currently working for Door Dash a food delivery company and he really likes it because he creates his own schedule and that gives him flexibility with his school, church, Campus Outreach, etc.  He also plays lots of cards.  He plays poker, and bridge, and spades.....lots of cards and movies.  He loves movies.

ANYWAY.......As soon as we got back to Durham, Randy, Sophia, her friend, and Jackson headed to Lynchburg.  They spent the rest of the day at SCAREMARE.  They loved it and Randy wants us to all go next year!  They all agreed that it is legitimately scary.  Randy's only suggestion is that at the end of the house they have a sheep and goat exit.  Randy!  While they were at SCAREMARE, Lydia had a couple of her friends over for dinner and ice cream and Audrey had her cousin over for a sleepover.

Sunday we went to church, grabbed lunch, I cooked for Home Fellowship, and I read and talked with the girls about the BOYS chapter in our Girl Talk book.  Then we headed to Home Fellowship.  I love Home Fellowship and this semester we are working through the book of Philippians, which I also love.  Home Fellowship ended with Jackson having an impromptu sleepover.  It was short but sweet.  The girls and I headed home and watched Switched at Birth while Randy headed to bed early, still exhausted from his day trip to Lynchburg.

Monday and Tuesday were our actual planned fall break days.  Monday Jackson had an early morning dentist appointment and then he and I ran a couple errands.  He needed pants that fit.  I also treated him to breakfast at Chick fil a.  It was free!  He got a biscuit, hash brown, and lemonade all for free!  I enjoyed my morning with Jackson.  He is growing into such a kind and thoughtful guy.  I sure am proud of him.  He was anxious to get home and get outside, so I took him home and picked up Audrey and Lydia.  They were both in desperate need of pants that fit.  They have grown a ton since last year!  So I took them to get jeans and leggings.  Our trip to Kohl's proved successful!  Then we headed home to get ready for Sophia's volleyball game.  The game was in Cary and they played a very evenly matched team.  They were able to pull out a victory winning 3 out of 4 sets.  This team has been such a sweet blessing.  The coaches and the girls....it has been a fun and drama free year and my girls are all super sad that today is their last game!  Most of the team was able to go to dinner at Chick-fil-a last night to celebrate the victory!  It was fun!

Today is our last official day of fall break!  I woke up a little sad.  I think I'm mourning a little over volleyball ending.  It has been such a sweet and fun season.  I think I'm a little sad over a relationship that is painful and I'm not sure how or if to pursue, because it hurts.  I like to fix, but sometimes I think maybe I don't need to fix things.  Sometimes things break for a reason.

OKAY REALLY THE LAST SIDENOTE: I read this quote yesterday and could really identify with it, "I have a happy personality with a heavy soul.  Sometimes it gets weird."  Cracks me up!

And I think I'm a little sad, because I don't think I invest enough in things of eternal value into my kids.  I think I get swept up in the dailiness of life and I'm not sure how to do it better and more on purpose with so much that needs to be done.  So today's plan is that we are going to spend it cleaning up the mess we have made!   I see a day filled with laundry!  We are going to get ready for our week ahead. However, we do have one last volleyball game to look forward to tonight.  It's Charlotte's senior night too, so that will be fun!  I'm looking forward to celebrating that sweet girl.  Dinner tonight will be leftovers and alarms will be set.  I do want to do the Girl Talk chapter on Modesty with the girls today too.  School starts early tomorrow.  We have 2 days and then we are cutting out Friday and heading to the fair! We plan to spend the morning as a family at the fair and then to let the kids spend the evening running around with friends.  It's been a good break.  It's been nice and rejuvenating.  I'm looking forward to seeing my work friends and the sweet kids at school.  I'm thankful for such a great place to work, where my kids are learning so much and enjoying such sweet people and have such amazing teachers.

I am blessed.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Stingray Story

Sunday morning was beautiful. The sun was shining the air was warm and we were at the beach with our family.  The Winn kids had come with us and we were looking forward to meeting up with the Aucoin’s and Taylor’s later that day. We went out to the beach around 9:00 and we had spent hours in the ocean. We had probably gone through 2 bottles of sunscreen. We had just finished lunch. We were expecting the Aucoin’s and Jackson W. at any minute. Sophia, Aubrey, Audrey, and Jackson S. had just walked back to the beach house and were coming right back. Lydia and Braden had just run back out to the ocean. I had settled into a beach chair and Randy and Micah were walking out to join Lydia and Braden in the waves....the next thing I knew they were walking back. Randy was carrying Lydia. I thought they were so cute. Then something of panic flashed on Micah’s face. Something was wrong. As they walked closer I heard this terrible scream coming from Lydia. My soft spoken little girl was screaming. She was wild with pain. I panicked. I couldn’t think. We had assumed it was a jellyfish. Then we looked at it. There was a jagged hole and blood. Randy said that is not a jellyfish. I told Randy to run back home and to get a car. Hurry! Micah and Randy took off. It was Braden and I alone. Lydia screaming.  Call 911 flashed in my head. I scrambled for my phone. A crowd of people were gathering.  Mama’s were shooing children out of the ocean.  A lady walked over she offered help. She gave us ice. She placed her hands on Lydia and started to pray. Her husband helped me give the 911 dispatcher directions to where we were. Lydia was screaming. Then I saw the Aucoin’s.  I asked Amanda to watch the kids. Randy was back, Brent had taken him to get a car. There was the lifeguard. His radio was alerting him to a beach emergency, 12 year old female....and he was already there. The EMT came. They said something about barb in her foot. Stingray. Venom. They couldn’t do anything for the pain.  She was still screaming. She was begging them to help her. She was scared. A truck came they put Lydia in and I jumped in and they drove us to the road where an ambulance was waiting. We were whisked to the nearest hospital a half hour away in Morehead City. On the way I started to cry. It was so sad to see Lydia in so much pain. I just lost it, which made Lydia even more upset. So I quickly composed myself and did my best to comfort her. Lydia was overwhelmed with the pain from the venom. Heat brought her only comfort and it didn’t bring much, but did seem to take the edge off. She said it throbbed and it just hurt so bad. She cried and pleaded with the EMT to please give her something.....ibuprofen....anything. They told her there was nothing that would take the pain away. Heat was the best they could offer! Slowly over the next hour and a half the pain eased. Within 2 hours she was like a different person. It was amazing the transformation. So they did an X-ray and were all very happy to learn the sting ray had not left behind any fragments and they prescribed an antibiotic to preventninfection and gave us information on caring for a puncture wound and sent us on our way. We were back to the beach in time to greet the Taylor’s. Lydia was bandaged and in socks but doing amazingly well.

As I reflected in the adventure which began just before noon and concluded around 3:00....I marveled at God’s hand. He could not have orchestrated things better. Randy was right there when Lydia was stung so he was immediately able to assist her. Braden did not get stung. He was right beside Lydia, but his Mama was in Durham. That would have been a nightmare! God had us setup camp right beside a Christian. She came and offered help and ice but brought comfort and peace. Lydia kept talking about that lady with the warm hands and how much it helped her to have her praying and placing her hands on her. Randy and I were at the beach with 7 kids. Amanda and Brent arrived at exactly the right moment. They took over all the supervision. They drove Randy to get his car. It could not have worked out better. The lifeguard just “happened” to be right beside us as he got the call about Lydia. He was already there! The EMT was there right after the lifeguard arrived. They were able to remove the barb in the beach. It was crazy timing. When we got to the hospital she was put right in a room. She was taken directly to X-ray. There were no complications. She was in and out and okay!

Interestingly, Lydia had shared with some of the kids the night before that one of her biggest fears was being bitten or stung by something in the ocean. I was telling her how brave I think she is. Christ allowed this to happen and I marvel at how he went before her and am humbled by the great love he showed in his abundant provision for her in the midst of a tramatic situation. God is good and now she has a great story to share!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Teacher Appreciation

This week I have been OVERWHELMED with the love and gifts and sweet words showered on me during teacher appreciation week.  I have been simply overwhelmed with the generosity of the parents and kids at ERA.  My mind however keeps going back to my friends.  So many sweet Mama friends that are daily pouring out their lives in an attempt to not only raise their children well, but also to educate them well.  I remember well my homeschooling years.  I remember the sacrifice.  I remember the dailiness.  I remember the wondering and worrying if this was the biggest mistake of my life and I definitely remember thinking, "What about me?" during teacher appreciation week.  Does anyone know what I'm doing?  Does it matter?  Does anyone care?  Can anyone understand?  I remember longing for just one teacher workday.  I remember wishing I could get a pay check for the sacrifice and work I was putting in, and I think that is part of what made it so overwhelming.  I remember longing for the school bus to please, just this once stop at my house.  I longed for an acknowledgement of the work I was doing.  I was hungry for just a bit of validation.  I wanted to hear that I was doing a good job, I wanted to know that I was making a difference.  So my heart wants you sweet Mama's to know.  You are my people.  You are my best friends.  You are my soul sisters.  What you are doing matters!  Your kids are awesome!  You are doing such a good job!  I mean this sincerely.  You ladies are in the trenches daily.  I know a bunch of kids and some of my all time favorites are yours.  Keep going.  Keep putting in the hours.  Keep slogging through the math books.  I appreciate you ladies more then you know and am amazed at you!  I think you are fabulous!

So if you want some chocolate....stop by my house.....I have a truck load.  I'm keeping the gift cards!  I will share the apple knickknacks and home baked treasures.....and I'll even share some flowers.  First come first serve!  But friends mostly remember you are laying up treasure.  Your good works that are not seen by others are seen by our heavenly Father and not one of them will go unrewarded.  Not one.  Keep doing the good work to which He has called you.  You are doing a work with eternal value.  Yeah...some homeschoolers give the rest a bad name.....you are not those.  You sweet friends are rocking it.  You are awesome and I love you and I hope you know one day your kids will appreciate you.  My 20 year old son that was mostly homeschooled, says now how thankful he is for that season and how he felt like it was for his best.....so even though I'm in a different chapter of life now and I have a different calling that I love and am thrilled with....I don't regret the years I put in.....and you won't either.  I hope your families celebrate you all BIG TIME tomorrow, you deserve it!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

My Tattoo

So if you have not heard.....I got a tattoo.

So far I've been asked 2 questions....

1. Did it hurt?


2.  What's the deal with Brave <3?

I can't really answer  that question very succinctly in the church foyer or over Easter lunch, but I'm so glad people ask and I don't mind sharing.  I'm much better at articulating my thoughts in writing than I am at expressing myself with the spoken word....so here is the story behind the Brave <3 tattoo.

A couple years ago I realized that a lot of my sentences began with the words, "I'm afraid....." followed by varies fears that ranged from fear of hurting someone's feelings to fear of catastrophe and pretty much everything in between.  I begin to actively examine why I was so afraid.  I realized my first memory of real fear....besides watching the Wizard of Oz and seeing the Wicked Witch and her crazy monkeys......was when I was about 11 years old.  My family received a terrifying phone call.  My little cousin, my beautiful, sweet 8 year old cousin was kidnapped.  I'm not going into the details, because it is not my story to share, but I will say it was terrifying.  She was kidnapped by a stranger when she got off the school bus.  After that happened I was very afraid to go outside.  I was afraid to ride the school bus.  I was afraid of being kidnapped.  What was a very unlikely event, in my mind became a very real possibility.  My cousin did live but what happened that day changed a lot of lives even a 12 year old girls.  I knew fear.  I knew monsters were real.  I never really felt safe outside again, especially alone.  Ever.

Then when I was in college fear came again.  Without going into much detail I will just say that a very close relative was violently attacked by 4 men in the wee hours of the morning while she was doing a newspaper delivery for a friend of hers that was out of town.  I got a phone call that woke me from a dead sleep.  I lived in an apartment with this person during college and she was crying and telling me where she was and I was confused and scared.  The men were arrested.  They were tried and put in jail.  However, I again realized how unsafe the world was.  It was very unsafe.  Disaster seemed to lurk around every corner.

About this time I became obsessed with crime TV.  Forensic Files, Law and Order, 48 Hours and anything like it.  I never knew why I was so intrigued with these shows but I watched them regularly at bedtime.  Which is creepy....and I knew it was creepy....but I was really drawn to these shows for some reason.  Years later my counselor told me she suspected I watched these shows in an effort to be prepared.  I had been surprised by some bad and terrifying things in life and if I watched these shows enough and mentally covered all the possibilities I would be ready when tragedy came calling....I wouldn't be surprised.......except I wasn't....

When I was 25 and a young mother to Andrew, who was 3 and expecting Matthew...he died.....inside me....right before he was born.  He was a fully formed baby.  He had fingers, toes, hair......I had no idea that could happen.  I was so unprepared.  I wanted him.  If a baby could die inside a healthy, young, white, American, middle class woman....was the world safe at all.....He died from a "random" knot in his umbilical cord.  A few years after Matthew died.....Sophia was born.  The doctors promised Sophia would not have a knot in her cord.  That it was a random tragedy that happened with Matthew.  Well Sophia did have a knot in her umbilical cord and she also had it wrapped around her neck twice.  The doctor was wrong.  God was in control.  Not doctors.  God allowed Matthew to die and Sophia to live.  It was not random.  What kind of God was this?  My trust was growing but this God was terrifying.  He was so unpredictable.

Every pregnancy was wracked with fear.  Yet God protected the twins and they were born 5 years after Matthew died on exactly the same day, February 10.  God was in control and not only that but he was in the details....and he loved me.  He took a day that meant nothing to the world but everything to my broken heart and he redeemed it.  This scary God was loving.

Then Audrey was born 6 weeks early with a fever.  She was sick, very sick.  I will never forget the absolute shock that came over me when the doctor came in shortly after she was born and informed us that they needed to do a spinal tap on our baby and see why she had a fever.  They suspected it was because the doctor forgot to give antibiotics to me during the delivery and I was a Group B strep carrier.  So I had passed that on to my tiny 6 week early baby girl.  No Lord.  Not her.  Don't take my baby.  I knew he could and he did allow babies to die.  I was scared.  But God did not take her.  He let her live.  In fact her birthday is in a few short hours!  God is good.

And then my brother went off to the war in Iraq.  Your baby brother in a war will do a number on you.  Then one day my Dad called and told me Matt had been in an accident.  His vehicle had run over an IED.  He was being flown to Germany.  He was alive but injured.  It's all kinda a blur but healed and came home for a little while and won a purple heart and awards for valor.....and then he went back to finish his tour.  I couldn't believe he went back.  He was home.  He was safe.  He didn't have to go back.  He went back.  That is the kind of guy he is.  He finished his tour.  I was so proud of him and I was so scared.  However, he came home.  God protected his life.

By now I was fully immersed in the busyness of motherhood.  I was busy and afraid.  Afraid kidnappers lurked outside my house and regularly cruised our cul de sac.  Afraid of my kids being hurt.  Afraid they would die.  When Andrew was diagnosed with Premature Ventricular Contractions that originated in an unusual part of his heart I was petrified.  It could be something he outgrew or it could be something that may cause issues and require treatment.  We could only watch and only wait and see.  Talk about terror.  I knew the world was not safe.  I just had to wait.  Those crazy heartbeats that happened every 3 beats when he was a 4 year old child disappeared when he was about 15 as quickly and randomly as they appeared.  My fear changed nothing but robbed me of a lot of sleep and peace.  God was in control.  I was not.

Yet God persisted in showing me how little control I had.  Randy was a project manager for a builder when the market crashed.  He lost his job.  It was an unsettling time.  I was a stay at home mom with 5 young children.  My husband did not have a job and was looking for a job and the building market had just entered into the deepest recession since the Great Depression.  Nobody was hiring builders or project managers....nobody.  It was 7 long months of unemployment.  But God used that time to teach me he was in control and he loved me.  He would provide for us in that time through the generosity of others in the most unusual and creative ways.  We were given bags of clothes regularly.  We were given gift cards and groceries and money.  We even won a shopping spree at a shoe store when our kids needed shoes.  Our neighbors even gave us a car during this time.  God did not abandon us.  God did not forget us.  He provided for us lavishly.  God grew my faith and trust in him as I realized I could do nothing but rest in him.  I could not fix this.  Yet he could be trusted.

Through all of this God has wooed me and taught me that I can trust him.  So the Brave is not because I am brave but it is just a reminder that I can be brave.  I don't have to be afraid.  I KNOW now that God does allow tragedy and sorrow and bad stuff but I KNOW he only allows it if he names it good and to bring himself glory.  So I can trust him.  The heart is to remind me that he loves me. He has been faithful.  He has not kept everything safe and secure but he has been there every single step of the way. Everything he does he does out of his great love for me.  So no, I don't really have a brave heart but I'm learning to not be afraid.  I'm learning to trust a loving God and to let go of living in fear.  I'm learning to speak the truth and not be afraid of having a thought or an opinion or a belief.

So.....I started thinking about this tattoo a loooonnng time ago.  I told myself I didn't need to get a tattoo.  This could all be true without a tattoo.  So I debated whether or not to get it.  I did not want to aid in the delinquency of youth.  Sophia was so excited about me getting a tattoo she thought that meant as soon as she turned 18 she could get one.  I guess she can.  I hope she won't.  I did that too.  Got a tattoo when I was 18....and I hate it.  So kids....take it from me....wait......wait longer then you want.  You can always get a tattoo......  I told Sophia she could get one when she is 43!  I put a lot of thought into this tattoo and asked Randy if he cared.  He was fine with it.  I love my tattoo I love the visual reminder.  When I look down, which I do when I'm feeling insecure I see it.  It is a reminder of who He is and what He has done and it reminds me to speak and to share Him with others.  I can be brave because he can be trusted.

That is why I insisted on the tattoo facing me.  The tattoo artist said it was considered backwards.  I told him the tattoo was for me, not for others, so I needed to be able to read it.

However, having some random word on my foot seemed a bit weird....but then I thought how cool it would be if it was in my Mama's handwriting.  Then I could still have her handwriting with me when I didn't have her.  When I had that idea I really got excited about having the tattoo.  You see my Mama is brave too.  So Mama wrote Brave and drew a heart and the tattoo artist made a stencil from it and then traced it onto my foot.

So that it what my tattoo is about!

Thanks for asking!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Saturday Ramblings.....

So I haven't written a rambling post in a while and one of my goals for the new year is to get back to blogging, so today I'm going to ramble.

I'll start by saying it feels so good to have everyone feeling well!  I've had some sick kiddos and honestly have not been feeling too well myself.  So hallelujah we are all well!!!

This morning dawned early.....well early-ish....It wasn't workweek early, which is 5:15, but it was Saturday early, which is 7:00.  Lydia had to be out the door headed to Greensboro by 7:30.  She and her friend Elenore are part of the team representing Eno River Academy in the Science Olympiad.  They are the, "Road Scholars".  So they have put many hours of study and training into preparing for todays competition and I'm hoping that they have a great time and do their best at the competition today!  Randy and Ellie's dad accompanied the girls!  I can't wait to hear about how it goes!

Sophia also had to be out relatively early....8:00....to get to DRIVER'S ED!!?!?!!  Class didn't start until 9:00, but I wanted to check out a bakery.....so we left at 8:00.

Durham has a lot of bakeries.....and I've only been to a few....so I made a list of ones I need to check out or check out again....I included a few in Hillsborough too since that is my new home away from home.....
If you guys know of any I need to add to my list please let me know!

Here is my list:
The French Corner Bakery
Ninth Street Bakery (have not been here but have had a lot of their products.....yummmm!)
Guglhupf  (been here)
Mad Hatter Cafe (been here)
Rise (been here)
Rose's Meat and Sweet Shop
All Day Cafe
Cup-A-Joe (been here)
Weaver Street (been here)

Today Sophia, Audrey, and I went to Loaf.  Jackson was still asleep, but I did bring home a little coffee cake for him to try.

Sophia got some fancy french named pastry that I can't pronounce and Maple View Farm chocolate milk.  That girl LOVES their chocolate milk.  She honestly did not love the pastry she chose.  She thought it would have a sweet glaze, but it was more of a honey glaze, and she is not a honey fan, so she just had a couple bites.  Audrey and I shared ours with her though!

Audrey got a classic chocolate croissant.  She devoured it before I could get a picture.  She also had the chocolate milk and she was very happy with her choice!

I got a raspberry chocolate pastry and coffee.  If I'm being honest, and I am, the coffee was ehhh.  It wasn't bad, but I also wouldn't go for the coffee.  In fact, I may bring my own next time.  However, the pastry was wonderful.  I would definitely go again for the pastry.  It was light and fluffy with a crispy crust.  Just a hint of chocolate, lemon, and raspberry.  It was sooooo good!  Yum, yum, yum!

The atmosphere was bustling.  It is literally a hole in the wall.  In fact, we almost missed it. I'm fairly certain they do not have seating, just counter service.  But so much was going on that it is possible I missed it!  Nonetheless, they are very close to the Parlor in Downtown Durham, and they do have outdoor seating there which would be lovely on a temperate day.   Loaf opened at 8:00 and we arrived at 8:00 there was already a line and we had to park a few streets away.  The staff was very helpful and friendly.  Perhaps the best part of the experience was the smell.  Oh. my. word.  They make their pastries right there in the shop and it smells wonderful.  Warm and doughy.  Perfect.  It was all in all a fabulous experience and I definitely would go again.

So......anyway......Sophia is taking drivers ed.  That is scary and awesome!  I do miss having a driver in the house!  Unfortunately, because our life is so crazy she has to take it privately and that means Saturday and Sunday all day for 2 weeks and then an additional Saturday.  Which also means she will miss the family trip to DC to see Andrew.  Boooo!  I may take her up another weekend because she really misses him and he's not coming home for spring break or this summer!  What am I going to do with that boy!  He just keeps right on growing up and heading out!  He did land a summer internship with The US House Financial Services Committee.  He is super siked about that and he is still working about 20 hours a week at Nike and got to talk to Kyrie Irving when he came into the store a few weeks ago so that was cool.  So this summer he plans to work, because he needs money and do his internship, so he should stay pretty busy!  He's also swimming for his schools intramural swim team and enjoying that.  He took time off all his events last week.  His relay team came in first.  So YAY!

Today feels like a gift.  February has been so full.  We've had birthday parties,

and super bowl parties,

and valentines, which at my house means a scavenger hunt.  I didn't do a scavenger hunt a couple years ago thinking the kids had probably outgrown it....they hadn't.  Talk about disappointment.

We've had 6th grade dances,

basketball, oh how I love basketball

and more birthday parties

and it has just been so busy!

Today feels lazy and slow and wonderful.  I do need to clean and I do have to run kids here and there and I have a couple gifts to buy and I have already picked up groceries....and gone to Goodwill to drop off things that have been riding around in the trunk of my car for about a month......but it just feels like a much more restful day.  I've already gotten to eat pastries, drink coffee, and blog.....Ahhhh

I may get a tattoo today.....maybe.

I might wait until summer....so I can wear flip flops while it heals.  My foot is already pretty jacked up so I don't have many shoe options that will work this time of year and I'm afraid tennis shoes would be too uncomfortable.....but I'm pretty sure this is happening sometime soonish.  My Mama is a tattoo artist.  Who knew!  She wrote it.  That way when I don't have her I will still have her handwriting......I have all these letters from my grandparents and I love them.  They are one of my very favorite things.....Its like a part of them left behind.

OH..... and speaking of goals.....another one of my goals was to read more books.  So far this year I've read two:

Unoffendable by Brant Henson......and that one was a game changer for me.....I should probably get that tattooed on my other foot.....or maybe my forehead....


Love Idol by Jennifer Dukes Lee.....which is about letting go of your need for approval and seeing yourself through God's eyes.  It was a book I had started about a year ago, and never finished.  I picked it up again and this time buzzed through it.  It was excellent!

Well....I think this qualifies as rambling......

Until next time,