If a Tree Falls in the Woods…

IMG_9451The kids and I went to the pool after Vacation Bible School one day. We got thundered out, and came down the driveway. There was a tree on our house. The kids all declared different things, “Mom! A Tree” “Mama? How do we get in the house?” ” What do we do?!”

And all I said was, “Well, we are not driving down the driveway!”

 

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There was a tree on our house. The first thing we did was park at the top of the hill and walk down to the house, observing the wreckage all the way down. The kids were troubled, but I don’t think they were scared. I wasn’t scared. I walked into the house and breathed a sigh of sweet relief when I saw the tree had not pierced the ceiling of the house. But when Josiah saw that his window had a massive branch lodged in it, he started to tear up. Poor guy.

IMG_9454I told everyone to change out of their swimsuits, and I paced around wondering what to do first. Joel was out of town, in Canada. My parents (who are currently living in our cottage) were in the UK. It was just me. I was the only grown up in charge. Lord, help me. So I called my friend, Missy, who had a tree fall on her house a few years back. She said to call my insurance company, take a lot of pictures, and have the insurance company get us a really nice hotel room. I told the kids they could watch a movie, and I was on the phone for a while. Thankfully, we have very good electrical folks at EPB, and they came and fixed the downed power lines in less than an hour. I didn’t have to worry about everything in my parents fridge spoiling. I was watching them pull huge trucks down my driveway, and figure out where to put the cherry picker. I saw them get a chainsaw out all while trying to talk to the insurance guy and Joel. Joel was stunned, and apologetic for not being there*. When asked how big the tree was, having the EPB guys close by turned out to be useful, “At least 50ft tall, Ma’am”. I got off the phone just in time to have the friendly EPB guy tell me that I will not lose power at all, or wi-fi for that matter. I just about crumpled with joy. When the electrical lines to the cottage were repaired, they went to work on the wi-fi to the cottage. “You know it’s gonna start pouring in a minute” the electrical EPB worker said. “That’s OK,” the wi-fi guy said,”I brought my umbrella!” and he popped open an umbrella and stuck it in the holder on the side of the cherry picker. Great guys, yeah EPB! The insurance company told me they could find me a roofer to cover the area damaged by the tree, but I planned to call my connections first. I tried one person and got voicemail, then I called Ty. I didn’t expect him to answer, but he did,”Ty!” I was so relieved to hear a voice of a trusted friend! I almost started balling on the phone. Ty told me who he knew and trusted, and instead of giving me a bunch of numbers to call, he called them himself. Ty Willison, selfless and helpful. So thankful for trusted friends!

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The guys from Live Right Construction were on the job. Caleb tarped the whole roof area. He took pictures of the damaged roof and got as much off the roof as he could without a chainsaw. It didn’t downpour anymore after the tree fell, but it sure felt good to have everything covered up well. We were dry, connected, and had plans for the rest of the week. The kids had VBS all week long, and that gave me three mornings to deal with the tree stuff.
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Because my parents were out of the country, they did not have to got through the added stress of their power being out. Also, we sent Josiah up to sleep in their cottage after Joel got back from Toronto. He loved it. IMG_9482The guys came the next day and moved through that fallen tree with the strange beauty of chainsaw gymnastics. I took the kids to the pool again, and when we came home the kids said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if there was another tree on our house?” No, it would not be funny. I did have to keep the guy with the chainsaw from taking all my potential firewood.

And now, about a month later, we finally have a new window for Josiah’s room. A very new and shiny (expensive) window. We will replace gutters, and do some paint still. But I’m very thankful for how smoothly this went. God took good care of us, from start to middle and He will to the finish.

*oh, and the reason Joel felt especially bad for calling me during the tree fiasco was that he was staying in one of the nicest hotels in Toronto. He was eating at fabulous restaurants, and going to see amazing views of the city from the top of the CN center. He was watching the Yankees play the Blue Jays from his hotel bar window. Yeah, he felt really bad. I’m still waiting to make up for that.

 

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15 dinner

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This summer there were some of us that celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. After trials, and turns of this life, we all sit together and reflect on this 15 years. We were all young. We are all friends. We made it a point to spend one evening this summer to gather and celebrate 15.

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The first 15 years are new. We grow up together, and learn to be adults. We have child, after child, and celebrate them all. We go to more weddings, and see more babies. We work crappy jobs, then get better jobs. We go back to school, we buy houses and cars. We send our little ones to their first day of school. Then there are sicknesses, and tragedy, death and sacrifice. Then, there are marriages around us that fall apart. Some heal, some do not. We see friends learn to love Jesus, and friends reject that love that they once knew. Happy things and sad things, we join together and remember them all.

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As we talked about those first years, before we were all married, when we thought we were the most clever folks around, we laughed and felt that young again. At this 15 year mark, I would not go back, except perhaps to hire a better wedding photographer and to let go of bitterness toward people a little bit sooner. I will stand here at the 15 year mark and know that Joel and I are here by the grace of God. Anything on this earth can fail. But because of God’s amazing grace, and the Holy Spirit moving and active in our world, we are still married. We have children, and they are healthy and strong and wonderful.

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There are my fellow 15ers. They are also still together by that same grace. When Linda and I talked about this idea, she whole-heartedly agreed with me that 15 years was so important. It’s not just a potluck, or a quick hang out around a bonfire (although those things are nice), it’s a 15 year anniversary dinner. We couldn’t shoot for all the stars, but we want to make it nice. So we did our best. We strung lights, and planned a nice meal. We had amazingly cozy and lovely floral arrangements. We were given an amazingly cool and happy night. And we laughed.

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We had a fun and wonderful menu:

Appetizers of Antipasto and Bruschetta. Drinks included a Sparkling Cherry Lemonade and Mint Tea. We had an amazing salad of Blackberries, Walnuts, and Arugula. Main Course involved Roasted Veggies, Blanched Asparagus with Sesame and Smoked Prime Rib. Dessert floored us all with Mini Chocolate Lava Cakes and Coffee Ice Cream with Chocolate dipped Strawberries and Coconut Macaroons.

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There is a trend to have these slow, fabulously home cooked meals with others who desire the same things, the same connection, the same patience with the things that matter. People pay for this experience. The thing that seems a little off, to me, is that it is something people are trying to conjure up. Intimacy and patience with life is not something you can just buy a ticket to. It is earned. It takes time and love for those you are joining with. It takes knowledge of those you invite, and joy to celebrate with them. A joy that is deeper than the cool food you get to eat, and the fancy ingredients they contain. No matter how special your alcoholic drink may be, it won’t bring you those kinfolk you desire.

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I’m titilated by the beauty of the photographs of these artisan meals. It all looks so perfect. The pictures I took of our dinner, and those Linda took (and she’s better at it than I am) they blow me away. I feel so blessed to have been such a small part of our honoring God with our 15 years. The pictures are lovely, and I pour over them again and again because I feel so blessed. Even the blurry ones. There aren’t nearly enough moments caught by the camera. At the same time, the moments I want to truly be present in, they have very few photos. I knew that I wanted to be there, with my loved ones, not Instagramming the life out of it. The best images are those I show through the gift of giving it. To hear my friends say,”I have never been to anything like this before.” That makes my gift-giving heart so glad.

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I am thankful. Thankful for the years, the joys and sorrows. I am thankful for the relationships and how far back they go. I am thankful for my home, my family, and my five senses to take in the beauty that they all are. I am thankful that I can rejoice with my friends as they rejoice and mourn as they mourn. I am thankful for being a grown up, and not holding back, but instead being honest and being able to sit with those who agree and can say, “Amen” when I testify to the Gift that is 15 years. Here’s to another 15, and another after that. God and his bounty are rich, and may our hearts be full of the celebration that is rich also. Thanks to all who made it happen. It is a gift to my heart. It is so beautiful.

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Life with Bigs Part 2

20140708-202404-73444988.jpgThis summer started out with quite an internal struggle. I started the summer thinking I had to have everything figured out for my big kids. A schedule to match the busier pace of our school year. What I realized, starting with my last post, was that I didn’t need to do that. At all. There have been days that are painfully boring, full of tasks that I hate to do with my kids. The hardware store with big kids: just as bad as with little kids. Hunting down a seller for a Craigslist deal: ultra stressful and bribes get expensive for these trips. Chik-fil-A was over $20. Ugh. So, there are tasks I’d rather not do.

But, there are days that are slow and beautiful. Where we drink coffee, do our summer reading, do some chores, and we all stay in our pajamas. There are days we spend 3 hours at the pool and spend time with all sorts of friends, eat snacks, and come home pinker than before. There are days we do some boring stuff, and then do some letterboxing before dinner has to get going. Summer has been wonderful. I’m not ready to resume the tasks of the school year.

And then, there are the conversations we have. This is where big kids just make me feel like I have been given such an amazing gift. We talk about the way they can spend their money, the conversations they have with their friends, why they like who they do and why that is. I love talking to them about how things aren’t always fair and how heaven is a real place, and how I know it’s hard to wait to be there. It’s humbling to stop and let them explore what they think and feel when watching TV or listening to popular music. I was free to explore it, and try to relate to the simple, clumsy poetry that is contained in pop culture. Sometimes, it’s very accurate and helps define who you are as an adult, so I guess I give some freedom. I love guiding them and talking them through thoughts that might be bigger than their maturity. If a question comes up and Josiah says,”Hmm, I never thought about that, now I will.” I think I’ve done my job a little bit.

Today, I had to tell my son to do the dishes, do his math (from this past year we are still finishing), and to do his summer reading while I stepped out for a bit with his sisters and grandma. It ended up being a longish trip, and although his grandpa was around, he was not to be bothered. I know Josiah got bored, and all he wanted to do was watch TV come 5pm. I had to tell him to get out of the house and take a walk before that happened because he decided to “parent” (or boss around) his 5 yr old sister. That’s a big no-no in our house. I also let his sisters go ahead and watch TV because they had not been given some of the privileges he had while on his own. He was MAD at me. He went on his walk and came home with tears still in his eyes and said “I didn’t enjoy a single minute of that”. And then proceeded to plop himself down on the couch and watch what his sisters had put on. Which is a TV show that will go unnamed, but is not for 11.5 yr old boys, I’ll tell ya. Attitude, disrespect, the silent treatment. That’s when I long for littles all over again.

I still see my son and my older daughter (my bigs) and I marvel at how amazing they are. What wonderful people they are becoming! I had nothing to do with this. I long for them to not be affected at all by my sin, but I know that is God’s job, not mine. I have had moments of uncontrollable emotion this summer, and they just are OK with my tears. They understand if I am overwhelmed. The enemy likes to mess with me, I hate it, I pray against his taunting of me and my mind. There was one Sunday when Joel was out of town and I could have easily not gone to church. I slept like crap the night before, and I knew going to church would be a challenge. I cried on the way to church and I explained that I was feeling the enemy mess with me, but I was making the choice to put myself in a place of worship so I could focus on God and not all my worries and fears. My kids listened, they loved on me, they walked through those doors with me and stood by my side. I know my children are my friends. I want to keep them that way. I pray that God will keep those ties strong.

I look forward to this next few weeks as we have family come into town and as we go to the beach. Each year we get more free to go on adventures with the kids as they get bigger. I am realizing that my memory of what it was like to have littles is waning, and the future of big trips, big projects, and heavier work loads looms. It’ll be a tough school year, but I love that I am partnering with my big kids and seeing their gifts emerge. I love learning with them. I look forward to seeing their emotions bloom and remember that they themselves are figuring it out, I don’t have to tell them everything. Even if I did, the journey is important. I know it is for me.

Life with Bigs Part One

20140602-233214.jpg There is a phenomenon that stops me dead in my tracks these days. My boy is a tween. He no longer will be entertained by the things I have entertained him with for years. Toys, picture books, crafts, playgrounds, it’s all dwindling. I’m stunned that I have no solution. It brings me to the point of tears, what do I do now? I start beating myself up, because my son’s carnal desires are screens: video games, TV, ipad. I go to the library and it is full of amazing books that I would read if I wasn’t folding laundry and making meals. My boy picks out the graphic novels. I’m OK with this, except I have to check them out for content, or they are so bone-headed and short, there is no reason to even check them out. My boy does not do sports, this is OK with me. What can we do with these unstructured summer days? Days that I feel I should have shipped you off to camp? I should have, but I didn’t, because I’m still treating you like you’re little. My boy is not little, he’s big. 20140602-233248.jpg Josiah has a big sense of humor, a big love for people, and he is big. He’s 5 ft tall. His papa and I haven’t done the summer camps, because well, they cost a lot. But I’m realizing that many of his peers are doing camps. Or traveling, a lot. I feel like I’m screwing up my kid. He is at home with two sisters all the time. I give him chores, summer reading, and we’re still finishing math. He wants to continue to homeschool, but this year, all of his close homeschooling buddies are going to school. I am looking at new challenges, my heart is being pummeled with choices I do not feel quite ready to make. I am frantically looking for help from library clubs, a youth group leader, extra things that will encourage my non-athletic, screen loving, people person of a boy. I love my boy, he still is my little boy, but he is big. But maybe, it is all simpler than I am making it. I have held onto the belief that God has children grow at the pace you are ready for them to grow. I am ready for Josiah to be big. I need him to mature and become an amazing young man, because he is an amazing kid! He shows frustration toward his five year old sister. I think that has to do with deep longings in his heart where things are churning, angry, and disappointed. This causes me to examine ALL of my decisions for him. But maybe, just maybe, he’s just being a frustrated kid! His sister frustrated him, that could be the only thing! So I deal with the strife, hand out discipline if need be, then I try not to think too hard about it. I also believe that having a character that is consistent brings joy into your life. I believe that if I am consistent with how I treat my son, growing and changing attitudes aside, I will show love to him. He will feel his foundation is sturdy and he can become who he is meant to be. I also believe that I am not raising this boy to be a reflection of me. I have him in my life to teach me about the character of God. I have him in my life to change me too. I have him in my life to reflect the glory of God in this amazing boy! I have prayed a blessing over Josiah ever since he was a little baby:

God bless Josiah, make him a strong man of faith, may he do things for the Kingdom no one else can do.

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Josiah is living in this blessing. I have to trust what God is doing in him. I have to grow and change and love Josiah as he lives in this blessing. He won’t be like everyone else, I have been asking God for him to be different! This means I have to believe that each challenge that comes our way is another way that he is being shaped. I want to give my boy to times of helping and service. I am not raising him to be entertained, I am helping him learn how to be a helper. I have to pray for times that he can be with his buddies, that it will be joyful and fruitful (and often!!). I cannot fill the space that another boy can fill in his life. But even in times that he is alone, I need to rest my mama heart in the fact that God will show me what to do, and that Josiah will show me what he needs. He showed me when he was a baby that he was tired, hungry and uncomfortable. Just like when I would try to rock him, pat him, hold him to try and get him to sleep, until one day in my exhaustion I just put him down in his bed. He needed to be left alone. He was peaceful and he stopped fussing. My mama heart wants to mess with him until I am satisfied that I’ve tried it all to solve his problems. Sometimes, I have to leave him alone. Let go and Let God. Cheesy, but true.

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Eden is Nine

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She is such a gift, I can’t even begin to explain. Watching her grow takes my breath away and I am so thankful that I can still see that chubby cheeked toddler down there inside. She is so beautiful, and introspective. I want to hold her so close to my heart so she never ever gets hurt. And then, when in a situation that may cause her to struggle, she shrugs it off. That’s her Papa in her.

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She loves everything natural, small and precious. Flowers, acorns, animals, treasures.

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I found her on her birthday with a self made crown, in a sweet dress (she’s usually in jeans) and my green poncho, skipping from rock to rock in the yard. She greets the morning and the cat. I step away from the coffee pot and take a few phone pictures of her on her birthday. She has me wrapped around her finger.

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Then she gets butterfly wings from her friends for a birthday present. The frolicking continues for more days, all the way through the woods and up the mountain. I know someday she will put childish things aside, but I want it to stay as long as possible. Stay adventurous, quiet, mis-matchy and hilarious. Where crowns, and smiles, and freckles with pride.

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Her Creative Writing teacher gave her an award, which just so happened to be on her birthday. the “Creative Genius Award”. Of course. Oh my sweet girl, always create. Write and draw until your fingers are tired. You are so beautiful, such an oasis of love, affection and connection. You are my girl, my Eden.

 

Enjoying the place

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Without really trying, we had some fun around our sweet town and our sweeter ‘hood. I am just in love with this picture of the kids at Rock City. Rock City is just a few miles from our house and Joel hasn’t been inside since we all snuck in at night back in college. So, Joel was excited to get us a family pass for this year. Today was a little grey outside, but we had a great time finding the gnomes everywhere, enjoying the coolness of the big rocks, and saying witty and strange things with tourists standing nearby. I think Joel took pictures for the same couple three different times with their iPad. It was a banner day.
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Some Fridays we have free time. Some Fridays we invite friends over to the house, but this week we were all ready to be out of our house. I couldn’t convince the kids to go hiking, so the zoo is always a nice option. We grabbed up a membership when we went to the Atlanta Zoo this fall. It made the trip cheaper then, and now we get to enjoy animals! This Friday was also beautifully cool and sunny. In this golden age of parenting, all my kids walk at a good pace on their own, they can survive with little to no snacks, and they all enjoy what they are seeing. They can read the signs, and have a bit more roaming freedom. These things sound silly I’m sure for others with older kids and teens, but man, I am really loving this stage. Josiah takes off to see the crow and get him to say, “Hello” and the girls can still giggle at my side at the prairie dogs. One of my favorite parts of the zoo is the jaguars. They are almost always awake and roaming. I am hypnotized by their size and pattern. So, so beautiful. This go around, he was pacing back and forth and the kids positioned themselves at different places along the viewing window and the big cat just paced between all three of them. So fun, and wonderful.

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My parents are in the throws of trying to find a new house and sell their huge one. They have a very specific punch list, and we have been giving our advice and perspective when asked. When we were scoping out listings that they have been seeing, we found this place that was around the corner from our mountain home. We noticed it was huge. 3 kitchens, 3 floors…why have we never noticed this spot? So we went on a little walk. This place is enormous, but it needs so much work. The owner had divided it up into three separate apartments and none of them are very nice. But it butts up against national forest and a bike trail. It has an incredible view. It is almost completely sided with mountain stone, and it has so much space. It would make an incredible lodge. Joel and I love to check out these properties, and especially since we are so in love with where we live, we are fascinated by the little places tucked away in the woods.

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Our Snow White cottage. It is owned by the Parks Department and it neighbors the historic Craven’s House. It sits stripped and empty. Not much left of architectural merit on the inside. But it is so magical still. It has a slate tile roof, little rock constructed garage and storage areas, pretty porches with that haunting sage green perfectly peeling and rough. I am always drawn to it. I want to take more pictures of it, I want to pose my children in it, and it has an amazingly large ginko tree in the front yard that makes the whole yard turn to gold in October. Unfortunately, this house will probably be torn down by the Parks Department in order to keep the historic relevance of the grounds. This house isn’t Civil War era, and so it’ll go bye-bye in order to bring the battlefield back to it’s original form.

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We live down the street from the Incline Railway. It’s the World’s Most Amazing Mile right? You can drive under the railway on Shingle Road. There is also a little stopping point at this point where you used to be able to get a “half way pass”. I would love to that pass, it would make our location so much fun! We could bop down to get ice cream or go to Grandma’s. We are in a wonderful location and it is really fun to still have railroad tracks down the street, just like we had in Jefferson Heights.

There are so many wonderful ways to enjoy our spaces. I have always enjoyed those little pathways that are less traveled and less publicized. I want to have these little special places that will fill up our Saturdays and Sundays. I love to learn what our city holds and learn more about it, from that place of discovery with my kids and my husband. If you get to enjoy your places, and are willing to share, I’d love to see them. The places we share become like a special ‘show and tell’ we want to share what is ours, but in order to love those things and places more, the sharing part is oh so necessary.