13 years.

Friday, April 30, 2010

We were in fifth grade. On Sunday mornings, my best friend and I would meet at our youth group, which let out long before the adults streamed out of the sanctuary. During the free time, we would walk from our church through downtown Franklin to Earl's Fruit Stand and use our tithe money to buy a couple of apples. Mr. Earl was a crotchety old man, his skin weathered from years of tilling and harvesting, and he never seemed fond of children. But he was dearly loved in Franklin, especially when his annual Pumpkin Land arrived each Fall with its prize-winning pumpkins and gourds, petting zoo, and fresh honey.

My friend and I would sit just outside the fruit stand, savoring each juicy bite of our ill-gotten fruit. We talked incessantly - as 10-year-old girls are known to do - and carefully considered who would be invited to our next sleepover and how middle school next year would be so different. We wore thick bangs, overalls, and innocence.

After that year, our walks to Earl's ended abruptly as we changed schools, changed churches, and saw a lot less of each other. A new season had blown in: new friends, new commitments, new ways to spend our free time. Years passed. Then came graduations, weddings, babies, new homes. Dreams, heartbreak, trials, hope.

This morning, something magical happened. Those same two girls walked those same streets together towards Earl's Fruit Stand. Steaming coffee in one hand, purses in the other, we walked past the shops in downtown Franklin that were just opening their doors for the day. Neither of us was conscious of the irony of our familiar walk - or the 13 years that had taken our innocence but given us wisdom in return. Earl's Fruit Stand closed years ago with the passing of Mr. Earl and left behind only a deserted field of weeds, gravel, and memories. Our conversation today was quite different: how her son is beginning to read, our most recent thrift store finds, our gratitude for this new season.

In some ways, I felt like that same girl that walked those same streets 13 years ago. Just a girl taking a walk with her friend through a place that feels a lot like home and has for a very long time. I guess you never really know what your future is going to look like until you're walking in its steps.


Monday, April 26, 2010

photo credit
Yesterday morning, the Lord gave us a test. I won't say we passed with flying colors - far from it, actually - but we did learn a few things along the way.

As we pulled into our church parking lot yesterday morning, I had one of those sinking feelings. The kind of feeling you get when you remember you were supposed to do something and completely forgot. Shawn and I, along with our village, were to be serving at a nursing home during the service, and I was supposed to communicate with our village about it. I completely dropped the ball.  

So as we're getting out of our car and heading into church, I inform Shawn about our imminent nursing home visit - the first he's heard about it - and tell him we need to at least talk to those organizing the service projects and ask if we can go another week with our village. 

We meet with the volunteers and as we explain the situation, they all nod in agreement, "You two should just go anyway. It would mean a lot to the people." Then one of the volunteers proceeds to explain more details about this particular nursing home, about Nancy who loves to play Uno but goes when it's not her turn, about how we can go room to room if we choose. The whole time, we're both thinking, "Do we really have to do this? We'd really rather just go sit in church." 

But the right thing to do is blatantly obvious. We can't get out of it now. We're going to the nursing home.

We drove there, slowly, and as we pulled up to the front of the nursing home we just sat and stared at it. We looked at our clock. 10:21. We have to stay until 11:30, right? 

Let me just say, we realized then and we realize even more now that these are terrible attitudes. We wish we would have felt and acted differently. But I have to be honest. We would've rather been anywhere else but there. 

We finally stepped out of the car and into the building, and I asked Shawn, "So what will it be: going room to room or playing Uno?" Neither sounded very enticing, but we decided to go room to room.

We wandered around until we found a nurse, and she immediately pointed us to a small group of elderly people slumped over in their wheelchairs and said, "Go talk to them." 

Cue the painful silence.

We cautiously approached the wheelchair circle and began to talk. Two women looked up at us while the rest stayed asleep. 

We began making small talk and discovered that one of the women's sons was a pastor in the area and that she was born and raised in Franklin. We began asking others where they were from. One woman's response made me smile: "We all live here. Did you know that?"

A few minutes in, we were running out of group questions and were at a loss of what to do next. I suggested we sing a song together - Amazing Grace - and three of the women agreed. Shawn and I began to sing and several mouthed the words along with us. It was beautiful. 

I had remembered seeing a hymnal in a nearby room, so I grabbed it and we began to thumb through hymns, searching for any we might know. We found several, and Shawn and I sat on the floor in the center of a circle of wheelchairs. It was such a sweet and worshipful time - about the last thing we expected. We sang "In the Garden" twice (a constant request), What a Friend We Have in Jesus, Solid Rock, and many, many more. 

The looks on the two women's faces was absolutely precious as we sang hymn after hymn. They clasped time-worn, arthritic hands and diligently tried to remember as many words as they could. One woman was especially hard of hearing, but once she caught onto the words, a smile took over her face and she sang out. After we sang all five verses of "I Surrender All" she said, "You know, when we surrender our life to Him, He has a place prepared for us. When this life is over, we'll go to be with the Lord." To hear it spoken from someone on the precipice of life and death, and to see the trusting smile that never faded, was a blessing beyond what I deserved.

When it was time for the residents to be wheeled into the dining room for lunch, we gave hugs to our new friends and promised we'd be back next month. One dear woman grabbed my hand and said, "We all wanted to go to church today, but we couldn't - so the Lord brought church to us!

Talk about convicting. I hadn't even wanted to get out of the car. This woman's heart was in such a better place than mine, and I needed to feel the sting of my own selfishness.

Shawn and I talked about the experience - repenting along the way - and he made a great point. At the end of their lives, these dear people are sitting or lying down not doing much of anything all day long. But I have a feeling God is more pleased with their hearts than He was with ours today. Thankfully, I still believe He received glory in spite of our weak knees and selfish hearts. And next month, we will truly look forward to our visit.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

There's nothing like a relaxing night eating dessert by our chiminea. 
I'll make cobbler or key lime pie. Shawn will chop wood in the barn next door and haul it over to start the fire. 

We pull our chairs up close to watch the fire flicker and listen to the coyotes howling their night songs.

The only problem? 

We have very different ideas of how big the fire should be.

My idea: 

Shawn's idea: 
I guess if that's the biggest marital argument we have, we're doing pretty well. :)

Our very wonderful trip.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Ahh, California.
Let me just warn you ahead of time, this is a long post. With tons of pictures. I tried to pare it down, but I just couldn't stand to leave out too much. I'll keep the commentary spare. I think the pictures speak for themselves.


The reason we were in California in the first place is captured in this one very awkward photo. My parents were leading worship for the CLA conference, and Shawn and I came to join them in their worship band. This was the only song that Shawn didn't play guitar, too.

What a gorgeous, perfect place. 
With our dear friend Justin as our guide, he showed us around this famous little beach town. This was also Shawn's first time in the Pacific Ocean!
The water was chilly and clear, and the air warm and sunny. It was our one perfect weather day of the trip and we soaked it up.





The homes in Coronado are precious (and I'm sure, millions of dollars. But that's beside the point).
There are roses everywhere, clean sidewalks, mowed lawns, and white picket fences. You'd think you were on a movie set.
I wouldn't mind living in this house....
Moo-time ice cream = heavenly.
Paradise Point Resort.
We ate lunch here right next to the water with Justin.
The bird in the picture looks innocent, but actually, swooped down and took a hunk out of Justin's burger. Lovely.


Old Town.
I'm sure to most San Diego natives, this is a tourist trap. But we enjoyed exploring it anyway. :)


Only in California do amazingly gorgeous flowers just grow all over a restaurant. What?!

Ever had chocolate-covered gummy bears and cappuccino caramels? Yum.


At the top of the city.
This place was gorgeous. After winding up a steep mountain on a one-way street for a few miles, we landed here. The base of many steps that led to the most stunning 360 degree view of San Diego.




Casters' home.
This was definitely the highlight of our trip! We'd been talking about visiting the Casters for so long, it was exciting to actually be in their home. Justin, obviously, was in his element... flipping across the back yard (look at those pointed toes!) and climbing trees, as you'll see later.
We so wish we lived closer and could hang out here more often. Justin has the most amazing family that I can't believe I didn't take more pictures of. I guess they'll have to make a trip out to Nashville soon... :)





I'm ashamed I didn't get more pictures here because we had such a fun time, but this cake that Katie made was to die for. And - get this - gluten-free! She is quite the gluten-free baker!IMG_3975

After dessert, a game of dominoes ensued with Justin, Katie, Christina, and Nick, who are the funnest family who we love very much, even though we just got to know them. :)

California nature.
I had forgotten just how lush the foliage is in California. Even the weeds growing on the side of the interstate are colorful and beautiful.
This might be my favorite picture that I've ever taken... and my favorite flower I've ever seen... and it was just hanging out in Justin's back yard.



Ok, I know we're not flowers. But look at the huge ones behind us! This was at our hotel, where there were around 1500 rose bushes in bloom.





Thursday, April 22, 2010

We just got home from a lovely week in California.
Our bags remain unpacked.
Break-n-bake cookies are in the oven.
Photos are being downloaded.
I can't wait to share more - and loads of photos, I promise.
Until then, just wanted to say thank you to our California friends - old and new - for making our week so full and delicious and making it impossible to stay away for too long.

From His hand.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

I miss Chicago. I really do. I miss the pulsing energy of the city, I miss walking to work or the grocery store, I miss diversity. 

But I have to admit that for a while, I held onto the idea of city life and desperately wanted it back because I didn't want to be genuinely happy in Franklin, Tennessee. I had never planned on returning to my hometown with my husband, and it made me feel like I hadn't gone very far in life. 

Now, though, I can't imagine being anywhere else. The Lord has lavishly blessed us here. It's undeniable to anyone who walks through the doors of our sweet yellow house or hears us gush over our incredible jobs, friends, or family.

I've asked the Lord for forgiveness for not accepting what He's been trying to give me: contentedness. And I think that being content starts with true gratitude. Not striving for what you don't have (for me, a life in the city I love and miss) but being deeply grateful for the big things and the small things that come from God's hand. 

I'm thankful for Shawn's job, which pays our bills and allows us to save up for nursing school. We're beside ourselves that his job even came with a free car! Unbelievable.

I'm thankful for my job. I paint, I teach people to paint, and I sell my paintings for a living. I didn't even realize this was possible. I have the best bosses in the world who challenge me, laugh from their bellies with me, and are my biggest cheerleaders. Also didn't know this was possible. 

I'm thankful for Southern hospitality. My dear friend Kate and I sat on her front porch for hours yesterday, taking in the sun through thick trees, staring at the cows, and drinking cherry Coke. (Yep, just like Mayberry.) And every single person that passed by waved. We waved back. It felt so good. I love that people at the grocery store ask you what kind of beans you'd buy or compliment you on your shoes and everyone greets each other with a smile. 

I'm thankful that we're able to travel. We're going to San Diego for the next 5 days. Cannot WAIT!

I'm thankful for our church family who pursue truth together and love on each other. 

I just needed to take a little inventory and say it out loud that our life is good. Our God is good. We know that every bit of the joy, peace, and hope that we have on this side of Heaven comes only from Him.

Thank you, Jesus.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Have you ever made bagels from scratch? It's seriously not hard and so rewarding.
(Unfortunately, not as rewarding for me anymore as I can't taste them... they're not gluten free. But very rewarding when I get smiles and satisfied groans from my husband!)

And here's a little glimpse of my kitchen counter...



Nothing like working with dough.
It does a [baker's] heart good.

A diaper and a red sock.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

This kid
makes me laugh.
Especially with just a diaper and one red sock.


Today is a bit heavy for me, so I needed a laugh.
Maybe you do too?

A Prayer in Spring.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.


Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.


And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.


For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfil.

- Robert Frost
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