Monday, April 21, 2014

Friends and Family

Today I have mostly pictures for you.  I'm watching a baby boy three days a week for the next month, and he is precious, but this means naptime has become even more valuable around here.  It's only a matter of time 'til one of them wakes. 

Aaron took some time off work last week so we could go see our good friends who live in Topeka.  Nick and Brittany are such a dear couple to us.  Our friendship dates back to our early married days when we had time to make extravagant dinners together and linger over board games until it was very late.  Now we no longer live in the same town, and we both have children, so our time together looks different than it used to.  They're fixing up an old house as well, so we've been swapping weekends to help each other.  While Nick and Aaron wield power tools, Brittany and I talk decorating, go outside to walk and garden, hunt garage sales and flea markets, and pass babies back and forth.  We love them and time spent with them.  It is always refreshing!  If we could move our favorite people into our neighborhood, Nick and Brittany would absolutely get a spot.  

 Tuptim Thai in Topeka - so yummy! 

The husbands took the babies so the wives could hit up some garage sales.  

Aaron took Anna hiking while Brittany and I gardened.  

After Topeka, we went to Lee's Summit to be with Aaron's family for Easter.  His mom and dad watched Anna so we could have a much needed date night.  They even gave us a gift card to The Cheesecake Factory.  Thank you, Tim and Sherri!  

We found some Easter friends at the Plaza. 

Anna and Grammy 

 On Sunday, Anna made her debut at Aaron's home church.  Only about 40 people told me she looked "just like her daddy!"  It's okay.  It's really okay.  It's not like I carried her in my belly for 9 months and pushed her out of my body.  :)  All I'm asking is that I can receive credit where credit is due - she may favor her daddy, but she definitely has my eyes.  Big and brown.

After church, we spent some time at Aaron's grandma's house.  Anna is the only great-grandbaby, and needless to say, she was quite the hit.  It's so fun to watch her bring so much joy to people.  She is showered with love and gifts and kisses.  It's a blessing that so many love our baby and will love her for years to come.

Easter family portrait - we even got a smile!  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

I Hope She Remembers

Watching Aaron walk in the back door may be my favorite part of the day, but it's only the beginning of the magic hours.  I love, love, love the chunk of time between his arrival home and Anna's bedtime.  We make dinner together, passing Anna back and forth as we take turns chopping and sauteing.  We turn on music and sing along loudly.  We sprawl out on the rug, the three of us, trying to make the chubbiest, littlest one of us laugh so hard.  We go out to the garden and pick weeds and turn rabbit manure into the soil while Anna grabs at the grass.

The other night, dinner in our bellies and the dishes cleared, we were listening to this album and dancing.  The next day, I was smiling over that memory, and I thought,

"I hope she remembers the dancing."

Someday, when she is older, I hope she remembers her mama scooping her up and twirling around with her, covering her with kisses as the notes fell all around us.  

What will she remember?  I am overwhelmed by the thought of it.  This holy and high gift has been given to me - I am her mama.  We will walk these days together, and she will carry these memories even unto to her old age.

I hope she remembers laughter.  Shrieks and chortles, giggles and chuckles, and most of all, those belly laughs that always strike at the most inopportune times.

I hope she remembers her mama and daddy loved each other.  I hope she remembers us kissing and hugging and and giving grace.  I hope she remembers we were in love and we chose love.

I hope she remembers books.  Books read together on the couch, and books read alone, curled up in a special spot.

I hope she remembers walks.  Walks on dusky summer nights, her hands stretched up to ours.  Walks to the store and walks to the donut shop, because who says we always have to drive?

I hope she remembers the Word spoken.  I hope she remembers the beautiful Truth spoken again and again until it hangs in her heart to stay.

I hope she remembers my attention.  That when she tugged on my leg, I knelt to look her in the eye.  That when she begged me to play, I sat on the floor and dressed paper dolls.

I hope she remembers love.  If nothing else, this.  I hope she will remember how much we delighted in her, how nothing she ever did caused us to love her one bit more or less, how from her first breath she was set in our hearts like stone.

A legacy begins.  My breath catches at the thought of it, the empty slate ahead and how desperately I want to fill it well.  So come, Lord Jesus.  Come into these memories and breathe Your life.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

My Anthem in the Middle

Image Credit: Kyndel Wells

I have a strange little part of my brain that remembers odd dates.  I think it's because I journal a lot - less now that I have a baby - but I've always been one to throw my heart onto blank pages.  When something significant happens, I journal it, and the date and the memory become intertwined.

This morning, as I sat down to write in my journal, I scribbled the date and stopped.  April 10.  It's one of those dates.  Seven years ago today, my college boyfriend and I broke up.  This might seem like a weird thing to remember.  I am, after all, happily married.  I should forget that date, right?  Forget anything remotely related to that man and that season of my life, because I am Aaron's now.


As I journaled, I thought back through the last seven years.  Living in India.  Moving back to my hometown and becoming a teacher.  Being afraid to let Aaron pursue me, but Aaron winning.  Four crazy roller coaster years of K-Life.  Summers in Lake City.  Tromping around Europe and seeing things I'd only dreamed of.  Anna kicking in my womb and Anna coming out into this world, bringing with her a huge and unimaginable weight of joy.

I realized it is okay to remember April 10.  It's an Ebenezer.  A pile of rocks that shout out to me when I pass by.  "Hey you!  Remember God's goodness?  C'mon, call to mind His faithfulness!"  Seven years ago, I was kneeling by a couch that had a big iron burn on the arm, sobbing into the brown fabric.  I was throwing out my prayers into what seemed a void.  My three girls came when I called and enveloped me up into hugs.  They prayed over me and believed for me what I could not in that moment grasp:  God was good, and He was there.

After the break-up, as graduation loomed ominously and I saw a question mark where dreams had once sat, I clung to Psalm 84:11-12.

"For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does He withhold
from those whose walk is blameless.
O Lord Almighty, 
blessed is the man who trusts in you."

Tears filled my eyes this morning as I returned to these verses.  In 2007, it was painful and intense to believe the Psalmist.  It felt like everything good was being withheld from me.  Sun?  No, darkness had befallen me.  Shield?  No, I was stripped and defenseless.

We humans, we tend to want to stop the story while it is still in the middle.  "The ending has come, the hero isn't going to show up, I guess this genre is tragedy."  Today, April 10 reminds me that the ending hasn't come yet!  In the ache of my past, and the ache of my present, God is working.  Some things I will understand seven years later.  Some things I won't understand until all of this is made new.

This will be my anthem in the middle.  When I can't sing it, I will find someone who can.  When you can't sing it, I will for you. 

He is good.  He is here.
He is good.  He is here.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Among the Things I Did As a Child

Y'all, I almost forgot to tell you about this!

A couple months ago, my dad unearthed our old Barbie toys for my niece to play with.  They were stuffed in a box deep in the scary shadows of the shed, likely untouched since the mid-nineties.

When my mom opened the box, she found this lying on top:

Allow me to transcribe.

Dear Children,

I'm calling you "children" because I'm only 13 yrs old - not old enough to have you or be an aunt.  (I don't know your name.)  But I  U very much even though I don't know you yet.   

Anyway, have fun with this Barbie stuff.  My sister, Rachel, and I had many fun years with it. Be careful and don't trash it but have A TON OF FUN.  (After you finish reading this - come ask me for some CANDY!  I ❤ fun & games & laughter & candy!)  

Your Grandpa Casey made the Barbie house for you.  Isn't that neat?  Gotta Go.  

See ya in about 15 years.  

Lara (your, mom, aunt, or FRIEND)

I would like to point out that:

a) I've always had a flare for the dramatic. 
b) As a child, I read way too many books where people buried time capsules.
c) I was only one year off on the year prediction!  
d) I think my all-caps were well placed.

Dear 13 year old self,

You and your sister will have CUTE kids.  You will ❤  them more than you know you're capable of.

(You won't grow out of your proclivity for all-caps.)


Lara (your future self)

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Keep the Old

It's a grown-up moment when you realize that your college friends now qualify as "old" friends.  It has been ten years since I was a freshman at JBU, so that settles it.   A decade slides a friendship from the silver status into the gold.  

Meet Emily.  Emily lives in Tulsa, which is only 3 1/2 hours away from us, but life happens, and more often than not, roadtrips don't happen.  Emily and I met at JBU our freshman year and became solid friends our junior year.  Emily is my crazy-amazing-red-haired friend.  She and I once went on a double date wearing Wal-mart shirts emblazoned with "I go to school for the boys."  Our dates didn't think it was nearly as funny as we did.  Strange.

When Aaron and I heard that some Lake City friends were going to be at Emily's house, it was just the impetus we needed.  Road-trip!

Meet Amanda.  She and her kids were en-route to visit family in Alabama.  Amanda's husband stayed behind in Lake City because he is building their dream house with his bare hands.  (How are we friends with such cool people?)   Amanda is one of my mom heroes.  She parents her crew with such patience and doesn't get rattled easily.  They have chickens - I might have stolen my chicken dream from them.

Emily's parents graciously hosted us all.  Over the course of 24 hours, we ate amazing food, stayed up way too late talking, ate more incredible food, and Amanda and I had our hair done by Emily.  (Aaron declined.)  Emily's hair whiz skill is one of the many reasons I need her as my sister-in-law.  I'm on a mission to hook her up with Aaron's brother and secure her as my sister forever.

Just when you thought Emily couldn't get any cooler, let me tell you, she lives in a cabin in the woods.  A cute, tiny, cozy log cabin.  Her neighbors include Miss Kay, a socially awkward goat, and Chico, a miniature Sicilian donkey.  How great is that?  This is the stuff that novels are made of.  Watch out, Em.  I'm going to write a book about you and your animal friends.

Sadly, Chico did not want his picture taken. 

These friends are a treasure to us.  They are people who know us deeply, who have seen our dirt and love us still.  We don't have to try hard, we have history and inside jokes, and we can even sit in comfortable silence.

When winter's been long, a little road-trip and a lot of catching-up is just the remedy.  To old friends!

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Stuff of Dreams

I am a dreamer.

"I dwell in possibility."  Yes, Emily, yes.

I told Aaron the other day that at least once a day, I dream about traveling somewhere.  He was dumbfounded by this admission.  "Every day?"

Yup.  Every day.

I'm not abandoning the search for contentment in the here and now.  But I think a little dreaming never hurt either.  When I stop and look at my dreams, jot them down, give them voice, I'm alerted to my heart's passions.  In this season of life, that's never a bad thing.  Diaper swishing and nighttime nursing and the dishwasher that needs unloading all the time?  They tend to cram passion into unopened closets and stuff dreams into drawers that rarely get opened.

So here are my dreams:

- Move to Europe with Aaron and Anna for a year.  Just to try something new.  I'm thinking Germany or Latvia.

- Build a modest sized cottage on a couple acres of land.  Have chickens and a goat.  Learn how to make cheese.  Grow a huge garden.  Plant fruit trees.  Go on nature hunts with the kids.  Build treehouses and hang vintage hankies for curtains.

Since I'm dreaming, why yes, the house would look something like this.  

- Foster parent and adopt.

Let's fill this frame up with children!  

- Write a book.  And then keep writing.

- Take trips to Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, England, Ireland, Iceland, Scandinavia, the Andes Mountains, and New England in the fall.

Reykjavik, Iceland

- Have a home where people always feel welcome and at peace.  A physical place that is full of beauty and wonder and treasures that we've collected from travels.  A place that says, "Come in.  We love life, and we love you."

Love this.  Minus the cat.  We don't need a cat; we've learned our lesson from the dog.

- To love Jesus more each new year.

What do my dreams say about my passions?  

- I love to travel.  Travel makes me feel alive in a way that nothing else can replicate.

- I love making a home.  Being creative in our home is important to me.  This takes many forms: cooking, gardening, sewing.  These things are creative outlets for me.

- I firmly believe that Christ came for the sick, the lost, the outcast, the abandoned, the poor, the damaged, of which I was one!  His Gospel is that He adopted us into His family, and and we are now orphans no longer.  As such, fostering and adopting is something that Aaron and I both want to pursue.

- Writing is important.  When I'm not writing, I feel a withered.  Stale.  Dried out.

- I want to find ways to make Jesus famous through all of my passions.  He is my true heart.  He has given me this heart, threaded these dreams all through my fiber and bone.

What about you?  Share a dream with me?  

Saturday, March 29, 2014

My Favorite Part of the Day

A flashback to 2008, engaged but just barely

I used to be a morning person.

It was so much a part of my identity that it has probably been healthy to let it go.

But, oh the glory of those sweet mornings.  In college, I would get up and journal on the hard-as-a-rock futon in the corner of my room, looking out of those big Mayfield windows down to the intramural fields below.  In our pre-baby marriage days, I made the coffee for one and sat on our huge ugly chair which made up for its homeliness by being the perfect size and squishiness.

Now I sleep until Anna sleeps, which most days, rings right at 8 am.  I'm a lady of leisure now, what can I say?

I miss being an early bird.  I am sure some day when I'm not waking up multiple times a night it shall return.  For now, my new favorite part of the day is 5:15 p.m.  After 5, I strategically plant myself in the kitchen, the best perspective from which to catch a certain tan blur out the kitchen window.  When the Honda Civic pulls into the carport, the ladies of ye old bungalow rejoice.

Even if Anna and I have had an incredible, fuss-free (me, she's never fussy) day together, there is just something about knowing that he is home.  My friend, my love.  We've never done this before, this all day office job gig. 8 hours is a long time!  For 8 hours, I have no one to tell my lame jokes to.  Thank heavens for texting.  I'm always afraid that I am going to accidentally send my Aaron texts to the wrong person - not because they are scandalous (sometimes they are) but mostly because they are just so...weird.

He gets me.  He gets my weird self.

And we are doing this thing together.  This crazy ride of parenting.  This tough road of being Christ-followers.  This NEVER-ENDING project of house renovation.  (I'm being dramatic about that one. All-caps release some of my stress.)  For better.  For worse.  We promised.  There have been days when the promise has been a thin thread strung between two hard hearts, but it stays.

The artist Sleeping At Last sings a song with this chorus,

May the years we're here be kind, be kind
May our hearts like doors open wide, open wide
Settle our bones like wood over time, over time
Give us bread, give us salt, give us wine

When he walks in that door at 5:15, I think of these words.  Here we are, in this little creaky home that we are slowly making our own, and there is no one else that I want to do any of this with.

It is he who will get all my years, and I pray they will be kind.
It is to him first that I will open my heart wide, and then together, we will fling open the doors and invite in friends and neighbors.
It is with him that these bones will age and ache, and the creak of our joints will be the song of the long direction.
And when the table is full or when the cupboards echo with emptiness, it is he and I that will kneel at the feet of the One who opens His hand to satisfy the hungry.

I love you, Aaron.  To all that's ahead, I raise the glass.  To every 5:15 and to the man who brings such joy with one turn of the knob.