Life's Sweet Journey

Saturday, August 1, 2015

More Than a Backpack

Our church is hosting a backpack drive. It is something we do every year. Last year my husband packed a backpack for a middle/high school student. This year I was really excited to get my niece involved. So Saturday morning, while on our yearly trip to Big Canoe, Ga. we packed up and after making a quick stop for some produce at the local farmers market, we pulled into the Dollar General.

I let Makaylin know that this was a special day, that we weren't shopping for her, but for another child. She was curious and so we talked about why. We talked about how when kids start kindergarten, like she will in a year, the school asks for them to have a backpack and all kinds of school supplies. We discussed how school supplies cost money and how sometimes there are kids whose families have a hard time affording those supplies. I may be biased, but she's a pretty bright little 4 year old and this seemed to make sense to her.

We rolled into the store and I will be honest, I was nervous. Dollar General is a kids dream! There was so much for her to see, so much for her to say, "I want that." But we headed straight for the school supplies and got cracking. The first thing she saw was a Frozen backpack and next thing I know she was fast at work. Her own little personal mission to make another little girls day a happy one. It was so neat to see her smile and see her little brain work through what she wanted to get. Everything she picked she picked with love.

"Oh she will love this Aunt Mel!!" 
"Oh this is the best! Here let me put it in the cart." 
"The flower folders are so beautiful (giving them a hug). She will think they're perfect (putting them in the cart)." 

If Uncle Andrew accidentally slipped something in the cart, he would get a "remember Uncle Andrew give it to me first." This was big business she was attending to and she had to make sure every item passed her little hand inspection. 

It was a wonderful experience! 

One I am so glad we got to do together. But, it was what came after that made this story not only so much more than a backpack for the general experience, but also so much more than a backpack for our car ride back to the cabin. You see, as we were checking out, Makaylin was telling the lady that the backpack wasn't for her but another little girl. The lady, being sweet and trying to encourage her, said, "your mommy and daddy must be so proud of you." We get this often, people thinking that she (or my other niece and nephew or the kids I nanny for) is our child. It just happens. Most of the time she just says, "that's my Aunt Mel." But this was different. On this day she chose to say, "My daddy is in heaven." 

Now this was probably because we had already been talking about him on the way to the farmers market. She heard his name in a song Babe and I were discussing and said, "don't talk about my daddy." I let her know it was someone else named John, but that she could talk about her daddy whenever she wanted to. And from there the questions came... "Why does he have to stay in heaven? Does God love daddy more than me and that's why he had to go to heaven? When can I go to heaven? I want my daddy to come down." 

It's those questions that wrench at the heart, but it's also those questions and more importantly the answers to them that set us all free... "He stays there because God made heaven so wonderful that we want to stay with Him, but daddy's always watching over you. No, baby, God's heart is so big he loves everyone equally, no matter what we do, God's love is big enough to love all His people. It's not time for you to go to Heaven now, God wants you here with us, we live life here on Earth for a while to learn to love well and to teach other people about Jesus. And I want to see your daddy too sweet girl, but someday we will get to see him again and all be together in Heaven forever, that's how Heaven works we get to live with God and Jesus in a real, never die, forever." 

She had changed the subject after that. Quickly switching from the deep questions of life to thoughts on pool swimming and rock sliding as only kids can. 

So it was there on the surface when that sweet lady mentioned her daddy. You could see the look on the woman's face, but we assured her that yes, we are a very proud aunt and uncle, that Makaylin's parents were proud of her, thanked her and walked out. And then it opened sweet conversation about what her attitude that day revealed. We told Makaylin that we were so proud of her. We asked her who else would be proud of how happy she was to be giving to someone else. She replied, "My mommy." And we asked who else, "My daddy!" To which we replied, "Yes, baby, even in Heaven your daddy can still be so proud of you." And we asked who else, "God!!" "Yes, big girl, God is so proud of you. Did you know that what you did today helped you have a heart like Jesus. You gave to someone else without thinking of yourself. You loved and cared for someone who needed help and that's how Jesus loves us. And God is very proud of you!" 

God is proud of her and I am proud of her.
I am thankful for her sweet heart. 
I am thankful for the chance to have heart talks about her daddy. 
I hope it helped her heart, but I know it helped mine. 
I am thankful for backpacks for a sweet little girl somewhere in Orlando. 
And I am thankful that a Frozen backpack has the ability to be so much more than a backpack. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Words for Wednesday: Grief and Glory

I have been absent from this space for a few weeks. Life was in that flux of space between grief and joy and I wasn't sure which emotions and feelings I felt like sharing (or really which ones I even felt) and so I didn't write at all. Which, I have realized in turn, is bad for my soul. I discovered a while ago that, even if I never post publicly, I need to share the words that choke up my heart. In writing, just for myself, over coffee, with others, internally, externally and most importantly with Jesus. 

I am not usually one to shy away from openness. I share a lot on here, because I feel that in sharing pain and our own walk with suffering we all help one another. Reading things where people share their hearts helps me realize I am not alone. But on the wake of the second anniversary of my brothers death I felt things that were new, things I wasn't sure how to voice and so I tried to block them out and not think on them. And then a sermon preached this past weekend was the gentle reminder I needed of the Glory that there can be in suffering. 

Zach Van Dyke, of Summit Church, preached on Romans Chapter 5 (verses 1-8). He preached about the desire for  a happy place, he referenced Inside Out, he quoted Chronicles of Narnia, he shared joy and sadness and he shared that Christianity is not stoicism (listen here). As Christians our hearts will be broken a million times over and it doesn't mean that we can't suffer, that we can't feel sadness or pain or that when we do we should hold it all in. The Glory is IN the suffering. It is in the broken moments when our tears roll down our cheeks and mix with Jesus'. It is the understanding that when we suffer we can also know we are not alone. Jesus' truest Glory came through His most ultimate suffering and it was the thing that saved the entire world. 

Suffering and grief are part of the picture of what makes us human. In this world we will suffer. But slowly time heals and suffering and sadness mix with joy and that joy is amplified by the pain that hides underneath. This second anniversary of John Wayne being gone was a strange mix of those feelings. Two days before was my mother's 60th birthday and my sister's 35th and we did the best we could to celebrate that day with joy, but there is a lingering undertone. It is the chance to be together with family and close friends to celebrate, but the reminder of what's missing is forever there and so the laughter and the tears blend together in a mess of BBQ and key lime pie. And that's ok. 

Last year the grief was so fresh. This year it left us each trying hard to go about our daily business, some even working longer hours that day to have less time at home. We didn't meet up again, instead leaving the celebration of birth our time together as a family. We reached out to each other via texts and we responded to each others Facebook messages on my his still active page. Calls were harder, as if the sound of a voice would be the cutting edge we needed to break past the floodgates until we all went under together. I am not sure if that was the best means to get us through the day, but it was what we all seemed to need. An unspoken bond that would carry us into the day after. And sometimes that's all it is when sadness and joy morph into a relationship with one another; an unspoken bond of understanding that, though the two might seem polar opposites, they need one another in way that other emotions don't. The reminder that this isn't all there is. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

5 of Friday! Popsicles and Adventure

The last few weeks have been full of odds and ends! Here's a few fun ones that I hope you enjoy! 

1.) New Book Review!
I realize that all of my book reviews from Blogging for Books have recently been baby-centered. Nope, still no news! However I grabbed this one because my sister is pregnant and baby is coming soon. I figured she would enjoy this, but I also had somewhat selfish motivation. I have been on a popsicle kick lately. I have been trying new recipes and enjoying the cold treats on hot days (which is every single one)! But I figured what better way to find recipes than through a baby food book. They have to be pretty similar right?! It turns out I wasn't far from the truth. There are perfect recipes for fruit combinations and instructions for how to best prepare food for blending. 

If you are looking for a great baby food book, this one is perfect. I love pictures and this dis not let me down! It is full of step-by-step instructions, great pictures and wonderful recipes to keep your little ones belly full of homemade yumminess! 

2.) Green Tea Peach Perfection! 
Due to yumminess of peach season I figured I would use those for my first real fruit popsicle concoction. I blended up peaches in my food processor and then added a little green tea and honey (always honey!) and voila!! Aren't freezer molds from the Target dollar spot the best?! Yup, it tastes as yummy as it looks. 

3.) Adventure!!
I got my first adventure patch! I started following @adventurepatch on Instagram. It's a place for people to share pictures of patches they have gotten from national park visitors centers with the park in the background. We went on an adventure out to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and then followed it up with a drive into Canaveral National Seashore (which surprisingly enough we have never been to) and that's where I got my first patch. My Junior Ranger patch, which is pretty fitting if you ask me, since my husband says I am just a big kid. I got it from a nice man who was checking passes before entering, that seemed to notice the same thing when I asked him where I might find a patch. If you live nearby you should totally check out the Refuge! 

4.) More Adventure! 
Our favorite part of the Wildlife Refuge was the Blackpoint Wildlife Drive! It is a great way to stay cool in the summer heat, but also find adventure! You can stay in the car, you can get out of the car and walk around a bit, or you can get the best of both worlds and just ride out the window!! And don't forget a stop by to see the manatees after the drive. There were so many! 

5.) And now I am off to work on pictures I took of my sweet sister and her family! Can't wait to meet our newest little bean! 

Linking up today for the 5 on Friday and Oh hey Friday ladies! 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Words for Wednesday: Beautifully You!

Why do you question yourself?
Always questioning your worth in the world, your beauty.
You are beautiful,
the most stunningly, beautiful, unique thing there ever was.
No one can ever be as beautiful as you,
for you are the only you there will ever be. 

You were formed with purpose 
and loved from before you even took a breath. 
When your strength waivers think on these things. 
And if you can't then turn to me, 
turn to me and I'll remind you. 

Hold tight to who you are, 
clutch your strength tightly, 
through the valleys and the mountains 
and along each journey you take 
through all the 'yous' in your life. 

You are strong!
You are beautiful! 

The quote by Tyler Knott Gregson has always been one that stops me anytime I stumble across it. From time to time we all falter, our strength waivers and we feel alone. We have people in our lives that question their beauty and it breaks our hearts. Or there are days we question our own. If today is a day that you need the reminder of just how beautiful you are, I hope this helps! I hope you remember that there can never be another person more beautiful, more unique, than you! You are the only you that God ever made and that is a beautiful and worthy thing. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

July Currently

craving: Adventure!! I have had a thirst for adventure recently like it's nobodies business!! I have had this itch to pack it all in and hit the road. However, since logical life must continue, as my ever logical husband is so quick to remind me, we have come to an agreement on possibly (minuscule in his mind, gigantic in mine haha) looking in to getting a camper to adventure around Florida with on our off weekends! First though, he has asked me for a list of all the places we would go so that we can weigh the length of the list with how much we might use said camper. Oh love his heart! So I am currently working my way through wonderful places to see in the sunshine state. Any other Floridians or Florida lovers that could share some of your favorite off-the-beaten-path spots? 

grilling: Finally got to grill up my favorite summer yummy! Tuna steak burgers (just season and grill tuna to your liking) then top with avocado and egg salad and place between a bun. I know what you're thinking, it doesn't necessarily sound like the best combination. Oh, but it is!! It is!! I don't even like egg salad on it's own, but these things are close to perfection I tell ya. And so light and wonderful for a summer dinner al fresco! Here is the original link to a post on this yumminess from quite long ago (at the very bottom of post) that includes more pictures and details. Also, it is really strange to read stuff from so long ago and hear the kind of mind set I was in at the particular time, the tone just seems so different to me. 

listening: With my thirst for adventure always in the back of my mind, I have had Jake Owen's 'Anywhere With You' on replay through my brain. I have also been jammin' out to some of summer country and listening to the wonderful Beth Moore talk about what it really looks like when we learn to Love Well. 

planning: 1.) My list of the all Florida places! and 2.) The plans for this upcoming weekend. We are headed to the New Smyrna Beach for the weekend to watch the fireworks on the beach. I have all kinds of plans for adventure-seeking. I found this great new preserve and am hoping I can get Babe to go hiking one morning before with hit the sun and sand for some Cornhole and Jam Bucket! 

decorating: The guest bedroom. Our guest bedroom has been a place of transition for a while. First it was my brother-in-laws room and since then it has become my nieces room for when she sleeps over. Yesterday I found the cutest quilt on sale at Steinmart and have decided to make that a new project. Finger's crossed!! 

What's currently transpiring in your world? 

Linking up with// Anne and Jenna