2.16.2012

Take you to the forest, let you feel the raindrops falling down

This is a blog that is devoted entirely to my little Penelope Wren.



Penelope just turned the big 1 back in November and somehow I missed her one year blog!
Well her special day was so great! We had a quaint little family birthday party that she shared with her cousin Fynn, who is just 7 weeks apart from her. It was a day filled with a lot of love for our little ones.




I thought that this time around I would go low key with it since it was just family. I have learned that a) no matter how little work you put into it leading up to the day, the last couple of days is so filled with perfecting all those little details, that it feels like you spent months on it and b) I don't think I actually know how to go "low key"




Penelope was taking a couple of steps here and there on her special day and fast forward 2 months and she is literally running now. It is unbelievable how much changes over the course of just a short month or two.


In addition to running, she is our little dancing queen. Any time a song comes on the tv, she comes running into the room and squeals with delight as she jumps up and down with her big toothy grin. Her favorite Christmas gift was a little teapot set that she spins around with when it sings her it's little song. It is quite possibly the cutest thing I have ever seen.

We are STILL going through some separation anxiety. She is very attached to mommy and daddy at this time- at least when it is outside the confines of our home. She will engage with friends and family's kisses and smiles...but only from the safety of our arms for the time being.


On a separate note- Penelope has lost her need to suck her fingers. I'm going to miss this...


Penelope is going to be strong woman. She takes her brother's daily pushes and alpha male dominance like a champ (working through one day at a time!). She has survived a bathtub incidence and a topple down the stairs- both of which I wish to never recall unless pointing to God's grace and goodness in continuing to entrust us with her precious little life. She plays amazingly well by herself- something Preson still finds to be very hard to do (what can I say- Im his favorite playmate!) It is a welcome trait that has blessed mama with some room to breathe!
She babbles all day and now says "hi daddy" and "bye daddy", and makes any animal noise you tell her to... but still no "MAMA"!! Oh dear, I will just continue to be patient.


As she moves from baby into tot, I am actually a little more prepared on what to expect this time around. She still remains the sweetest and happiest little spirit I could have ever hoped for. She is our little (yet big) ray of sunshine I love you, Penny Wren!
Can you believe there are less than 3 months between the first picture and this one?? Slow down little girl!

1.23.2012

refinement and the choice of happiness

I am at a place in my life where I am 99% mommy and wife and 1% everything else. I am so focused on this stage of life with my children, because I firmly believe that is clearly what God has called me to do.


There are seasons where I allow myself to slip into this very lonely place of motherhood where I feel as though I am barely keeping my head above water. And then there are moments where God recenters me upon my refocusing on him. In those moments, I come back to life in a sense and re-embrace all things that bring beauty back into my life. Turn off the TV and the computer. Turn on some classical music and open the windows. Go outside and take the little ones on a wagon ride or to feed the ducks at the pond or go to the park. Eat healthy, wholesome food in small quantities. Going to my quiet spot and getting in the word of God, meditating on his goodness and talking to him like I truly believe that he is my best friend in the world. Sticking to my schedule. Going to bed at a decent time. Exercising. Sitting in silence...there are so many things in life that are good.


In all things, God gives us a choice. We can choose to live life just getting by and feeling constantly discontent with life- which usually entails living for self. Or we can choose HIS BEST. Which is basking in his creation on all levels and using discernment when we have downtime. What do we do with that time? I know I fall into lazy, selfish indulgences when I have downtime and without fail, those are the times I most feel lifeless.

I have learned that in every stage of my life and my little one's lives, there will always be wonderful parts and tough parts. Being a mommy is the most personal growth I have ever experienced in my life apart from God bringing me to himself. There are times it seems as though the negative encompasses the positive, but it is inevitable that they are both a part of the mothering process and therefore I must submit to the situation of this stage of life. Accept it as part of my life and not only do that, but EMBRACE it. I must not only take on the view that I am teaching my children, but in the process remember that God is teaching and refining me through it all.
Very humbling to be reminded that in most cases it is ME who is the child.


12.01.2011

watermark

Its been awhile since my last post and so much has happened I will be breaking them up into a few individual posts. First up- my church, Watermark!
So much has been happening in our church this season of our lives.

My husband, Tommy and I sit out on our porch almost every night talking of the blessings that God has poured out into our lives. When God first placed Tommy as the pastor of our church, we were a deer caught in the headlights. I've said before- We had no clue of what to do and therefore we told God exactly that. We stepped aside and told him to take the wheel. It has been such a journey of faith and humility. Whenever we start to feel out of control, God reminds us - we ARE out of control. It HAS to be Him at the helm of the ship with us simply being used as his tools. I must decrease so that he may increase. We have seen him evolve our church from almost nothing into this beautiful picture of redemption.

We have been praying over the years that God would bring exactly who needs to be at Watermark into our body. We have seen wolves come and go and families come and stay. We have lost dear friends due to our location and have been forced to trust the Lord with his removing whomever he see's fit. Even if it isn't who we necessarily want him to remove.

Our little church has been meeting in The Springs Theater- which was built in the 1920's to be a movie theater, turned into porn theater in the 70's and is now one of the largest open-room recording studio's in America. Our church has been blessed to rent it out on Sunday's since 2006. We never could have foreseen the doors God was going to be opening for us. We have grown to capacity and our children's building is busting at the seams! We have been feeling growing pains for awhile now. So I say all that because we are so excited that God has decided to move us to a home of our own right up the road.


We are moving to a church building close to where we are, in a beautiful up and coming part of Seminole Heights. It is strangely directly across the street from our first house which we sadly ended up short-saling a couple of years ago. When we lived there, we used to pray that one day God would give Watermark that building. We even approached their pastor and made offers to him which were turned down every time. I remember looking out from our house at the time into the church's parking lot and seeing our people standing there praying for it.


That was 3 years ago. Back in September of this year, Tommy saw a realtor replacing a lock on the gate of the church. He found out it was on the market and moved on it quickly. Not only did we ask almost 300k less than what they were asking, but there were multiple offers on this building from investors. They received our offer (which was the lowest) accompanied with a letter from Tommy's heart explaining our mission and desire to carry on the name of Jesus to this community. They accepted the offer!

We soon found out we had to come up with a down payment of 110k. Once again we removed our hand from the ships wheel and let God take it. Everything in our human minds convinced us we would never come up with that kind of money- may I add we only had 2 months to raise it? Tommy had never raised a dime in his life. He started writing letters to everyone he knew and urged our people to do the same. People in our church made and sold t shirts, full-leaf tea, and other hand made goods to raise the money. My husband put on a fundraiser show to donate all the profits of his newest album.

We just learned that we raised the money, got all of the approvals needed and will finally have a place of our own to worship in at any time, come this next week! What a miracle. To think that back in 2006 Tommy saw that church across the street from our house and said, "one day, that church will be ours".


I will be posting before and afters as we tackle this renovation. Right now it is straight out of the 60's- some parts of it being absolutely awesome and some not so much. It has absolutely gorgeous bones.


There are 2 side sanctuaries as well. We love the older all wood pews.


We are super excited to have a cry room! hilarious!...no but seriously.


One big adjustment for our family will be Tommy having an office outside of our home. I'm going to miss peeking in on him during the day so much! I know I have been spoiled to have him work from home, but there was not a day I took it for granted.


Please pray for us as we continue to walk by faith.

10.05.2011

wishes of treasures, I impart to thee

Penelope, you are approaching your first birthday and my mind is completely blown with how quickly it has gone. I have truly basked in your joyful spirit throughout this year. You are a light in my life when times are dim. Your naivety and is a wonderful thing. When our house is spinning, you have a peacefulness in the midst of the crazy.


You are into everything and, these days, under everything as well. Without fail if the dishwasher is open, you are all over it! Keepin me on my toes, girl! You are standing for short periods of time, but no steps yet! You have 4 official teeth, with 2 little buds peeping through on either side of your top two middles. The other day I was taken back by how tall you are. I just love watching you grow.

Preson, slow down!! You are growing up so fast these days as well. You are officially POTTYTRAINED!!! You are in your big boy bed! You have started to become more independent with playing with your toys- not as much need for Mommy these days :( You are just a hair shy of being quite literally attached to your tricycle. I have come to look forward to going up to your room in the morning to find you reading about 10 different books to all of your stuffed animals in your bed. It gives me the happiest start to my days.


We are finding you are a pretty repetitious fellow. You ride your tricycle around the house about a hundred times in a row. You insist on watching "Thomas and the Runaway Kite" every day. You eat the same thing every day. You are going through a little stuttering phase, but we are all working very hard to slow that brain down enough for your words to catch up. You are improving each week. You know your ABC's, your numbers and you can even can quote many of your storybooks. You really are about the smartest kid I've ever seen.

Being a child certainly has it's advantages. I think back to when I was a child and, while right now my children are both younger than I can remember being, I relish in memories of running freely in the country where I grew up in Woodstock, Georgia. Planting grass in the ground to grow flowers and rubbing dirt on my skin to make my pale arms and face "tan". Wading in the brook and pretending to be Thumbelina in the forest. Walking up the road to the stables to feed the horses. Ahhh, to be a kid again. Not a care in the world except for which dolls to invite to my tea party. I cherish these childhood memories and I pray my children have even sweeter adventures than I had. It is amazing to me how when thinking back on my childhood I am immediately hugged with peace, protection and innocence. Though my children will be brought up in as opposite a landscape as I can picture and as distant a society as I can fathom from when I was a child, I hope and pray my children are given their own little treasure boxes overflowing with wonderful, beautiful and innocent childhood memories as well.
Preson and Penelope, my heart overflows when I am reminded of the blessing I have been given in you. I thank God every day for the honor and priviledge of being chosen as your Mommy. Here's to your childhood and creating many of your own special memories.

Pardon my reused instagram photo's. I seem to have misplaced my camera!

9.25.2011

Summer Homebody

Although I have lived in the south my whole life, I am completely convinced I have a northern soul- or at least anything north of florida. I long for fall all summer and love a good dose of each of the seasons. I really don't mind 95 degree weather two or three months a year- but six or seven months?? It is just too much for me. I get my dose of the outdoors in the morning and evening- where we take family walks to the pond, spend evenings in the park and mini zoo days thanks to having passes and living only a mile away.



My favorite thing in the summer is when there is a rainy day that invites me to sit out on the porch ( which thankfully there have been many this summer.). I love how the summer rains come assisted with a breeze that funnels through our new front porch, so that when sitting out there, I can feel perfectly comfortable with a hot cup of coffee or tea. The best part after the rains is when Preson runs and gets his rain boots (and dont forget his cars, too!) for a good puddle splashing. He really is all boy!


Even though I have lived in the sunshine state most of my life, I don't even enjoy the sunshine (or at least the heat of it), but rather LOVE a good gloomy rainy day- WHAT. is. wrong. with. me!? Any tips out there for a summer homebody? I get my beach-fix a couple of times before summer really kicks in, then I am pretty much over it. Growing up here, I was a sun worshipper- I loved being at the beach- getting tan (after getting fried), surfing to the the sunrise (thanks to growing up close to St Aug Beach) and taking long walks in between naps and magazines. This time in life is as far opposite from that season of life as I can think of, but one day I will return to those days with my children as they grow older.



The funny thing is that I am one of the biggest nature lovers you will meet. Living in Florida, I just prefer to do the outdoor thing in our shorter "kinda-seasons" of Autumn, Winter and Spring. Which is why I am ELATED that it is September! I know, I know, I know- It is still in the 90's. But this is the month that marks the beginning of the end of this dreadful long summer.


I am cautiously entering this tempting time of year on much better terms with my health. I am determined to keep it that way, too. I am slowly merging from pescatarian into a more plant based diet ("Forks over Knives", anyone??). I am not doing it to lose weight, but rather to just be healthy with the hopes that I will shed this weight in the process. It is my goal to continue eating healthfully and pass on the heavy casseroles and Starbucks drinks that I love so much. I will still bake since I love baking so much- but the goods will be going to friends and neighbors (ok so maybe Ill eat ONE muffin or cookie along the way). I think it is about living healthfully 99% of the time with treating yourself every now and then. I am not there yet, but I hope to get through these holidays with the idea of "eating to live, not living to eat".

So here is to FALL! I cant wait to finally ENJOY being outdoors, coming up with healthy alternative to cozy dishes with the very occasional indulgence...and here is to tackling the Fall Bucket list with my toddler that I spotted on Pinterest last week :)...

7.08.2011

count your blessings, name them one by one.

Preson and Penelope- what an adventure having 2 children has been. My intentions of blogging at least a monthly update on my little ones has once again drastically failed. Oh well- I do what I can, when I can, right? ;)
Penelope is coming up on 8 months next week. She is an absolute breath of fresh air and just a joy to have in our little family. I keep thinking she is just too wonderful to be true- how can a baby be this happy and sweet- all. the. time. I fall in love all over again each day.
She continues to follow the pattern of being long and lean. We gave it a go for as long as possible with breast feeding. I have always been the biggest advocate of breastfeeding along with any holistic and natural way of doing things possible. For some reason, my kiddo's are just too curious to sit still for the long nursing sessions that nature calls them to. They want it wham, bam, thank ya maam! ha! While I did hold out Preson for a full year, Penelope's nursing sessions were just becoming less and less frequent and shorter and shorter sessions. We made it to 6 months breast feeding; 7 months pumping and bottle feeding; and now mama is just not producing enough to provide what baby needs, so now she is on that nasty powdered stuff- so sorry, my sweet Penelope! I will say the stress of wondering if she was getting enough has left me. We are on a great schedule of bottle, play, solids, nap, play- and repeat. I am a stress free mama these days!


Penelope, you are developing right on target. You are following your big brother's pattern of doing the infamous Phillips army crawl. You are a fast little bugger too. I love watching you get up on all fours, bounce back and forth a few times and then flop on your belly and off you go! You are discovering a whole new world beyond your little play mat.
My floors have never been so spotless since Preson was at this stage due to ev.er.y.thing going in your mouth. Im having to really step up my game with the childproofing department. It is a daily process at the tip of my mind every day these days.
You take after mommy in so many ways! You love closed cozy spots. I can always find you under a table or chair. You are a snuggle bug. I love how you will fall asleep on me and daddy and just lay on our shoulder when you are sleepy. You are a chatterbox. You just babble and blow your little raspberries all day long to yourself as well to entertain those seeking smiles.
I also find it precious that you are fascinated with mirrors. I keep one right on your level just so I can watch you gaze and smile into it. I foresee many dress up play days in the future.
Watching Preson interact with you has been quite the adventure. When we go upstairs to get you from your nap- he shrieks with joy and runs right up to your crib to greet your smiling face. He always comes running to me to let me know whenever your crying and has nicknamed you "Puppy" since he has a bit of a hard time stringing 4 syllables together. I wonder if it will stick...
Somedays I wonder if he separates the idea of you being a playmate from a playTHING. He loves to shuffle you back and forth (quite roughly in fact) in your bouncer. He brings you toys whenever you are calling for them and the other day I caught him dragging you across the room by your foot! Luckily you were all smiles, although I did stress to him that that was not ok.


Preson, you are my beautiful little mess these days...and I love you more every day for it! You are a bundle of emotion- so many feelings pumping through your veins and no way of knowing how to filter through them, much less control them!
Every five minutes we are having a good cry- If you want food, you cry. If you are done eating, you cry. If you remember a toy from a friends house or church, you cry. If you see Penelope playing with your toy you cry. If it is nap time, you cry. When you want to see someone, you cry for them and when you are with them you cry. In fact anytime you wish to communicate something to me you pretty much have a mini melt down. Oh to be 2 years old! Thankfully you have mastered the art of the deep breath. Now if mommy could only master it. :)
I love it how you love old fashioned cartoons. Your favorite is Bambi. You ask to watch it every day and you are watching the Sword and the Stone as I write this. I cant wait to take you to the new vintage-inspired Winnie the Pooh movie that is coming out this summer. We will definitely aim for a mid week matinee on that one!
You love all things boy- anything with wheels, action figures, dinosaurs, things that make noise, etc. You are the master of the tricycle. With the way our house is set up, you ride around in a big circles through the house tirelessly and happily for what seems like hours. I absolutely love how you love to read. In fact you would be a very happy boy indeed if mommy would just sit and read to you all day every day. We are still working on independent playtime.


My house has never been a bigger mess- and for the first time I don't even care! I have stopped my ways of nonstop go, go, go and have submitted to focussing my attention of being a mother. Sitting still and giving my children the attention the need and deserve. I love my life and am so blessed to stay home with my babies. I thank God each day for that privilege and I will not take it for granted.
The other night a few of my wonderful friends and family surprised me for my birthday for an evening of wining and dining! They all surprised me with presents and cupcakes and lots of love- made me feel so loved and special!

6.23.2011

Psalm 121


Statistic time. Did you know that compared to people in other developed countries, Americans don't ask for more vacation time, don't take all the vacation time their employers give them and continue to work while they are on vacation? France leads the world with 30 days off a year. Employees in Britain, German, Australia, Spain and Sweden have 20 or more days off a year, and Canada and Japan have 10 days off, about the same as some American corporations allow their workers. The Chinese get three weeks off a year, and this is only the legally mandated vacation time. Many employees in other countries take six or more weeks off a year.

Lately my little family has been in dire need of a little vacation getaway. My husband and I decided that even though it was financially practically impossible, we WERE going to get away. Last year we were able to stay at a friend's cabin in Asheville and loved every minute of the serenity of the mountains and the remoteness of having no cell phones or internet. Asheville is a beautiful little city right off the Blue Ridge Parkway- it has all kinds of little coffee shops and boutiques with the best people watching. Even though Asheville was great and we looked into a return visit, it was out of our budget.

When looking for a new place to vacation, we knew we wanted two things- remoteness and a mountain view. After what seemed like months of researching, we were finally able to find a cabin in Blue Ridge, Ga. And when I say it was remote, I mean I had to grip my chair, close my eyes and pray my way up that mountain every time we went to turn onto the final road that our cabin was perched on. I literally thought our car was going to start sliding back down the dirt road that led us up it. I think it was God who gave my 2 year old, Preson a comical case of the giggles every time we hit the bumpy road to help me lighten up! But that scary little drive about a mile straight up was SOoOoO worth it! (although I think our van's transmission may be slipping as a result of it :-/)

The view was ri.dic.u.lous.



I have been craving some fresh mountain air with crisp, sweatshirt-worthy mornings and evenings. Though the days were blazing hot, we didn't mind it as much since the atmosphere was not as humid. I read. I prayed. I played. I reconnected with everything that was most important to me in my life.

The mornings were spent on the porch swing, taking in the gorgeous sunrises with a steaming cup of coffee and my precious kitten, Penelope. I didn't mind one bit waking up at 6:15 for that. My husband would watch the children and let me have some "me" time.
I was able to just relax and get in the Word of God, read some books I've been wanting to read for a long time and dive yet again into the book I have been infatuated with for the last 6 months- "The Celebration of Discipline" by Richard Foster. A book I return to again and again that the Lord uses in ways I cannot describe to connect me to Himself. There is something about being in nature that connects me to God in the most meaningful way. I can see why the life of a monk would be appealing at times- just check out, spend all day every day just you and God, living a life surrounded by the most beautiful nature you can take in...but we all know that is not real life. Not to mention I could not imagine my life without the richness of the people in it. Which is why some of us take vacations. :)

The afternoons were spent either tag team napping with my husband, exploring nature around the cabin with my children and taking long drives through the mountains.

A couple of highlights...
Prior to our arrival to Blue Ridge, I researched the area and discovered a passenger train that traveled through the mountains. My little boy is totally addicted to his Thomas the Train book his Mimi Sissy and Poppy gave him for Christmas. So you can imagine the excitement of this book coming to life for him! We had the choice of either riding in a closed or an open car and we decided we would get the most bang for the (very large) buck if we sat in the open car. We traveled through the woods, alongside river rapids and crops, over bridges and into a little mountain town for an afternoon of antiquing and taking in the scents of BBQ. If only we weren't vegetarians. This was our biggest temptation we have had yet since we have been veggies- but we stayed strong! It was an amazing day with memories made.








We also took a day to revisit the town of Helen, Ga. It is a little town replicated to look like the swiss alps. It also happens to be the same area that Tommy and I took our honeymoon. We spent some time in a park located on a hill overlooking the town.
It started raining while we were there, so we retreated to a pavilion that Preson deemed, "CASTLE! CASTLE!"
...where I took a moment to soak in my family...



Once the rain calmed down to a sprinkle, we spent the rest of the afternoon moseying through the shops, picking out russian nesting dolls, sampling fudge and drinking coffee. My kinda day!

One afternoon we got a late start and decided to just drive. As we were coming out of the forest, we started seeing signs for Chattanooga, TN. Turns out we were only 20 minutes away from the city that has been a very big part of Tommy's family's life. So we took the evening and had dinner at Big River, where we last ate with Tommy's brother, Scott and his wife and baby, Jennie and Moses. We drove through the campus of Tennessee Temple University where Tommy's Grandfather was a professor and where his dad grew up. It's always neat to take a spontaneous stroll down memory lane.
This is the house Tommy's dad grew up in and where Tommy has some great childhood memories.


One morning we got up and walked around the Ocoee Whitewater Center, which was host of the 1996 Olympics whitewater rafting games.

It was a blast! We walked alongside the rapids and watched all the whitewater rafters and kayakers passing through. I cant wait for the kiddo's to get old enough to do it one day- many moons from now. They had these massive bridges that made me feel like I was entering Sherwood Forest or something.
It was breathtaking views in every direction. I had been craving some Waterfalls, so I asked the guide in the Center if there were any nearby off the highway. She told me where we could find some that were a short, kid-friendly hike off the main road. So we drove and drove to find ourselves at the top of a mountain, where we landed in this JAM PACKED campground of mountain folks. It was really strange. Anyways...
We started on our trek, which was the furthest thing from a short hike OR kid friendly. It ended up being 2 miles of up-and-down-hill hiking. Here is the picture: Tommy and I in our flip flops- my ankles buckling every 5 minutes from the rough road. Preson on Tommy's shoulders, while I had a sleeping Penelope in the sling. We rotated carrying a massive beach bag which God knows why I insisted on bringing. Preson melting down every 10 minutes. We are drenched in sweat and keep expecting the fruits of our labor any minute- for about an hour. We walked and walked and walked finally to discover this beautiful- almost mystical waterfall that stood about 65 feet over us. Worth it.
It was a lovely destination that few had taken the time to discover. Tommy walked Preson over to show him the falls. Preson was a little nervous at first, but soon warmed up to it. He played in the icy water and discovered throwing little pebbles into the water over and over again.






meanwhile back at the blanket...Penelope. She is pure bliss.


So much symbolism in our little unexpected journey. Provided some meaningful conversation on the drive back to the cabin.



So those were our days.


The evenings were spent cooking dinner together and sipping hot tea out on the Adirondack chairs while taking in the views. We talked for hours in those chairs about life, God, ministry and countless other things.

Needless to say it was a great time of recharging and a great kickstart to many of the eye-opening life changes I have recently been making.


So I guess I write this ridiculously long blog not only to document the memories of our family's 2nd vacation, but also to urge anyone reading this to take the time to stop and be still and refresh your body mind and spirit. Don't feel guilty about doing something for yourself every now and then. Trust the Lord with your position at your workplace and know he is taking care of it while you are away. Refocus those things in life that will always be there. The things that are most important.


PS- Pardon the standstill on porch updates- we are on hold for the moment due to going on vacation and are presently broke. Check back next month! :)