Sunday, September 30, 2012

I Love That She.....

I love that she: 

-thinks she can do any and everything. If you seem to in any way doubt her abilities, she says, "I can do. I'm older." 

-has learned how to smile for the camera. Albeit the smile might be a little awkward, but after all, she is her mother's child. 

-is madly obsessed with turtles. She's so into turtles that she wants her birthday party to be a turtle party...with puppies. 

-wants full responsibility for dressing herself and loves to wear mom's 'moonday' jewelry. 

-pretends to be a puppy named Keekee for hours each day. Oh, you read that correctly. Always wanted a puppy named Keekee, so it works for us. 

Here's hoping your weekend was full of all things fall and that you enjoyed the rainy weather (assuming it did in fact rain where you are...) as much as we did. I introduced Libby to the movie Tuck Everlasting this weekend. Have you seen it? Bring kleenex. What movie are you looking forward or did you look forward to introducing your wee ones to? I'm always hunting new great one to share with my girls.....

Friday, September 28, 2012

Nothing But Thankful

"When people seek to fulfill their callings by glorifying God in their work, praising Him for their gifts and abilities, and seeing both their efforts and its products as an offering to Him, then work is an act of worship to God. On the other hand, when work is done to glorify oneself or merely to achieve more wealth, it becomes worship of false gods. How we work and for whom we work really matters."

When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert  pg.79

People have been asking me a lot of questions lately. 
For whatever reason, I suppose that quitting my secure, comfy job and taking a non-paid internship and traveling across the world in what will be twice in four months tends to raise a few eyebrows and furrow a few foreheads. 

And one of the most popular questions I am being asked is am I glad I did it.
 Am I glad I took the plunge. 
Am I happy with where things are headed. 

And the answer is an undeniable YES!
I have never (repeat NEVER) been more confident that I am right where I am supposed to be. 
Don't know if you know this, but it's hard to find a job working for Africa. 
There aren't many available. 
They're very competitive. 
And most of them are in Nashville or D.C.

And here I am interning in my own state. 
That alone is worth a happy dance.

And then God also led me to Noonday. 
I literally stay awake at night thinking about Noonday. 
I love everything about it. 
The women I work with across the country are some of the most encouraging, inspiring women I've ever heard of; let's just say I am in great company. 
And it allows me to advocate for those around the world who are trying to use their gifts to better their situation. I've fallen in love with their stories and so look forward to sharing them with others. 

And in NINETEEN days I'll leave for Malawi. 
While my heart already hurts at the thought of leaving my family for ten days, it's also full of joy at the the thought of heading back to the land I love. 

I honestly hope that everyone listens when God points them in the direction they are supposed to go. 
The peace that comes with being obedient, oh my stars, it's worth every uncomfortable question, every negative comment, every utterance of disbelief, and every furrowed brow.....times ten.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Girl With The Jazz Shoes

One of the things that consumed my thoughts the most while I was in Africa was the need for shoes. 

I have never not had shoes. 
I don't even know that I know anyone personally who has ever gone without shoes because they didn't have any other option. 
Even my two-year-old has more shoes than she can possibly wear enough to make them all worth having before she outgrows them. 

But in Africa, you see lots of little bare feet. 

And it made my heart hurt. 
Shoes are just one of the many things I so take for granted. 
I have many pairs of shoes, some of which are seasonal or for a special occasion. 
Here in America we don't think twice about buying a pair of shoes simply because
 they are on sale or match that one outfit in our closet or because they are oh so cute. 

And most of us never think about the little ones around the world who are doing without.

While I was in Uganda, I was just in awe of the things the children there often do without. 
And while there is a happy median between all the things we have and don't need and they things they do without and do need, to me, shoes are a NEED, not a want, at least in the 'one pair to protect your feet' sense. 

I mean, seriously, have you ever REALLY thought about the importance of having good shoes to protect your feet? You may have, but you probably have not. Shoes are such a given in our culture that we tend to overlook their importance. 

I think I was just as humbled in that often times when I did see  children wearing shoes, they often didn't seem to fit correctly or were worn past the point of truly being functional any more.
 And yet they seemed so proud to have any shoes at all.

There are lots of holes and tatters on shoes in Africa.

But the image that stuck with me more clearly and that made the biggest impact on me was the girl in the jazz shoes. 

There's no telling where she got them or where they originally came from. 
I can just see one of my girls cleaning out her closet and donating them, thinking that another little girl somewhere will have fun dancing in them or playing dress up. But I don't think my girls would ever imagine that another little girl somewhere would covet them because they are either the only pair or at least the nicest pair of shoes she has. 

If you know anything about jazz shoes, then you know they offer absolutely no support whatsoever. Their primary purpose in dance is to keep you from slipping and offer some grip. They don't have a real sole. Your little feet are no better off than if you'd stepped out in socks that day. 

And yet, here she her uniform and her jazz shoes. 

This was one of the most humbling sites I'd ever seen. 
Her little image is burned in my mind as a symbol for the need to be thankful for all that I have and all that I have never had to do without. 

I truly see shoes differently now than I did before going to Africa thanks primarily to the girl in the jazz shoes. 

I am not proposing that you never donate your jazz shoes or asking you to give up the beauties in your closet; I am simply asking if you have ever taken time to truly stop and think about all that you have.

Some times all it takes to alter our perspective, after all, is a pair of jazz shoes. 

*If you'd like to find out more that you can do to help put shoes on little feet in Africa, Sole Hope is a great organization that works to do just that and offers aid to those suffering from medical issues due to a lack of shoes. They are doing great things, and you can help. They in no way supported this post. Heck, they don't even know I'm writing it. But I love what they are doing, and I think you might too.....*

Friday, September 21, 2012

Speaking Her Love Language

I am an only child, at least in the technical sense, 
as my step brothers didn't join my life until I was half way through high school.
So, this whole 'juggling two kiddos' thing is hard for me sometimes. 
I have no experience in sibling rivalry and how to make it stop, and here lately it has reached an all-time high at our house.
 Fortunately, I HAVE learned a few things in the past two and a half years though,
 one if which is how important it is to speak their individual love languages. 

And this girl loves to be in the spotlight. 
She thrives on one-on-one time, 
whether it's watching her sing the latest song she's written 
or taking the time to take through the latest picture she has drawn. 

She needs to know we listen to her and value what she has to say; 
she needs to feel like the priority that she is.
Making time for just us is a priority where Libby is concerned; 
my girl craves time alone with each of her parents.

And when her personal time with mom and dad needs are met, I find that there is less girl drama in our house, making the world a better place for all involved. 

Let's just be honest, dealing with sibling rivalry is not the most fun thing I've ever done. 

So we do what we can to keep it at bay in our house, including regular time alone with the Libster. 

Good thing she's fun to hang out with and makes a great movie/reading/window shopping/model in the backyard date. 

So while I still have two tons of lessons to learn regarding the whole 'how to love your sister unconditionally and realize she is a gift to you straight from God' department, this is what I've learned so far: 

find what works for your kid in terms of helping him or her feel loved.

 Maybe it's physical touch, maybe it's acts of service, or maybe it's words of encouragement.  
For this here eight year old, quality time is where it's at, so quality time she shall receive. 

Oh, and I'm sure you noticed Libby's accessories in this here post...
thanks for that, Noonday

Here are the pieces she's sporting: 

Here's hoping your weekend is filled with all things fall.
 Football, candy corn, and perhaps pumpkin muffins are on the agenda at our house. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

She Said YES and So Did I

I love this girl. 

Love doesn't do it justice, really. 

She is hands down one of my all-time favorite people to laugh with......

..and stay up late chit chatting with......

....and be creative with.....

...and have adventures with.

And she recently got engaged to this handsome fella!

And that question led to this question....

Megan, I CANNOT wait to stand by you on your big day!
Thank you for always being so wonderful to me and for giving me an up close and personal view of this special time in your life. 

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE you mucho grande, my partner in crime!

And now, for your viewing pleasure... I once again give you the greatest 'cheer me up' gift I've ever received. 

Megan T., you make my day. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

My Heart Falls to Pieces

If you know me in real life, you know that my grandmother is my all-time favorite person.
I literally spent every day of summer with her all through my childhood. 
I love her to bits and pieces and simply cannot imagine my life without her. 

And now she's sick....very, very sick. 

I'm a tough kid. 
I don't cry at Hallmark movies or get my feelings hurt easily. 
But when it involves my grandmother, my heart just can't take it. 

Please pray that God's will will be done in her life. 
She is my ultimate Earthly role model, 
and I could not be more serious when I say 
that I don't know what I'll do without her whenever the time comes that I have to do just that. 

Please pray for her and for my family. 
I so truly appreciate it.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

My Little Libby

Libby turned eight last Friday. 
My BABY is almost ten. 
Oh my heavens. 
So, in honor of Libby's big day and in correlation with the recent Parenthood season premier, I've had the Parenthood theme song stuck in my head for weeks. 
I love it. 
And I love the message it has for my daughter. 
So, let's take a little stroll down Libby memory lane, shall we: 

May God bless and keep you always. 

May your wishes all come true. 

May you always do for others and let others do for you. 

May you build a ladder to the stars and climb on every rung. 

And may you stay forever young. 

May you grow up to be righteous.

May you grow up to be true. 

May you always know the truth and see the lights surrounding you. 

May you always be courageous...

....stand upright and be strong. 

May you stay forever young. 

May your hands always be busy

May your feet always be swift. 

May you have a strong foundation... 

...when the winds of changes shift.

May your heart always be joyful. 


May your song always be sung. 

May you stay forever young

Happy birthday to the girl who made me a mom. 
God has big, big things in store for you, little one. 
I just know it. 

Today Libby and I are embracing the camera over at my fav-o-rite blog
If you're stopping by, welcome. Sit and stay a while and let's be friends, mkay? 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Cancer Doesn't Win

Believe it or not, Africa isn't the only thing I'm passionate about. 
Meet my friend Candice. 
You may remember her from her I Am That Mom guest post she did for me about this time two years ago. 
She's a dear friend from college who is doing amazing things to make the world a better from place for some very special kiddos....the kids of St. Jude's Children Hospital. 

Candice is a pediatric oncology nurse.
 I can't even begin to imagine how very hard her job must be
 or how brave she must have to be every time she goes into work. 
But working for St. Jude isn't enough for Candice.
 She wants to do more.... 
So this year she is participating in the St. Jude Memphis Marathon, 
thirteen miles of which Candice will run for the children and the place she loves so dearly. 

Here's a little bit of her story, in her own words: 

"Recently, a close friend of mine reminded me that in the end...cancer doesn't win. Every now and then, I need to hear that. I need to be reminded that this world is not the end. The things that plague us, the heartache we's not the end...and those things certainly do NOT win as much as Satan wants to bog me down with that lie.

John 16:33 "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

I can't tell you the number of times people have said, "I don't know how you work there (St. Jude Children's Research Hospital)." I guess my response to that is found in John 16:33. I work there because I know deep down no matter how many times I have to be reminded, that THIS is NOT the end. The one who made us has already won the battle and this is merely a breath in something more wonderful than our limited minds can even begin to comprehend.

As much as my heart breaks for every family that walks through the doors of the hospital completely unprepared to fight most likely the biggest battle of their lives, I love the opportunity I have to love on those children as if they are my own, to do whatever I can to make this journey a little bit easier. 

I've always been the type of person to wear my emotions on my sleeves. As you can imagine, this can be quite a weakness. However, for me I feel it is also my biggest strength. I will never forget the first time I went back to work after having my first child. Everything changed. I wasn't just a nurse any longer. I was a nurse who was also a mother. That one thing changed my entire perspective. And I believe at that moment I became a better nurse. I still struggle when I care for a child who is around the age of one of my children. It's not impossible to let your mind think of the "what if's." What if that was my child lying in the bed? What if my child were fighting this horrible disease? What if I was the one sitting there unable to take this for my child? And then comes the wash of emotion. The desire to scoop up that child and love them and tell them it's gonna be do the very thing you'd do if it were your own there. I can only imagine the parent's thoughts when they see this crazy nurse snuggling their child :) But you know...When you've had a conversation on talking to angels with a 3 year old, when you've had school aged children ask you if their parents will be ok when they go to heaven, when you've watched a child take his last breath, when you've held a parent and cried with them because you didn't know what else to do, when you've had to answer a parent's worst nightmare question as you listen to a chest with no heartbeat because of a stupid disease that couldn't be tend to not care anymore. You just want to give lots and lots of love when it matters most. And then there are those times that one of your first patients messages you on facebook wanting to be your friend and letting you know that they are in college now. You get a random letter in the mail with a picture of a grown, healthy person...who happens to be that little 7 year old you were head over heels for a decade ago. That's how I do what I do...and I love every second of it. And I HATE cancer as much as any one person ever could...but cancer doesn't win...ever.

So as the holiday seasons approach, GIVE THANKS...for your own health, for that of your children. Pray for those who are in the fight of their life right now because trust me, they need it and they cherish it. And most importantly, remember this is NOT the end. Thank you God, this is not the end!"

Today I'm coming to you to ask you to help Candice reach her fundraising goal of $2500, raised to go directly to these families, finding cures and giving the most precious gift of all...LIFE! 

You can go here, to Candice's St. Jude page,
 to help her help the children and families of St. Jude. 

To help meet her goal, Candice is giving away these super cute hand towels for a minimum donation of $15. You can even choose which color combination you'd like! She's working so hard to reach her goal of  $2500. 
Every dollar counts. 

And Candice, heaven forbid if one of my girls was ever to be placed in St. Jude, you are exactly who I would want to stand by our side and take care of them. 
THANK YOU for being a hero.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Chasing My Dream

So in July I packed my bags.....

...and sat on a plane for entirely too long staring at this little screen.....

...and slept under a net. 

And next month, I'll do it all again. 

That's right......


October 17-26, I will be headed to Malawi with Clean Water for Malawi as a part of my internship with them. 

To say I'm excited is an understatement. 
I never dreamed I'd be headed back to Africa just three months after first stepping foot on African soil. 
I wasn't looking or searching for a way back; God just dropped this opportunity in my lap. 
And I could not be more grateful. 

Three years ago, Africa wasn't even on my radar. 
It wasn't something I thought about regularly. 
I even remember one time when I was dreaming of places I'd like to go one day, 
and Africa didn't make the cut. 

And then, God got a hold of my heart and opened my eyes. 

And nothing has been the same since.

My dream now?
To help the people of Africa in whatever way God sees fit.

Not everyone understands my desire to serve people I've never met whose world is so very different from the one we know. And if I didn't KNOW it was God's will for me right now, that would probably hurt my feelings. There's nothing 'fun' about having people question what you're doing with your life. There's nothing 'fun' about watching people's eyes get big and their expression change when I say I've quit my job to chase my dream.
 I think they think I'm crazy. 
Maybe I am. 
But if this is what crazy feels like, and if this is the kind of peace and reassurance that comes with being crazy, sign me up and save me a room. 
I'm all in. 

The bottom line is: I've never been MORE SURE that I'm right where I'm supposed to be. 

And for every person who thinks I've totally lost it, God has given me someone to cheer me on. 
For every negative comment, I've received an even stronger encouraging one.
 He continues to send people into my life who get it, who understand. 
And for that I could not possibly be more thankful. 

Africa is my dream. 
I can only hope you'd choose to follow yours. 

So, Malawi, in a month and six days, I'll be headed your way. 
And I could not be more excited. 

And in case you're wondering, there will be no t-shirts or canvases or hair-ties for this trip.....only Noonday. If you'd like to support my trip and help get me to Malawi, consider doing a little Christmas shopping or scheduling a trunk show. In just over a week since I started scheduling shows, I already have FOURTEEN booked between now and Christmas; God is oh so very, very good.
 I would LOVE to book another one with you....fifteen may be my new favorite number. 

I've been thinking a lot about the verse that inspires Noonday:
"....when you satisfy the needs of the oppressed, your night will become like the noonday."
Isaiah 58:10

Those words ring true in my heart; nothing makes me happier than serving others. 
And I am so, so thankful that God has given me another opportunity to serve people in a place I so love.