Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Why Travel?.

The smell of diesel... memories of the bus ride from the terminal to the plane.  The feel of the wind as we rode the ferry across the bay every trip to boarding school.  The tightness of being squeezed like a sardine riding the train to and from school with my little sister.  So many of my memories relate to travel...  For me, it's in my blood. My entire life has revolved around traveling. Born in Texas, my parents brought me back to North Carolina as a two week old.  At two years of age, I traveled with my parents to Singapore where they were in missionary training before continuing on to Sapporo, Japan.  Planes, ferries, trains, buses, taxis were all common modes of transportation for me and my sisters growing up.  For a few years, I commuted to boarding school by airplane, flying as junior pilots (as our little pendant said) with my fellow MK friends back and forth from the Tokyo area to the northern island where our school was located.  In middle school, my friends and I commuted by train to our weekly boarding school in Tokyo.  

It's in my blood.  The thrill of the hustle and bustle of airports. The smells.  The people.  Maybe that's why I want to share the country of my childhood with my children.  To see this amazing land through their eyes, to experience the food and smells with them, and to embrace the adventure of traveling once again. 

Why now?

If we don't go now, the opportunity may never present itself again. Our girls are at the perfect age to travel.  They are still young enough that everything will be eye opening and thrilling, yet old enough to walk decent distances without need of strollers.  I pray they will remember this trip for the rest of their lives.  

Yes, it is costing us an arm and leg, and we pray daily that our vehicles will survive another year.  But we know that God will provide as He has already shown over the past few months.  Sweet friends and family have given sacrificially, and to watch our girls put such effort in selling their sea glass creations (from Okinawa) and cake pops & lemonade to help supplement the cost of travel has been so humbling. They have put every penny in our Japan fund. Never once have they asked to keep it for themselves or use it for spending money.  

"To travel is to discover profound things and learn about yourself in the world; what a joy to give children that experience while they're still under their parents' roof.  It takes money, time, and planning, but so does most everything in life.  Traveling with kids is so very worth the effort." - Tsh Oxenreider, Notes from a Blue Bike

I will not pretend to say this is primarily a mission trip.  The bulk of our trip is funded by our tax refund money.  But I do pray that God will do a work in all of our hearts while on this trip.  I pray over those we will be sitting next to on each flight. I pray that God will open the eyes of our girls to a world full of amazing things and to instill in them a passion to reach out to those who are hurting and without hope.  I pray for strength for each of us as the traveling will not be easy.  But now that passports have arrived and tickets have been reserved, we are eager to embark on this exciting adventure!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

What I learned in February & what's to come in March...

What I learned in February...

 - snow skiing is still as thrilling as when I was 8 years old and brings an entirely new dimension with your 4 year old between your legs.

 - traveling with my children is and will continue to be one of my favorite parts of life.  Their passports will become their greatest textbooks.

 - my 10 year old does not have a birth certificate!  Discovered this at our local post office trying to get their passports.  We thought that her hospital certificate was her birth certificate for the past 10 years!  This was quickly remedied.

 - I love my best friend more now than ever!  Traveling on youth trips with him, taking time to date him when we can squeeze it in, living life:  the good and the bad with him.  I wouldn't trade him for anything!

 - Even though I love the winter months (& my sweet girls), I crave alone time, whether it's a hour at our local coffee shop or just in my kitchen fixing supper with a podcast going.

 - God is teaching me patience through my girls wanting to help in the kitchen.  The perfectionist in me really comes out!  Mold me, Lord because I can't do it in my own strength.

  - Purging stuff is hard.  I have done horribly at my 40 bags in 40 days.  I don't even know what day I'm on.  I could blame it on the snow/ice and the laziness that comes with days like that in NC or that we had a quick stomach bug with one of our girls, but it just comes down to the fact that it's hard.  I'm not giving up though.  

Now for what's to come in March...

1.  Get ready for bed when my nightly alarm goes off.  I NEED TO GO TO BED EARLIER!!!  I have been working on this for years.

2.  Finish Notes from a Blue Bike, read Love & Respect, and pick up where I left off on The Happiness Project.  I finished The Best Yes last month.  Phenomenal book that I'm still taking notes on. Will share more in another post.

3.  Order plane tickets (once tax money comes in...), train tickets, and arrange lodging (already have some tentative arrangements made.  Yay!) for Japan.

4.  Continue 40 bags in 40 days...

5.  Celebrate birthdays well.  Two of my favorite people are turning another year older and celebrations will be quiet, but special. My littlest informed me last night that she is no longer 4, but already 5.  I turned weepy at the thought of my baby being 5 soon, but she quickly assured me that she would still be my baby when she was 5, and 6, and 7...   

Thursday, February 26, 2015

For the Love of Snow...

For the love of snow...  I may be one of the few adults in North Carolina who truly loves the snow.  Maybe it's my childhood resurfacing, the fact that we had snow from October to April.  But today we were disappointed, waking to slushy snow/ice when they predicted 7-10 inches of snow.  No sledding or snowman making around here. Instead, I've enjoyed looking back over last week's ice/snow while enjoying my second cup of coffee.  Today will be a good day!

I'm so thankful that my girls love the snow as much as I do, but gloves do get wet and toes eventually get cold, so here are few links to help with the boredom that sets in from being stuck in the house.  
 - Ongoing education:  12 tools I really dig @ art of simple
 - Read-Aloud Revival podcasts - inspiring us moms to read more to our kids.  Helpful for enduring laundry folding too...
 - Snowflake quesadillas for lunch - thanks to Martha!
 - Winter tree silhouette craft - we'll see how this goes...

Enjoy your day whether you have a foot of snow or two inches of slush!  Enjoy the children that God has given you even if it's just snuggling up on the couch and watching Frozen for the 26th time. This is the day that He has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Stained Index Cards...

Ten years ago, one of my sisters gave me a small index card book, full of verses of scripture.  It had a hand sewn cover to soften the generic outside, and to protect the corners from getting bent.  I remember this little book of God's words lodged carefully beside the cup holder on my baby's stroller as we would take daily walks, partly for the fresh air and exercise and the other part for the sake of my sanity.  I committed several pages to heart, but now three babies later, daily walks are rare and when they do occur, they are filled with sweet girly chatter.

Now, there are stains on every page, yet I can't let it go.  My girls are no longer babies, and can all sleep through the night.  Mornings can be intentional again.  Scripture memory may not happen on daily walks, but it can happen in the dark hours of the morning, in the bathroom while fixing hair, or at a stoplight.  I have lacked greatly in this area.  

I was challenged this week by this story concerning a debate between a university professor and a coal miner in South Wales. The debate concerned the subject of the reliability of the Bible. The professor presented his arguments against the Bible clearly and in such a way that there seemed no hope for the miner.  Yet the miner began his reply with prayer, "Lord, I have not had much education, but You know that I love Your Word and have spent my life searching its pages.  Help me now to say something that will convince my friends here that Your Word is true."  He then continued over the next hour to quote the appropriate scriptures denouncing the professors arguments without making a single comment.  By scripture alone...

"Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." Psalm 119:105

"The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple." Psalm 119:130

"Sanctify them by the truth; Your Word is truth." John 17:17

"For the Word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Hebrews 4:12-13

"Christians who do not accept the authority of the Scriptures have no effective weapon with which to overcome Satan.  If we are to conquer Satan in the same way that Jesus conquered him, then we must know the Bible in its entirety.  It is no good saying to the devil:  'The verse I want to use against you is somewhere in the Bible.'  You must quote it to him and quote it precisely." - Selwyn Hughes

May we cry out as Hughes so beautiful wrote:

"O Father, the more I hear, the more I want to hear.  For I was created by Your Word, designed according to Your Word, and I can never remain content until I am indwelt with Your Word. Teach me even more."


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

40 bags in 40 days...

I'm not even sure how I came to follow her on Instagram, but at the mention of eliminating 40 bags of stuff over the next 40 days, I immediately became a follower.  One of my goals this month was to eliminate 5 unnecessary piles in our home. Piles form and then slowly seem to become part of the furniture that I simply walk around. Gradually though it becomes like a heavy weight on my shoulders rather than an ugly piece of furniture.  

Ann Marie planned for this major purging to coincide with the 40 days of lent.  I have tried to do lent in the past and usually fail, so I will not claim this as a spiritual endeavor.  But I do think with the letting go of stuff, there will also be much freedom.  If you're interested in minimalist living, check out this podcast with Tsh Oxenrider and Joshua Becker, called Freedom from Stuff

Emily Freeman just reviewed this podcast as well and wrote on Becoming a Soul Minimalist.  I resonated with her words, "When our souls are filled with clutter, which is meant to be complex and awe-inspiring, it can become complicated and exhausting.  When that happens, I crave simple."  

Simple... it's become a motto of sorts.  I've been told that my generation seeks that more than those in the past.  Perhaps it's due to the insane amount of information and ideas so readily available at our fingertips.  Much to ponder...

But back to the task at hand!  40 bags in 40 days.  If you're interested in joining in, check out her printable to fill out and her blog.  You never know, it could change your life.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A Day in the Life...

Sometimes pictures express more than words, so here's to another "wordless Wednesday"...  A day in the life of the Middleton girls (which is different every single day; pancakes being a rarity.) 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Grace Goals for February...

January flew by in a blur.  Sweet memories with my mama, time away, and restarting school with renewed fervor.  Even though I'm still not implementing "early to bed, early to rise" quite yet, and a mornings are not as disciplined as I'd like, I'm thankful for a brand new month to start all over and try again.  

Recapping January Goals... 

1.  Try and implement a new daily schedule - Failed.  Schedule written out, but hardly implemented... New month, keep trying.
2.  Finish The Best Yes and read more of Notes from a Blue Bike (working on my "words") - Over halfway through both of these and sincerely loving the content of each.  Perfect for this time in my life.
3.  Fill out the paperwork and get pictures taken for passports - Appointment made!
4.  Declutter our storage area Purged a lot of girl clothes, gave some away, but much more needs to go!
5.  Order a photobook of 2014 Instagram photos. I ordered it from Shutterfly (thanks to a $20 off coupon) and wish that I could have made it hardback, but also couldn't justify the cost right now.  It has the majority of my Instagram pictures from 2014 and we've enjoyed it so much already.  As much I'd love to scrapbook again, this will do for now.

6.  Love the people in my life and show it through my words - Not perfect by any means, but as said before, an ongoing goal and desire.


Grace Goals for February...

1.  More disciplined mornings.  Shower before breakfast. (Don't laugh...)
2.  Finish The Best Yes and Notes from a Blue Bike, and try to start Love and Respect.  (I want to read more books on marriage this year and what a better month to start!)
3.  Begin the process of getting our tickets to Japan.  I'm honestly getting giddy in the knees over the thought of this.  Japan holds such a large piece of my heart and I can't wait to show my girls and Marty more of my childhood.
4.  Eliminate 5 unnecessary piles around our home.  Donate, give away, purge!!!
5.  Focus on loving, encouraging, and supporting Marty more than ever.  Notes, gifts, etc are nice, but over the years I've found that the best gift I can give him is a peaceful wife and home.  When I am stressed, it only adds to the stress in his life.  
6.  Read aloud with my girls on a daily basis. This is one of my favorite things to do, yet days will go by and it doesn't find its place in our schedule.