Sunday, November 30, 2008

Markers On My Journey

Back in August I was diagnosed with a health condition that, among other things, suppressed my metabolism. It explained why I was slowly gaining weight, and could not seem to lose any weight, no matter how little I ate or how much I exercised. I started on a medication that has kicked my metabolism back into gear.

It has been three months, and today I braved Kohl's for the first time since early August. I knew I had lost a bunch of weight, but I didn't know how that translated into sizes.

Pants: From a size 18 to a size 14!!!
Tops: From a size 2X to a size L sweater and XL top!

Woo Hoo and congratulations for me! No more shopping dread! And baby, next shopping trip (in January) there will be even less of me to love!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Fun

This was a great Thanksgiving! I ran around like crazy all morning cooking up a storm. Our friends Adam and Laura came over, and Laura has celiac disease. That means she cannot have any food with gluten (wheat products) in it. It is amazing how many things have gluten in them! I wanted Laura to be able to eat everything the rest of us ate, so I did some research, found some gluten-free recipes, and altered some traditional favorites to be gluten free. The end result was fabulous! I made green bean casserole, cornbread stuffing (delicious!), mashed potatoes, spiced cranberries, artichoke parmesan dip, cream cheese fruit dip, and turkey gravy. Laura brought a crustless pumpkin pie and corn casserole. Matt's college buddy Tim brought ham and pie. We topped it off with Martinelli's sparkling cider. And props to Matt for a great job on the turkey! It was perfect! Oh, was it all yummy! And we had lots of fun talking, too. I didn't even have time to get lonely for my family. There is something strangely comforting about being with other people who are missing their families, too. Anyhoo, we had a great day. Here are a few pictures.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Little Bit of Old and New

I have so many wonderful memories attached to Thanksgiving. When I was in elementary school, my mom always dressed me up as a pilgrim on Thanksgiving. Little gray dress, little white cap, little white apron. So cute! She had me memorize Thanksgiving poems and songs to perform for the family. On Thanksgiving, my sister and I used to snuggle up with warm blankets on the couch and watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Around 1:00, we piled into the car and headed to the home of whichever family member was hosting Thanksgiving dinner. Some years it was at Auntie Maggie's. A few years it was at Aunt Lotte's in Sacramento. And then we started going to Granny's cousin Ursella's house. It is way up on top of the mountain in Saratoga. On clear days you can see all the way to San Francisco, and down to Morgan Hill. For you non-Californians, that's a span of about 60 miles! It is breathtaking! I loved all the traditional Thanksgiving foods: Ursella's perfectly roasted, specially ordered turkey; my mom's red cabbage; cousin Linda's yam casserole; Missy's heavenly mashed potatoes; lots of gravy; and the pies! After dinner, we always played charades with my younger cousins. Best charade ever: my mom being Humpty Dumpty...hilarious!

There are some bitter Thanksgiving memoryies along with the sweet. Shortly after Whitney was born, my mom's cancer was starting to resist the chemo. That Thanksgiving was the last day she ever ate a meal. Even then, it was just a few bites. Nothing would stay down. A week later she was admitted to the hospital and we learned that the tumors had blocked her intestines. From that point on, Mom had iv feedings. We knew that would be her last Thanksgiving, so we savored each tradition, each conversation, each new memory.

Then in 2006 Matt and I moved to Arkansas. Everything has changed. Part of me welcomes the changes. Establishing new traditions, trying new foods, spending the day with different people--all those have a way of soothing my sore heart. Being with the family on Thanksgiving without my mom magnifies the void she left when she died.

I am looking forward to tomorrow! I'm cooking the turkey, as well as cornbread stuffing, from-scratch cranberry jelly, mashed potatoes, gravy, and green bean casserole! Oh, and I can't forget the baked artichoke parmesan dip! I will be posting the recipe on the recipe blog listed on my blog roll. Our friends Adam and Laura are coming over with their three girls. Matt's college friend Tim, who lives in Little Rock, is coming too. It promises to be a day of great fun and conversation.

I have so much to be thankful for. I could write out a whole long list, but that would take too long and wouldn't be very much fun to read. I think I'll save it for my journal. However, I will comment on one thing--the faithfulness of God. We have had some trying times this year. Yet God has brought us through, providing everything we need, even when the numbers don't line up. He has given wisdom when we have asked for it. He has directed us in some difficult decisions. He has comforted us when we have been hurting. And He has worked specifically in our lives, in ways that are nothing short of miraculous! How great is our God!

So tomorrow as I spend my morning in the kitchen, I will be focusing my thanks toward God. Yes, it will be a wonderful day. Happy Thanksgiving, my friends. I am thankful for you!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Table Topics

I had a great day today! I spent the morning at LifeChange with Matt, getting our Christmas cards made. For lunch we enjoyed pizza as a family. Then I dropped Matt back at the office, and ran a few errands. I picked up a set of photography light reflectors and a piece of black velvet. I'm wanting to expand my photography to indoors, and learn the tricks of dealing with poor lighting. Pepper took a nap while Snapper and I played with the reflectors. I got some fantastic pics of her, and I wasn't even trying for them! I just wanted to test the light. I picked Matt up from work, came home, and made a wonderful spaghetti dinner. And then came one of my favorite times of the day: family dinner time! I love sitting down to a home-cooked meal and sharing sweet conversations with my husband and kids. It has been fun to hear these conversations deepen as Snapper has gotten older. We often discuss some deep things around the dinner table! Tonight, however, the conversation headed down a totally different trail. It was so random, and so funny, that I had to run upstairs and record it as soon as I was done with dinner! As you read, picture us:

Pepper, clueless, content and spaghetti-sauced-stained in his high chair at one end of the table.
Me at the other end of the table, desperately trying to play along and keep a straight face.
Snapper: To my left, totally serious in trying to carry on a grown-up conversation with her daddy.
Matt: The top tease in our family, seated across from Snapper, flawlessly executing his prank, his face the perfect study of seriousness.
Got the picture? Good! Now to this "deep" conversation....

Snapper: Mommy, I want one of those bunny things for dessert. You know, the bunny ice cream popsicle things the ice cream man has.

Emily: You mean Blue Bunny Fudge Bars? We can get some of those the next time we go grocery shopping. They're not that bad for you, and tasty, too!

Matt: A blue bunny in a bar would be very bad for you.

S: Why?

M: Because a blue bunny in a bar can't hold his liqour.

S: A blue bunny in a barb can't hold a bicker?

M: That's right!

S: Oh...

M: But a blue bunny in a barn would be just fine. A blue bunny in a barn is friendly.

S: What did you say before the barn?

M: A blue bunny in a bar can't hold his liquor.

S: Can't hold his liquor?

M: That's right.

S: What's liquor?

M: Yup. That would be bad. But you know what be even worse than that?

S: No, what?

M: A blue bunny in a bra! That would be bad!

S: What's a bra?

M: It's an article of clothing.

S: (blank look)

M: You know, like the top piece of a two-piece bathing suit.

E: (shows Snapper bra strap) This is a bra. If you were wearing a bra, would you want a blue bunny in it?

M: It would be like having a bee in your bonnet!

S: No way! I wouldn't want a bunny in my bra or a bee in my bra!

E: Why not?

S: The bunny would run around and scratch you or bite you really hard, and a bee would sting you and bite you, too!

M: There would be plenty of room for a blue bunny in my bra!

S: But he would still bite you and scratch you!

M: You know why a blue bunny is blue, don't you?

S: No, whay?

M: He is blue because he is cold.

E: (focuses very hard on eating salad, not making eye contact with Daddy, trying so hard not to laugh)

M: I have to work really hard to embarrass my family in public, but it's even harder to embarrass them at home!

S: I'm not embarrassed!

E: I'm not embarrassed either, just trying not to laugh.

S: I don't want a blue bunny in my bra. I just want a Blue Bunny Fudge Bar!

Here are a few pictures from my indoor shoot with Snapper today.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Problem Solved!

A few days ago I wrote about the turmoil Pepper has experienced at bedtime since moving into his new room. Well, today we found a perfect solution in an unexpected form.

Our cat, Zoe

Debbie's cat, Alara

We discovered this solution by accident. Alara was in Pepper's bed at bedtime last night. He was delighted to see her there, so Matt just left her. Not a tear from Pepper, and he was asleep in just a few minutes. At naptime today, Alara didn't want Pepper's bed, so we put Zoe, in bed with him. He was out in just a few minutes without a single tear. Bedtime tonight, Alara was happy to get in bed with Pepper. He was out in just a few minutes without a single tear. Both cats are thrilled to share Pepper's bed because it is soft and warm, and he is a gentle little boy. Hooray for the kitties! They have finally redeemed themselves for the pee-in-the-garage incident!

Family Members Excluded!

Warning: Christmas secrets contained on this page! If you are a member of my family, whether close or distant, don't read this blog entry!

There's nothing like a cold November weekend to get the creative juices rolling! I had a fantastic time scrapbooking with my friends on Friday night...until 2:30 a.m.! While I was there, I had access to my friend Christy's many Cricut cartridges. For you non-scrapbookers, a Cricut is an electronic person die cut machine. Matt got me one for Christmas last year, and I LOVE it! I use it all the time to create beautiful titles for my scrapbooks, gift tags, and other fun paper projects. I never have to worry about running out of letter stickers because I can cut whatever letters I need. Anyhoo, Christy and Kelli were making gorgeous, elaborate gift tags instead of scrapbooking. I had been thinking about making ornaments for my family members this year, but didn't have the right Cricut cartridge to do what I wanted. Seeing Christy's and Kelli's gift tags inspired me! They had the right cartridge! So I put the scrapbook on hold and spent an hour cutting the paper for my ornaments. They came out SO cute, and I was able to complete 26 of them in just 4 hours!

Another friend of mine, Anne, shared with me that for the last many years, she has been giving a special Christmas ornament to each of her nieces and nephews, building a collection that they will have for the rest of their lives. I thought that I would start that same tradition for my nieces and nephews (I have 2 of each right now, and 2 more will be arriving in 2009!). So I spent a long time yesterday looking for the right ornament for each child. No luck! I don't have the resources to spend $15 per ornament! So I went to Hobby Lobby in search of ornament crafting inspiration! Hobby Lobby is one of my favorite places in the world, and I never leave the store disappointed. I found my inspiration, and for much less than $15 a piece, my nieces, nephews, an my cousin's children are receiving handcrafted, personalized ornaments! I'm so excited!

So now I'm in a crafting mood! I think I'll be crafting all week! I have more ideas, and I want to capitalize on this creative kick! I love it when I'm inspired!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Whose Business?

I have started a little side business. Actually, I guess it isn't really a business...just an expanded hobby. I've started doing some children's photography. Of course, I've been photographing my own kiddos for 6 and 2 years respectively. But now I'm expanding. I've done two photo shoots this week with four other kiddos. I've had great success, especially today! I'll post a few of my pics at the end of this blog.
This brings me to an offer for you. Well, to those of you in Central Arkansas, that is. I love photography. I love kids. Mix the two, and I'm in heaven! I would love to photograph your kids. And guess what? I'll do it for free! So save yourself a few hundred buckaroos and give me a call. I'm serious...I want to do this, and there is no charge. I'll even give you a cd of all the pics so you can go make prints. I have a fat ol' camera that takes very high resolution pics, so you can get large prints made!

On another note, we have another small crisis in out house. We moved the kids back into their own rooms last weekend. Whitney loves having her own space. Jackson? He's another story! His whole 6 months of sleeping in a big-boy bed have been in a queen bed/bottom bunk with Whitney above him. He freaks out at bedtime having to go to bed in a twin bed all by himself. We've had the whole range of excuses at bed time, along with screaming and crying for extended periods of time. Last night putting him in the pack and play solved the problem. Tonight, hanging his Spirderman blanket over the window seemed to help. He'll get used to it eventually. I have to share a couple of his excuses with you, though. Too cute!

"Mommy, I have to go pee-pee in the potty!"
So I got him up, took him to the bathroom, and sat him down on the potty. He looks down at his bottom and says,
"Mommy, this just isn't working for me! I think it's broken."

"Mommy, I 'cared! This room 'cary!"
I asked him what was scaring him.
"Dere's a monter in da closet. A big one!"
Hmm...I wonder where he got that one!

"Mommy, I wanna sleep in your bed!"
I asked him why.
"I need more kisses. I can't sleep in my bed."

Okay, here are a few of today's pics.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Update on Bev--Technical

I talked to Bev this morning. She is in the hospital. When she talked to the doctor last night, she learned that while she doesn't have any leukemia cells right now (which is good), she does have an increased presence of mutated cells. I did some reasearch in order to better understand what is going on with Bev's body. Here is what I found. Some of Bev's 9th an 22nd chromosomes have swapped pieces. The result of this translocation is that some of her 22nd chromosomes are shorter than a normal 22nd chromosome. This mutation is called the Philadelphia chromosome. These Ph chromosomes operate independently. They speed up cell division, and inhibit DNA repair. This can cause genetic instability, which produces blasts--malignant, immature white blood cells. The blasts quickly crowd out healthy white blood cells, causing death. So Bev's diagnosis is Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) Philadelphia positive (Ph+). Being Ph+ makes her leukemia much harder to treat and the outcome much less favorable. It's just one added factor to fight. One out of every 5 adults with ALL is Ph+. Along with the regular chemo, she has taken medication to kill the Ph+ cells. Unfortunately, the meds haven't taken care of those cells. In fact, they have increased since September. So last night she started on another medication to help fight the Ph+ cells. She had taken this med last year, and it made her sick. It made her sick again last night. She spiked a fever, had awful chills, and kidney pain. So her husband took her to the hospital at 1:00 this morning. She is on an antibiotic, and started on more chemo today to keep the blasts at bay. She will still start the transplant process on November 26th. 6 days of intense chemo, followed by 3 days of rest, and the actual transplant on December 5. Since the medication hasn't killed the Ph+ cells, there is little possibility it ever will. The doctor's hope at this point is that the graft vs host disease will attack the remaining Ph+ cells. Bev is hoping to be able to go home for a few days before the transplant starts. She has some loose ends to tie up, and she wants a few more focused days with her family. The prognosis for this transplant is not as good as we would like. She is feeling really down about the prospect of not having those last few days. Please pray accordingly.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Have I mentioned that I HATE cancer?
Beverly got her bone marrow biopsy results back today. Her doctor was expecting she would be in remission and ready to go in for her bone marrow transplant next week. Not to be. Her tests were positive for the Philadelpia factor (the type of cell mutation she has). This means she has to go back into chemo Thursday. From there I'm not sure where they'll go. I'll be talking to her in the morning to get more details.
This just totally stinks. Things are tough enough already for her without getting more bad news, more pain, more delays. I wish I could carry some of this for her. I wish I didn't live so stinkin' far away. 750 miles feels like 10,000 right now.
I know God has a plan, and that His way is best. I just don't understand sometimes, and now is one of those times. I guess I'll just have to keep trusting His heart. After all, He is God.
By the way, in case you missed it before, I HATE cancer.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Extreme Home Makeover: Bertholic Edition

On our way home from North Carolina, Matt and I decided that life it too short to get hung up on having too much stuff. So we resolved to come home and purge our house. Clean out, declutter, give away, throw away, make it easier to keep organized, and create a more conducive place to spending time with people. We started our Clean Sweep (I love that show!) on Friday afternoon.

1. Kids' Room.
For the last 6 months, Snapper and Pepper have been sharing a bedroom. We moved them into the guest room so Debbie could have Snapper's room, and so Pepper's room could be converted into a school room. The kids have loved sharing a room. However, it has posed some problems. Problem #1: Snapper has been having to nap in my room because she and Pepper don't nap well in the same room. The computer is in my room, and naptime is when I need the computer. Problem #2: Snapper's small-part toys draw Pepper like a magnet. So many times I've come upstairs to find dollhouse furniture thrown all over the room (boy play), or mini Cinderella doll shoes in Pepper's mouth. Problem #3: Pepper's idea of fun is to dump out all the toys, throw them around the room, and then leave. He's also not that great at cleaning up yet, so much of his mess has fallen on Snapper to clean up, which isn't fair to her.
Solution: Move Pepper (and his toys) back into his old room which is currently the school room, and move the school stuff downstairs. We do most of our schoolwork down there anyway.
I spent 3 hours on Friday going through the shared room. I sorted out toys, threw away A LOT (which they don't know is missing), and organized clothes. Matt moved some furniture around while I reorganized Snapper's stuff. There is no more clutter! The toys she has in her room now are all things she regularly plays with. Every toy, art supply, article of clothing, has its own place. This should cut down on the clean-up battles!
It took me 4 hours yesterday to getPepper's room in order. I had to move the school supplies, go through boxes of stored stuff in the closet, and then put all Pepper's toys, books, and clothes in their places. I threw away a lot here, too. Pepper's room is now totally preschooler-friendly. Each toy has a place. His box spring and mattress are not on a bed frame, so if he falls off the bed, he won't have as far to fall. He is still furious that Snapper is now sleeping in his old bed, though!
Since Snapper and Pepper don't need any more toys or books, their Christmas presents from us this year will be new bedroom paint and bedding. I know they'll get new toys from grandparents, so I'm not concerned about disappointment under the Christmas tree! Racecar room for Pepper for sure! He loves cars and racing. I'm not sure what to do for Snapper yet.

2. Hall closet.
When we moved here 3 years ago, I had the hall closet in perfect order. Somewhere along the way, though, that closet has become a dumping ground for things that don't have a place anywhere else in the house. I tackled that closet with a vengeance! I went through the boxes that were stored there, and ended throwing away most of what was in them. Once I had the closet emptied out, Matt moved our family keepsake boxes into the closet. I will go through those at some point too, but I need to buy plastic tubs first. We decided to put all our extra blankets in the closet, too. Now when I open the closet, it is perfectly neat. Nothing falls out! I know everything that is in it. It looks SO nice!

3. Laundry, laundry, laundry!
Yesterday was a 10-load day. I washed all the kids' clothing. I washed all Matt's and my dirty clothing. I washed all our bedding. I washed all our towels. May I add that every single piece of laundry is folded and put away?

4. Kitchen and pantry and our bedroom closet:
Matt gets all the credit for this part! He did dishes, and dishes, and dishes (leftover from my big cooking day the other day because I've been too sick to stand at the sink). He swept and mopped. He cleaned out and organized the pantry, even going so far as to intall a hanging rack on the door for extra storage space! He took several boxes of paperwork and computer stuff out of our closet, sorted through them, threw a bunch away, and reorganized! He even made dinner! What a good man!

Still to come:
Our room
Downstairs closet
Garage (I organized and cleaned it about a month ago, but there are lots of boxes to go through and purge. Then we will have a garage sale!)

Today is Sunday. Matt is at church with Snapper. Pepper and I are home with the flu. I'm on day 3, and feeling some better today. Pepper is on day 4, and he's lots better. But I won't be working much on the house today. I'm definitely making this a day of rest! I earned it after yesterday. After I tidy up the living room, I'll be sitting down with my crocheting and a good chick flick. Then at 2:00 it's race time! Ah, once the Advil kicks in, this will be a great day!

Disclaimer: No, I couldn't stand up at the sink to do all the dishes. I get dizzy and wobbly standing up. But yes, I really did do everything I said I did in the last 2 days. How? All the work in the bedrooms and closet was done sitting down, and with lots of breaks! =)

Friday, November 14, 2008

More to Love

This has been a beautiful fall. I've had the privilege of enjoying the variety of color in three different states. Sadly, while I was hitting the peak in North Carolina, I was missing the peak in Arkansas. When we arrived home on Tuesday night, Matt and I discovered that the huge oak tree in our front yard, and the two oaks and two hickories in our back yard, had dumped all their leaves. There were tons of leaves on those trees when we left! It rained some on Wednesday, so I left the leaves to dry out a bit on Thursday. Today the kids and I dropped Matt off at work, and then broke out our rakes and tackled the front lawn. I don't care how much work it is raking those leaves! The kids and I had a blast! I got out the camera (of course) and took about 200 pictures. Here are my favorites.

So there have been some other things I have enjoyed since coming home. First off, I'll make a disclaimer by saying I rarely go to Starbucks. Not that I don't love it because I do--it's just so expensive for a cup of coffee! This time of year is the exception. Their Gingersnap Latte is just about my favorite thing! It is such a comfort thing for me, almost like drinking a hug. I go get one every time I can dig enough change out of my piggy bank! I had my first Gingersnap Latte of the season day before yesterday, and UMMM!!!!! Love it!

I also love making soup at this time of year. Somehow the shorter daylight hours bring my soup urge to the surface. When I was a kid, my mom used to make Navy Bean Soup. I loved that soup, but somewhere along the way, I lost the recipe. So I hit up my favorite cooking site,, and found another Navy Bean Soup recipe. I was a bit skeptical, because bean soup can be so gross. I didn't think I would ever find a recipe as good as my mom's. Well, this one topped it! My husband HATES beans. But since I was craving this soup, I made it anyway. Mr. Anti-Legume loved it so much he had two bowls! Who would'a thunk it! I also tried out a new beef stew recipe, and it was also fabulous! I think I must share those recipes. So here they are! Happy Fall! Enjoy the last few weeks of it.

Navy Bean Soup
1 (16 ounce) package dried navy beans (small white beans)
water to cover
7 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup margarine
4 carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cups diced turkey ham
1 tsp marjoram
1 tsp thyme

1. Clean and sort the beans. Place them in a large bowl with water to cover and soak for 3 hours. Drain and rinse.
2. In a large pot over medium heat, combine the beans and the chicken broth and allow to simmer.
3. Meanwhile, melt the butter or margarine in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots and onion and saute for 10 minutes, or until onion is caramelized. Add this mixture to the pot. Add the ham.
4. Transfer it all to a crockpot. Cook on low for 5 hours, or until beans are tender and soup has thickened.
Serves 8-10

Savory Beef Stew
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground black pepper
3 pounds cubed beef stew meat
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 onion, minced
4 cups beef broth
2 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
salt and ground black pepper to taste
3 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped

1. Combine garlic powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and 2 teaspoon pepper in a resealable plastic bag. Place the beef in the bag and shake to coat.
2. Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat; brown the beef in the hot oil and remove to a plate lined with paper towels. Add the onion to the remaining oil and cook until browned. Pour the beef broth into the stockpot. Stir in the rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Return the beef to the pot.
3. Bring the mixture to a boil. Transfer to crockpot. Cook on low for 1 1/2 hours.
4. Add the potatoes, carrots, and celery to the pot. Cook on low for another 2 hours.
5. Whisk together 1/2 cup flour and cold water in a small bowl and mix into the stew. Cover and simmer 45 minutes more. Serve with biscuits or French bread. Serves 6-8

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

So Much

I am home now. Thank you to everyone (Debbie, Pam, Stephanie, Karana, Lannece, Nikki) who made our trip possible. It was a precious time. A dark valley. A brilliant mountaintop. This will be a long blog. It's mostly for me. I am honored to share my journey with you, should you care to read it.

Where do I begin? Matt and I pulled out of Arkansas at 6:00 a.m. last Wednesday, an hour later than planned because Matt's alarm didn't go off. Our right front tire went down in Jackson, Tennessee, and we had to make an unscheduled stop for a new tire. That put us behind another hour. We met up with friends for lunch in Nashville, but they were delayed and the restaurant had a half-hour wait. Behind another hour. Then there was no going over the speed limit AT ALL...not even a little bit. Why? Because we saw 38 state troopers between Memphis and the North Carolina border. Yes, I really did count. I always count state troopers when we're on a road trip. Helps pass the time. Anyhoo, that was an average of one state trooper every 12 miles. Then there was construction in several different places on the way which slowed us up even more. I did get to enjoy the beautiful fall colors in west and central Tennessee, but much to my dismay, it was dark before we got into the Smoky Mountains. We drove the painfully slow, dark 50 mph from Knoxville down through Asheville. It was almost 11:00 p.m. before we rolled into Joe and Bev's driveway in Salisbury, NC. One loooooong day! But it was great, too! Matt and I spent the first 2 hours on the road in a wonderful time of worship together. We talked about God, His goodness, how He speaks to us as individuals, and how we want to be more in tune to His voice. We prayed together, shed a few tears, and sang through the worship playlist on my iPod. Loved every minute of it.

It was kinda weird watching Matt and Bev see each other for the first time in 12 years. The last time they saw each other was when Matt broke up with her. Wow...I just had to try not to think too hard about it or it was just plain weird. We were all too tired to visit much then, so we headed to bed. In the morning Bev's husband Joe was off of work, so the four of us had breakfast and did some catching up on our families. Then Matt had to hit the road again, back to Kingsport, TN, for his LifeChange event. It was an important conference for him, the last step in his new job training. Bev and I had a quiet weekend together. We did some errands, went to a women's ministry event at her church, and went with Joe to Dan Nicholas Park to enjoy the fall colors.

We watched movies, napped, and talked. We also pulled a practical joke on Matt. Bev used to be a beautician. So we told Matt that Bev had bleached my hair and colored it blond. We put one of her wigs on me, took a picture, and emailed it to Matt at his event. He fell for it, and proceeded to show the picture to his colleagues at the event. Ha ha!!!! I love a good joke!

I also did portraits of their family. here are a few of my favorites.

Matt came back on Sunday night. And then things really got rolling. We stayed up until 11:00 just talking. On Monday morning, Matt and Bev, both early risers, got up before me and had a chance to work through some stuff from the past. They talked through some old hurts, answered some hard questions, and brought complete closure to their past. It was healing for them both. And healing for me as his wife.

Matt asked her if she believes God allows all things to happen for a reason. When she said yes, he asked her what we were doing there at her house in North Carolina. She then told him that for several years she has prayed for him: that God would keep Matt focused on Him; that God would give him a special wife who was just right for him; and that God would bring Matt back into her life so she could know he was doing well. When I felt that strong urge to look up Beverly at the end of August, I know now even more that it was the prompting of the Holy Spirit. God answered Bev's prayers for Matt. How glad I am that I listened to that prompting!

When I woke up and joined Matt and Bev, we finally broached that unspeakable question: what if she doesn't survive the transplant? And then the tears flowed. We cried together and talked through it. She is not afraid to die. In a way, she even welcomes the thought of going to Jesus. I'm tearing up remembering it. It was so hard to say goodbye and drive away from her. For the next 3 hours as Matt and I drove, we talked and cried through the events of the weekend. Neither one of us can really process everything that has transpired in the past few months. All we can do is marvel at the greatness of God, who in His infinite wisdom, saw fit to bring us into such a unique relationship with this precious family. "'My thoughts are completely different from yours,' says the Lord. 'And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.'" Isaiah 55:8-9. Oh, how good God is!

Matt and I have learned so much from this relationship. Of course there's the obvious reminder that God alone knows what is best for us. But we have also experienced a change of perspective--a change that has come from spending time with someone who is nearing the end of this life. Our entire outlook on life has changed. All of a sudden new priorties have come into focus, and many other things no longer seem important. As we travelled through eastern Tennessee, we asked each other these questions: What matters in life? What are we doing that matters? What are we doing that doesn't matter? How do our lives fit into the scheme of eternity? How can we keep an eternal perspective as we walk through our everday lives? What does God want from us? How can we serve Him better? How can our lives bring glory to God? A lot to think on.

We spent the evening and night with our dear friends Chance and Jen in Tennessee. We hadn't seen them in 2 1/2 years, so it was lots of fun to catch up with them and love on their new baby girl, J. On Tuesday morning we headed out on the last leg of our journey. We were mostly quiet on the remaining 5 hours of our drive. We were delighted, of course, to see our kiddos again. But when we got home, it all came crashing down on me.

The wave of emotion that hit almost knocked me over. As I walked into the safe haven of our home, I felt like I was melting, smothering under the weight of the last week. I kissed the kids goodnight, passed them off to Matt, and crawled upstairs to our room. For 3 hours I sat cuddled in my bed with a roll of toilet paper (I'm out of Kleenex), my journal, my Bible, and my iPod. I felt desperate, in need of a touch from God. I poured out my heart on 4 pages of my journal. Then I opened my Bible to the book of Psalms. In the quiet of my room, I called out to God. And He answered me. I read and read, soaking up words of comfort, reminders of God's faithfulness, assurance of God's sovereignty, and promises that God has perfect plans for me. For Matt. For Beverly. The songs of worship on my iPod reaffirmed the words I was reading. After reading Psalm 23-Psalm 118, peace came. Exhaustion followed that wave of peace, and I drifted off to sleep.

Now it is the day after. Even the mundane details of today felt different. I have a new measure of patience with the kids. I saw today's discipline times (there were several) as opportunities to teach Snapper and Pepper about God's character and his desire for their lives. Laundry was a sweet act of service for my precious husband. I prayed through the prep of 4 meals (which are now in the freezer). Thank you notes to some of our supporters were a chance for me to thank God for them, pray for them, and encourage them with written words. My day almost seems unreal. Even now as I type, I'm asking the Lord to continue to draw me and grow me closer to Him. Oh, I'm hurting. But if there's one thing I'm aware of right now, it's that God meets me in the midst of my pain. And close to Him is the only place I want to be. How I love Him!

Okay, enough for tonight. I'll close with a little funny from today. I didn't want to eat the pork they served for dinner at church tonight, so I made an awesome beef stew and biscuits from scratch. I took a picnic basket of dinner up to church, and our family ate alone upstairs. I even brought honey for the biscuits. Snapper decided she wanted honey on her biscuits, but she couldn't get the honey container open. Instead of asking for help, she decided to try and open it with her teeth. To everyone's surprise, the honey lid popped out one of her baby teeth! Can we say shocked and amazed? That tooth wasn't even loose yet! As the blood gushed, Snapper was too surprised to even cry. I walked her to the bathroom to help her get the bleeding stopped. She giggled and giggled, shaking all over the whole time. I laughed until I cried! It was so funny, and her reaction was so cute. I love this losing teeth stage! She is so adorable with another space in her smile!