Time wasn’t all that flew in June

First, a big thank you and virtual hugs to all of you who supported me and shared my last post. I tend to overthink things and anticipate that major events are going to be more stressful than they actually turn out to be, but our move back to the States has needed every bit of the grace and understanding I requested.

In One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp writes about recording the gifts, blessings or graces, found in everyday life as an act of spiritual discipline. My copy of the book is packed deep in a crate for the next four months, or I’d quote it for you, but she talks about what science has proven, that as we put words to what we can be grateful for, our physical and mental health improves.

I definitely need all the improving I can get, so here are a few gifts of this past month.

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  1. My kids don’t like Chick Fil A. Well, really just the chicken. This is a tragedy that I’m trying to remedy as soon as possible. On countless afternoons in the desert, I dreamed of loading them in the car and heading for “The Chick,” letting them eat waffle fries to their heart’s content and play on the germs-be-damned playground while I relaxed with my sweet tea. Ah. But no. Our first visit here included tantrums over the nuggets, bribes to eat the nuggets, massive potty accidents and fights in the playground. Judson hasn’t worn diapers since March when we potty-trained him, and I was unprepared for the river he let flow in the middle of the restaurant. The gift of the day was the compassionate mom in the booth behind me who handed over the right-sized diaper for him, telling me, “we’ve all been there.” Here’s the closest I could get to a smile {I mean, come on, ice cream!!!} with my beautiful sister, Martha.

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2) I am inspired by people who do their job, especially dealing with kids, with joy and passion. The mall in Tulsa doesn’t have quite the amusement-park-style rides that my kids are used to in the Middle East. But they do have this classic carousel beckoning children to convince their grown-ups to pay way too much for a ride. On a brother-free outing one afternoon, Ayla met and fell in love with this horse on the carousel. She told the ride operator how much she loved her, and instantly he engaged her with an equal passion for the horse (Calliope, as we learned her name is) that made me want to sit him down and interview him about his life.

Judson has had many haircuts in his short life, and every time the barber pulls out the clippers, he freaks out. They have to switch to scissors, and depending on their skill, he can still get a decent haircut after he calms down. I was excited to take Judson to Mr. Will at Kuts 4 Kids for a haircut, since he gave Ayla her very first haircut and it’s a Tulsa tradition for me now. The whole shop is a dreamland for kids, full of toys and games for them to play with while they wait, the latest Disney movie playing on a wide-screen TV, and a bowl of candy kids can help themselves to if Mom’s not looking. Mr. Will is the genius mastermind behind it all. Judson was sitting so still and happy I didn’t even notice the quiet buzz of the clippers as Will worked his magic. He worked so quickly I didn’t even get a picture in time! I asked him how he did it and he just winked and said “I have my ways.” You can tell he loves what he does and he loves who he does it for.

These men make a difference for hundreds of kids every week with their passion for their jobs and I’m grateful my two little ones were a part of that.

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3) Cousins! We took 55 pictures of this crew and there is not one where they are all looking at the camera and smiling. So, sorry Ari, your cute little grump face is going down in the record books. Ok, just on my blog. My sister has 5 kids (those on the left side of the pic) and my brother has 4 (on the right), and with summer activities and multi-parent-home schedules, it’s hard to get them all together. We did it, though, and my kids got their love-tanks filled with plenty of attention from the group we call “the Niblings.” (Niblings isn’t an official word or my original word, but many people are using it lately as a gender-nuetral way to refer to the offspring of their siblings.)

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4) Mercy found in cancelled flights. This could and should truly be its own post, but here’s the brief version. I had plans to fly to Atlanta to see my dear desert friend, Diane. (I lauded her here.) After being delayed 5 1/2 hours in the Tulsa airport, our flight was cancelled due to weather in Houston, so we had to reschedule the whole trip to accommodate everyone’s lives. We now had a whole week to fill and nothing planned. My friend from college, Lisa (the one with glasses in the pic), reached out to invite Ayla to join her church’s VBS. You see that little message on my other friend, Erica’s, shirt? “He loves me.” Yep, He sure does. This was the same VBS I had signed Ayla up for in Atlanta with her best friend, Bella. So, while the girls didn’t get to attend together, they still had the experience to share and the songs to sing loudly non-stop once we did get there (see #6).

I jumped in to volunteer during VBS since I was so grateful for Ayla getting to attend, which allowed Judson to stay and participate in a toddler version of what the big kids did. We had so much fun that week, but the highlight was soaking in the time with my college friends (wondering how it is that we’ve known each other for more than 20 years but we’re all so young) and being with people who haven’t seen me in years, but still know and love me (and my kids) just the same.

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5) I bought a mini-van! I haven’t bought my own car since I was 20, (even though that was just a few years ago, it feels more like 18 years, wink wink) and my darling husband and I have had the classic mini-van love-hate debate for the last decade. To put it gently, I mean bluntly, I won. Of course, he let me win. I just hope he soon sees what a win this is for our family too! (Love you, babe!) It was so surreal and life-giving to be able to just walk into a dealership, by myself, and walk out with keys to a vehicle for me to drive. I’m driving my kids around town in a mini-van, we’re drinking our Sonic slushies and belting out the songs from the VBS CD and I am living the dream!

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6) Atlanta at last! In no less than FIVE cancelled, delayed and rescheduled flights, we finally made it to see our friends, the Manninas in Roswell, Georgia for a few days. We had a blast. We miss them again already. Sniff. Oh, have you seen the video of Ayla realizing who we’ve come to see? I can’t figure out how to upload it, but here’s the link to it on Instagram.

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7) When I rescheduled our Atlanta trip, I decided to travel out of Dallas, so I could see John’s family down there. The timing worked out for us to go to East Texas as well and get some time in with his extended family. We visited a Cowboy Church with his cousins and afterwards they had a “rodeo” for special needs kids. Now, I say “rodeo” because it was really just an opportunity for the kids to ride horses, play carnival-type games and be loved on by everyone. The volunteers and staff putting it on were so kind, and invited all the kids there to ride. This picture captures such a special moment for me, I had to share it. Judson has never wanted anything to do with horses and he’s only slightly more fond of strangers. That’s all Ayla’s bailiwick. But as he was standing in line with Ayla for her ride, he decided he was going to ride, too, and jumped in this lady’s arms without even looking at me. It’s so gratifying for me to see my kids overcome their fears and experience the beauty of life on the other side of them.

(And for a bonus gift, how about an “in-law” family that I love to visit, even without John?!)

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8) Speaking of family. These are the people I am blessed and honored to share my closest DNA with. I don’t know if there’s another set of parents and siblings who are all so different from each other, but it doesn’t really matter. These are mine and I’m keeping them!

I’m way over my self-imposed word count here but these eight gifts just barely skim the surface of the month. We’ve had our challenges and my goodness are we ready for John to be home, but we hold on to the goodness and grace of our loving God!

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