Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving Adventures Part 1

Yesterday afternoon, on our drive from Dothan back to Birmingham, the girls conked out--utterly exhausted in the backseat--and Jeremiah looked at me and said, "That was a really great Thanksgiving, wasn't it?" "Yeah, it really was."

It felt like a whirlwind of family, friends, and enjoying (as Dr. Maddox kept saying :)) "a visual feast of God's creation." The weather was crisp and sunny, and we soaked up every second of it we could manage. I couldn't get enough...until Jeremiah suggested we go camping at 9 o'clock on Saturday night...then I decided I'd had my fill :)

Let's start with Thanksgiving lunch at my Dad's house. The Sollie's (Mom's side) and the Clark's (Dad's side) always combine at our house. This year we had 35!
And the only place we could all fit to hold hands for the blessing--was the carport.
Everybody brings their signature dishes, and we feast, Southern-style, until we burst.
We love on the ones we don't get to see nearly as much as we'd like to.
And we discover the joy each new addition brings to a family.For dinner, we go to the Maddox's. Just think about that for a minute, ok. One huge meal to the next. Filling my plate to overflow both times, because you know you only get so-and-so's special such-and-such once a year!Jeremiah's Mom does an amazing job at decorating, period. However, her Thanksgiving decorations were especially breathtaking.After we ATE!We all gathered in the living room,(Do you think I need to add wide angle camera lens to my Christmas list??!!)for a little music :) Everybody on the Maddox side sings and/or plays. It's a sweet tradition and a fitting way to end Thanksgiving day.
After all that eating, I thought the girls and I needed to get out and move our bodies a little bit. So, we did what has become one of my most favorite things to do when we visit the farm--go on an adventure. That's all I tell Pace and Mary Aplin. Then, I try to take a backseat and let them lead. It's hard to go wrong when your first steps out the back door, you're greeted by this:

First, they said hello to the horses, who are always excited to see them...I think partly because the girls' hair looks a lot like the hay they are so anxious to eat :) Next, they took a little spin (Not really, don't think for a second I know how to drive that thing.) on the tractor. Nothing runs like a--Then, they led us into the depths of the woods. For the most part, they like to be independent, but every once in a while, they ask for a little hand.I watch them discover God's creation, as though they are the first to ever see it.And I hold my breath as they face life's little challengestogether.We all gasped at the beauty of a lake, tucked in a dark wood.And I think it even made them a little pensive :)

I loved our adventure together. A picture can't capture their frantic search for "hidden treasure" or the questions these kinds of walks prompt in little hearts.
I have another adventure I want to share with you, one that Jeremiah and I both ranked as our favorite from this holiday. It, however, needs a post all it's own. Here's a little hint:

See you soon!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

Got boots:Got casseroles:Will travel. I pray you're all having wonderful Thanksgivings with your family and friends. I'm thankful for all of you...and the encouragement you bring to my life. I hope to come back with lots of fun adventures...each in a different pair of boots :) Do you think I have a problem? My husband does ;)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Today Is Mom's Birthday

And I'm missing her.
(Mom with Grandpa, her Dad) (And again, a little later.)
(Caroline, Mom, Me, Kendall, and Pace)
And wishing we could share another piece of red velvet cake with cream cheese icing...even though I never could understand why it was her favorite :)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

You Can Do Anything You Set Your Mind To

I can hear him say it. Just as clearly as if it were only a moment ago. "Abby, you can do anything you set your mind to." My Dad is foremost a teacher and encourager, and growing up with him was a blessing, a gift, that is still only slowly coming to consciousness. That one little mantra, has been haunting me lately. I think it was marathoning--all that time of quiet thinking-- that has led me to look back over the landscape of my life and question the validity of that statement.

I can say one thing for certain, I heard that I could do anything enough times, that I eventually began to believe it...and test it. It's recalling the testing that still makes my bones hurt. The recalling has made me want to shake Dad and ask him if he thought maybe he told me that one TOO many times. It's taken a while (27 years to be exact), but I eventually tested Dad's theory on all three areas of my life that he liked to stress the importance of developing. Mind. Body. Spirit. Mind. Body. Spirit. (I can hear him saying those words too, and pointing to one finger at a time for emphasis :))

Mind: I am NOT, in any way, smart enough to hold this Chemical Engineering degree that I have. I knew it would be hard. I knew I would have to give up a lot of the social life that my friends had, to accomplish it. That was ok. That's what you do right? As long as I was willing to put the time in. Try my best. I could do it.

What I found was that my mind has a limit. I know because I pushed it there. I watched the people around me grasp concepts that my mind just simply could. not. absorb. I wanted to quit. I called home crying a lot of nights with long lists of reasons why I should quit immediately--"Believe it or not, I CAN'T do THIS." Dad's reply: "God doesn't lead people from something into nothing. If you want to quit, then tell me where He's leading you and give me some good reasons He's doing it."

Unable to truthfully combat that last statement, I stayed with it. God, and my brilliant friend Stewart :), carried me through to the end of that test.

Body: When Ashley asked me if I wanted to run a marathon with her, I didn't necessarily want to do it, but I didn't doubt that I could do it. Just one foot in front of the other, right? I may be extremely slow. I may have to walk a lot of the way, but I can do it. You see how deeply it's ingrained?? What I found, at training run mile 17 to be exact, was that it may NOT be possible for me. Maybe, just maybe Dad, I CAN'T do THIS.

I finished it though. With the help of Ashley and Dr. Bonantz and Jeremiah and God (took a lot more help for that Body test :)), I pushed my body to its absolute limit and finished.

Spirit: Losing Mom. I can't tell you the number of times, during the battle and since, that I've had to remind myself that, "Other people have lived through this and so can I." There were days when I wanted to beat God to a pulp. A lot of days when I was over the flashes of anger but still couldn't stand to be in His presence (now that's hard to run from :)). It was a big test. To look at the faith I had claimed to stand on my whole life and find out whether I still believed in pain as I had in joy.

It was "working out my salvation." While I don't believe that we can work hard enough or do things "right" enough to save ourselves (what need would there be for grace?), I do believe there are times when we don't feel like being a Christian. It's those times when we have to trust that He knows better than we do. What He calls us to do is be faithful. To stay in the game. To keep loving and serving and praying, even when it doesn't make us feel good.

What I found at the end of that test, was that He IS faithful. As crazy as it sounds, I am grateful that He took the time to bring me through that fire. To bring me to a deeper and more true understanding of Himself. It took the support of my family, our community, and God (kind of ridiculous how much help I needed for the Spirit test :)), but I'm making it through that test...I started to say "made it through," but it seems this grief thing is never truly over.

From the outside, it would seem that these "accomplishments" might make me proud of myself. I got that degree, ran that race, and lost my Mom while still loving my God. Pat myself on the back, right? Nope. Just the opposite, actually. To go from a quiet assurance that "I can do anything I set my mind to," to, after the testing, taking all the I's out of the statement. To being thankful for a Dad who did a mighty thing for me, in giving me the confidence to face big challenges, but realizing that, in truth, "We can do anything He wants us to do...because He will be faithful to accomplish it through us."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pace's Campout

Some of you may have noticed that, while we celebrated Pace's birthday, she did not have a real party...where she got to invite her friends. The reason is that Jeremiah had a BIG test last weekend (do medical tests EVER end???!!!) and I didn't want to throw a birthday party when a) he was distracted the whole time because he needed to be studying and b) I wouldn't get much help out of him because of...the studying. SO, we told her that her party would be the weekend after Daddy's test...and here we are. She had decided on a "make-up" party, and I had even bought the invitations. Then, after the past month of mini-PRINCESS celebrations (for Pace and the Dapples), I began to dread the party from somewhere deep inside. Don't misunderstand me, I love Cinderella and my uber girley-girls...but sometimes I think I may hurl if I have to decorate with one more piece of pink netting.

What did I do? I've never said I'm above a little manipulation :) When we came home from the last camp out, Pace started telling Jeremiah and me that she wanted to take her friends camping. I grabbed that opportunity by the tail and said, "Would you rather do that than have your make-up party??" (If you read about the last camp-out, then you must know just how desperate this meant I was :)) Pace looked back at me with her "wheelin' and dealin' expression" (don't think I can out-manipulate her for one minute) and said, "Yes, if I can invite Ella and Natalie AND Noah!" It was a deal.
Unfortunately (THANK YOU JESUS!!!), there was rain predicted for Saturday night, and we had to forgo our plans of going to Oak Mountain and camp in our den instead :) Jeremiah acted as though he was laying down his manhood on the sacrificial altar, by giving in to my demands to NOT take four four-year-olds camping in the RAIN, but he eventually laid it on down and I must say that he was so fun and SOOO helpful during this whole escapade.
We pushed all the furniture to the walls, and let the fun begin! The first order of business was a hot-dog our fireplaceAnd we followed that up, with s'mores

Once everybody was good and full, we did a little bracelet making. You know a Daddy loves his girls when...Noah, aka Prince Charming, was invited but was out of town. He was missed by all, but at least he didn't have to lower himself to bracelet-making :)
Then, it was movie time, and you can see Locks found his place in the middle of it all.
Somebody else found his way into the middle of it all too :)
And what's a camp-out without a few camp-fire songs before bed?
At this point, my sisters (and Riley and John David) called to say they were just leaving an engagement party and wanted to come "hide in the bushes and bang on the windows to give the campers a little scare. Is that ok?" WHAT??!!! Obviously, they do not have four-year-olds, and did not realize that that would single-handedly scar them for life...or at the very least keep them from sleeping AT ALL. But I told them I'd love for them to stop by, knock on the DOOR, and sing some songs with us :)And finally, it was time to zip the little campers up in their tent (go-go ghetto-fabulous Dapples in her shiny athletic pants. What is she doing?)And after about an hour of giggling and whispering, they finally zonked out.They slept warm and snug until the next morning, when they had a little fire-side breakfast and went back to their Mommies and Daddies.Honestly, we had a lot of fun. And it beat another princess-make-up party any day :)