a baby shower in the spring

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In the lonely stretch of February, my mind knew that the sun would eventually shine again and new leaves would grow. We’d hang up our coats and turn off the heat. We’d have parties on beautiful days like this one. I knew it but I’m not sure I 100% believed it would happen. Thank goodness, seasons change! It’s Spring, and what better time to gather with precious friends and celebrate a beautiful mom-to-be!   20160423_142926
The food was top notch. We didn’t even set out with great food ambitions. The menu just developed over time into mini BLT’s… asian meatballs… chocolate covered strawberries, fruit salad and veggie tray and popcorn and cake… so good. (Thanks to Sarah and Kathy for pulling the weight and completing the “one job” I had when I abandoned it to socialize.) 20160423_14134020160423_150456
This was a “friends” shower. We wanted to keep it simple and relaxed so we could all just enjoy being together! We did a silly mad lib, of course, and one other game but scrapped our other plans. It’s pretty unnecessary to do an icebreaker when you can’t get a word in edgewise. We didn’t have a theme, just the colors blue and green. 20160423_160705
Oh this girl! I can’t handle the cuteness. We are buddies. Here we are sporting the pipe cleaner bows Anna made us. (Was it only yesterday we were having a baby shower for her momma???)20160423_16014420160423_142952
The spread. I was loving those flowers, too.20160423_090624
This is how I roll.20160423_151037
Val is giving me a bit of a “teacher at the end of the school year” face here, I think.:)20160423_162219
Reaction to Anna’s crocodile! :) 20160423_161734
We had fun! These are special times with goofy, amazing friends. God is good. 20160423_141332

Monday gifts

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Thankful for… 

traditions.
Sunday afternoons.
crafts to make and sell to raise money to help refugees.
making pancakes (and matching.. it was only kinda on purpose) with Val.
cards with family.
getting to see a really cool old violin belonging to my client’s family. (I never know what a day of caregiving may bring!)
new books to read.
new growth, I see it. img_20160408_125953.jpgimg_20160406_090826.jpg

Monday gifts

photogrid_1459657553053.jpgThankful…

that there are no taxes on friendship. Because I’d quickly end up bankrupt and in federal prison. As far as friendships go I’m in the absolute top tax bracket, the 1%. I do not deserve it!

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for delicious flavor and lots of it.
for Saturdays and Sundays when the world feels a little slower and simpler. img_20160331_153016.jpg

I’m thankful for new things.
I’m thankful for so much to do! In a good way.
I’m thankful for my wonderful siblings.
I am thankful that I have a good mystery to read.
I’m thankful for game nights and humility (I didn’t win!!).
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I’m thankful for the times when I remember that this life, these ordinary days are precious.

Headlines

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“What God does in the tiny corners of our day-to-day lives is stunning and gorgeous and headline-making, but we have a bad habit of saving the headlines for the grotesque and scary.” -Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines

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Today I’m thankful for the best everyday headlines in my own life.

In Sports: “TEE TIME: FRIENDS COMPETE IN BACKYARD WIFFLE BALL COMPETITION.”
Living: “CHOO CHOO, MARTIN IS TWO: FRIENDS AND FAMILY CELEBRATE” and “SPRING FORWARD: ANNUAL ST. PATRICK’S DAY FEAST CAME EARLY THIS YEAR.”
Food: “TEA TIME: FRIENDS GATHER FOR CONVERSATION” and “NO TRAIN WRECK: LOCAL BAKER CREATES MAGNIFICENT CAKE.”
Technology: “BROTHER’S INSTAGRAM VIDEO MAKES SISTER LAUGH.”
Outdoors: “FIVE BALD EAGLES SPOTTED ALONG PLATTE RIVER.”
Science: “SWEET TOOTH? RESEARCHERS INVESTIGATE POSSIBLE GENETIC COMPONENT.”

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more from Jamaica

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My traveling necessities: pillow pet pig, nook, kleenex. 20160202_101015

Watching this school start its day was a highlight all week. As students filter in, different classrooms are singing or clapping in rhythms or doing devotions. Small groups of kids would be sweeping or washing out trash cans together. Even for those who may struggle first thing in the morning, it makes you smile and think, “Oh yeah, this will be a good day!” 20160203_075902

Every morning I’d watch the ocean for a bit, keeping an eye out for Billy’s van. 20160203_100416

Sweet girls!! I miss them. That was the best, having tons of small group time every day. We’d talk and study the verses together or ask questions. Just getting to know each other!20160204_102629

My love for yellow continues! Actually in the same way we say “red, white and blue” in America, the colors of the Jamaican flag are “black, green and gold.” So yellow, gold, whatever, I like it. 20160204_111405

Supreme is such a fantastic school, I always look forward to being there. This year they had a majority of boys on their teams, with STRONG PERSONALITIES and show-stealing goofiness. Which was such a blast (I’ll take high energy over bored/not caring any day) but also lead us to bring the girls outside for some confidence-building separate practice time.20160205_085054

With my new friend Pearline at the registration table on the morning of the tournament!20160205_103005

This old organ was outside the door of my quiz site. So cool! 20160205_152837

The church who graciously hosted us this year was Hillview Baptist. Perfect name although “hill” is almost not a strong enough word! How great it was to simply have one building to work with. In the past we’ve rented three churches right in downtown Montego Bay. In 2014, I had the kindest police officer in Jamaica assist me as scorekeeper, and he raised some concerns about security and safety- with school children crossing busy streets, lots of entrances and exits, etc. We all agreed about that, plus it was crazy expensive, and very tough logistically to run a tournament in that setting. We never could find a better option until now. This church, and the pastor who bent over backward to help us, was a blessing from God! 20160205_145133

Championship quiz! John Rollins Success (my original favorite school) came in first, Howard Cooke took second, and Chetwood took third! I get caught up in the competition, it is the most fun ever. My small team had practiced with the kids at Chetwood all week and it was SO exciting to see them come so far! Wow! We got to present their medals. So cool. What an awesome group of students. 20160205_152749

I love a happy aftermath! We were all celebrating. In fact in my mind I could just hear the “end of the movie” music start up! After many struggles and defeats over the past two years, the goodness of this week was not lost on me. My brain is full of ideas and my heart is full of hope for next time!

For more about my adventures in Jamaica:

Special
Jamaican Bread & Jam for Frances
Jamaica Video
Sixth Grade
It’s the same all over the world

Welcome back

“I just got off the plane.” -My text to Val.

“We just pulled up into the airport. We are walking inside.” -Val, to me.

(For us to get through two consecutive texts without a disastrous typo is rare.)

“We??” I wondered, since I was only expecting Valerie to pick me up. I walked faster, ready to be done with airports for the day! Who did I see as I began to descend on the escalator? Val, Hanner, Kay and Martin (one of my favorite almost-2-year-olds) were waiting for me at the bottom. They smiled and waved and tried to point me out to Martin, who couldn’t see me yet.

I waved wildly. Suddenly his eyes lit up and he yelled, “Fwancen!” (his current name for me) as he began jumping up and down. I should mention at this point, he was wearing child-sized cowboy boots. The excitement became too much for him and he started to run about in circles!

Yes, it was one of the cutest things I will ever witness. My dear friends, smiling and laughing with glee. The antics of a toddler who was amazingly thrilled to see me. All this unfolding slowly (yet too quickly) at the speed of the escalator as I balanced my luggage.

My tendency is to wish I had a picture but some things can’t be picked up in a photo. This was only meant for mental pictures and savoring the joy of the moment.

Isn’t that like joy? Meeting me at the end of a long journey. Surprising me and overwhelming me with grace. Pure and overflowing.

the rest of December

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Two Texas girls experience sledding for the first time!

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After a super long day of work, I took myself to Panera to celebrate surviving the crazy month of caregiving. The server walked carefully so as not to disturb the smiley face in my soup. It made my day!

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Martin and Fran-Fran and Sadie!! Having so much fun! 20151221_175919 - Copy

Customized this tag for a certain brother.😉

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A whirl of celebration and fun, exhaustion and long hours on the road, hope that grows and disappointment that shrivels. I did not expect parts of it to be so wonderful, and other parts to be so hard. It’s tempting at times to try the “Kevin McCallister” option: “I made my family disappear…” but ultimately, I would miss them! So, we hang in there. We forgive, we give grace, we love, we try again. We don’t give up.

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Sunset at Dad’s house.

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When brothers steal your phone.

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Yes. Crashed on a couch between these two after a long travel day. Eli and I were wearing matching shirts I made for Christmas Eve a few years ago.

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Snow in Omaha before I left!

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Getting to meet this little one was the sweetest gift!20151230_184044

Caiden wearing my boots, holding my chapstick.

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Oh Leo, you poor elegant gentleman.

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I call this one: “Happy New Year?”

December so far

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Late nights, early mornings, and everything in between / Yes, I did put Santa hats on all my owls / Delicious flavor / Reindeer antlers / Great joy / WORKING so much / Sitting still and resting / Highly entertaining toddlers and puppies / Sugar high / Christmas lights / Candles / Favorite ornaments / The time of cozy socks & blankets has arrived.

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