in Jamaica: February 2017

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This trip, my photos were about 10% sunset/sunrise/blurry pictures of the full moon, 10% food, 10% Bible quizzing, 9% sea urchin spine removal process, 1% cows on the loose, and 60% silly selfies. Which is a pretty accurate idea of what my week was like! 20170209_071825

We are kindred spirits, and always have been. 20170209_095837a20170206_134301a

It was a blast to have my friend Julie along with me! 20170208_123354a20170207_101850a

surprise

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For my 30th birthday, some of my family and friends totally surprised me with a party! The whole thing started at 1:30 a.m. that morning, when my family from out of town showed up in my room. I thought that was the big surprise- but there was more to come!20160826_19193820160826_19523620160826_195146(0)
My family and friends put lots of work and time into this. Wow! I suspected nothing.20160826_190154
When you have a younger brother, you get a dozen pictures on your phone like, this…20160826_195150(0)
Anna gave me 30 mustaches and a pun game. Gift giver level: expert. 20160826_201226
And now, 2 photos of my father and cousin listening to Kalyn with pretty identical expressions on their faces:  20160826_19015820160826_195531
(Cute baby Nick!) 20160826_205054
Stories around the fire pit to finish out the night. Perfect! 20160826_205056
In my more cynical moments, I think of myself as the one who sacrifices for others, the only one who makes things happen, who slaves away without appreciation, just like the little red hen in the story. The truth is, of course, I am loved by some amazing people. I give, and I receive, freely. This is a special birthday memory I will always treasure!20160826_205151

best Italian lunch

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I’m unpacking, going through pictures and slowly processing my trip. It is hard to know how to talk about it. I’m so glad I went, it was an incredible experience, but it was overwhelming in many ways. For today I’m just going to document one of many amazing meals.

It was our day off and the four of us friends had been shopping in the open air market, walking around, laughing hysterically, and just basically enjoying ourselves. We stopped at this restaurant for lunch.

Seated outside, on a lovely day, surrounded by stone and brick buildings, chatting with my dear friends, eating the most delicious pasta -and that tomato salad!!- words fail. It was all perfect.

And then it became TOO perfect.

Three street musicians came along and did a small performance of classic Italian songs. It was all just too good and I was overwhelmed! “Are you blushing???!” asked Valerie. “Yes, and tears are seeping out of my eyes!” I replied. I just kindof sat there, shaking my head, laughing at myself, and trying to take it all in. It was one of those moments where you have to pinch yourself to make sure it was real! 20160716_132755
Kalyn, Frances, Valerie & Hanna. 20160716_132817

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

Scottsbluff National Monument

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I want to share a few more photos from a sibling adventure back in October.
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Jacob took this one of Joe leading the way on his motorcycle.
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J and I posing, with varying degrees of coolness.
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Yay siblings!!!
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Enjoying the view like respectable people.
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If you said, “I bet that didn’t last long…” congratulations, you perceptive person!
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I’ve been making lots of poorly executed memes lately. Hahahahahaha.
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Whyyy does he always look like a model?
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I have the same problem?
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It was cold and windy, but overall a really great day!
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The Best.

Every now and then, my heart needs to be on the high plains. My eyes need to see miles stretching far around me, as much room for the sky as possible. It’s a big sigh of relief for my soul. And I know: I’m close to family.
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Ever since Pastor Ty and his wife Terri were killed toward the end of summer, my perspective has shifted a bit. How could I not want to be influenced by their example as people who loved well? So I kept thinking, during this time with some of the people I love the most in this world, “Wow. What an amazing gift.”
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Doing things with all my siblings as a group has not always been easy or pleasant. Oh no. We have some memories from the years after my parents separated that we can kindof laugh about now, but at the time it was just a miserable experience for everyone. I’m thankful for God’s love holding me close in those painful days.
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We are imperfect and rough around the edges. Our relationships have bumpy and dissatisfying moments. We all struggle with things and take one step forward, two steps back. Our hearts still hold painful scars. But as far as I am concerned: when we are together, it is the best.
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Enjoying some delicious drinks at Cappuccino & Company, where Jacob works! Crystal got home from a retreat, needing coffee, and we rushed over before it closed.
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Breakfast after our late night hanging out and laughing.20151003_002521
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I got to go to Joe’s youth group and see him (and Jacob, his intern!) in action. He is a gentle, wise, caring, supremely FUN and creative youth pastor. I’m proud of him. Proud of all my siblings. Yes including this one:
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I can count on J to fill up my phone with selfies. 🙂 I wouldn’t want it any other way!
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Like I said: the best.

Friendship.

4336_84837751407_5282053_nFrom my journal, 10.21.2007: Valerie and I have reached that point in our friendship where we complete each other’s sentences and read each other’s minds. We just had this conversation:

Franky: “You know, … oh never mind, I already told you today.”
Val: “You did? Oh right, that, earlier today.”

summer discovery

One day, Val and I were staining some dining room chairs. We needed more of this special stain. We listened to our wise friend Kaley and journeyed to a little store in Springfield, Nebraska, called the Robin’s Nest, to find this stain. What we found? Was so much more.
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Our first clue was the fairy garden just inside the door. A fairy garden. In an old clawfoot bathtub. This can’t be real.
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There were wonderful things, arrayed with great prettiness. We were overcome.
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We looked at it all. We bought the stain. We were ready to leave.
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Then the lady said, “Have you looked in the back?” To which we said, “Whaaa?” We walked through the door, and straight into the ultimate mythical grandmother’s attic. Only better than that, and huge.
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The freaking out began, we had no words. Just squeaking and pointing and crocodile tears. Hold me.
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Stacks of old maps. (!!!) Stacks of bedposts. Layers of antique bird cages (kinda gross, to be honest). Chairs. Tables. Lamps. Window frames. Doors. Ladders. Trunks.
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A treasure trove, all helter-skelter and dusty amazing.
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So of course we came back the next week with our Hanner.
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This is the best Christmas ever! The end.