A Sisters' Afternoon

Melissa came wandering into my room yesterday with another crazy typical idea.

"I'm gonna go to Harper's Ferry to look at the location of the train tracks so I can more accurately write this scene in my book"

"Okay. That sounds like a smart idea"


..."You want me to come along too, don't you?"

"Yeah, that'd be nice"

When you've lived with someone for 18+ years, it doesn't take much to read their mind... especially Melissa. She and I are opposites in most ways, but having been raised by the same parents in the same house and, for 15 years, the same bedroom -- we're about close to married as siblings can be -- I mean our fights, the way we tackle household responsibilities and our ability to live with or ignore the issues of the other resemble couples who've been married as long as we've been alive.

That said... I took 12 hours to think through my options

a. spend a hour convincing her that pictures on Google should suffice and the 90 minute round-trip drive was really unnecessary

b. pray that God would send the snow ~6 hours early so that she'd be forced to cancel her trip

c. just give up now and say "yes, dear"


I chose option c. It's not my usual option, but I reasoned that next week she returns to school and I should take advantage of the sister-time. I am so glad I did...

...not only is sister-time virtually free therapy (after all, she does know me better than just about anyone else and it's rare impossible for me to keep a secret from her), it's a music sing-along, random Q&A session, movie quoting war, explain-every-detail-about-CollegePlus-for-the-one-millionth-time time session, and much more...

We captured some potential authoress individual shots...

But mostly we spent the time touring without being the stereotypical tourists, which according to Melissa involves...

::climbing walls (there weren't any signs telling us not to)

The afternoon was filled with "Well. I need to try this <insert impossible/crazy/dangerous activity> because the kids in my story will want to try this and I need to know if it's possible"

::studying small spaces

::wandering around condemned houses

It was staring at this from the path that had me telling Melissa, "We shouldn't go up there. That's the kind of houses that mothers tell their daughters to stay away from"
...and yet, here we are anyways. >.<
::hiking muddy paths

We were a good mile into the completely vertical hike by the time we saw this sign
::stepping out on walls that were a little too far away from the ground for my liking

The ledge that Melissa is standing on was a drop off of 15+ feet on either side -- too much for me to stomach!
It was a lovely -- albeit cold -- afternoon! I'm grateful that I took the time away from seemingly urgent to-do list and spent it with Melissa exploring the history around us =) We definitely had a blast and the afternoon was filled with memories that will hopefully tide me over till she re-emerges from her textbooks in May!

Christmas, Edition 2014

So we can all just move on and ignore the un-finished Give Thanks challenge, right? Life gets busy and the thankfulness didn't stop...it just didn't managed to get documented here. ;)

Okay. With that out of the way...

Merry Christmas =)

Our Christmas season has stayed blessedly busy with a variety of activities....

::buckeye rolling

::tree picking

Molly & Mom, the tree selection team 
Dad, who kindly held multiple trees while we made our selection
::a trip to Ohio for Melissa and I to see the gang that I worked with on the CPE3 project

the group having an impromptu meeting
::the annual town parade with Molly's jump rope team

dressed & ready to jump
::surprise creations (no pictures of the works-in-progress...they were surprises after all!)

::seasonal gatherings with our church family

Family Photo before the Christmas Eve Service
Photo Credit: Dad/Kipp
...and we are topping off the season with a beautiful day at home =)

an impromptu "couple" picture
capturing the "sister selfie"
Molly's gift of "sister" notebooks with personalized lists of what she's learned from Melissa and I
Presents were opened this morning and now various family members are relaxing in their own unique ways -- Molly practicing some Hobbit songs courtesy of Melissa who gave her the Hobbit piano music book and Melissa is spending time with a new book. Meanwhile, Mom and Dad have ventured outside for a walk before eating more food ;)

There were beautiful gifts, but my favorite theme this year was watching Dad open multiple gifts and seeing the picture come together more and more clearly:

First, the golf club appeared...

Then the very nice and fancy bag with a built-in stand...

The matching jacket was the next addition...

...and the sunglasses completed the outfit :)

God's been teaching me a lot lately...unrolling the picture of sending Jesus Christ to earth as a baby for the salvation of the world. In many ways, the deeper understanding I have come to this year is much like the revelation of Dad's golfing outfit in the pictures above...

...clear, but incomplete.
...wonderful, but only on a surface level.

As more and more is unveiled, the picture is made whole and ever so much more amazing than it was just to start.

God's been teaching me more aspects about himself and giving me situations where I am forced to seek out the Biblical response. This search, albeit painful, has showed me what it means to forgive and just how deep the pain and how great the gift of forgiveness is.

It seems like more of an Easter lesson, doesn't it? After all, when it comes to the story of the life of Jesus Christ, we think of his miraculous birth at Christmas and save the forgiveness, salvation, and reconciliation stories for Easter.

But what is Easter without Christmas? If there was no baby, then there would be no forgiveness...no heavenly example...no hope.

The lesson that I've learned this Christmas is just how powerful and just how pricey my salvation was. God's taken me beyond the cute nativity sets...and awwing over the youngest baby playing Jesus in a live nativity. He's shown me the price that Christ paid by coming down into my dirty world to offer us hope. He didn't have to do it. He wanted to do it.

That is the miracle of Christmas.

"Tears are falling, hearts are breaking
How we need to hear from God
You've been promised, we've been waiting
Welcome Holy Child
Welcome Holy Child

Fragile finger sent to heal us
Tender brow prepared for them
Tiny heart whose blood will save us
Unto us is born
Unto us is born
So wrap our injured flesh around You
Breathe our air and walk our sod
Rob our sin and make us holy
Perfect Son of God
Perfect Son of God"
~Excerpt of lyrics, Welcome to our World (Michael W. Smith)

Family Life // Give Thanks ~ Day 18-20

As of today, we are only 4 days behind in the Give Thanks challenge and we should be caught up before Thanksgiving actually arrives =)

Today was a productive day, albeit filled with constant comings and goings of our household. Dad, Mom, and I took two of our cars and RV for some maintenance and repairs. Molly volunteered for an emergency drill at a local senior-living center and Melissa headed over to our community college for a nursing lunch and study session.

As I type this, Mom and Dad are just pulling in the driveway from a date night while Melissa and Molly compete for the title of 'writing-the-most-words-in-an-allotted-period-of-time'...aka. a word war for NaNoWriMo. Before sitting down at our computers (me to blog and the girls to work on their novels), we once again dived into the buckeye process and this was the result...

round chocolate + peanut butter + powdered sugar goodness =)
{I'm posting this^^ just for my CollegePlus, Ohio friends to be jealous of}

::having all my girls home
::10+ sweet years with our dog, Emily
::encouragement from my family
::God's mercies in our suffering
::our veterinarian
::comfort in loss
::pots and pans
::easy dinners
::afternoon walks with girls
::National History Day
::Molly's Greek teacher, Mr. Spotts
::happy family

::the cars that God has blessed our family with
::8 consecutive hours of sleep
::texting with friends to share memories and get through the missing part of coming home
::the grace my family gives me as I re-acclimate into the family culture
::hugs and smiles from Molly as she shared the family news
::walking with Melissa (even if it was a little cold!)
::Emily, our dog
::Melissa's strength and matter-of-factness in difficult situations
::sharing tears and hugs with Mom
::a nap to help with the sleep-deprivation
::girls' only calls to share life and pray for each other
::our family's thanksgiving tree
::laughing and dreaming with Mom and Dad (so grateful for the way you both invest and disciple the girls and I!)
::a home-day to catch-up on projects
::Mom's pumpkin muffins
::Scriptural reminder to "rejoice in all things"
::the four years we've had to live in Maryland and explore the East coast
::the two-hour drive to & from church with Melissa -- lots of girl time
::our pastors and church
::fellowship with believers committed to following Christ

::solemn faces that make me laugh
::precious moments
::private jokes

Sunday Stories // Give Thanks ~ Days 15-17

Happy Sunday =)

After our typically busy day, the three trays of buckeyes were remembered after prayer time this evening. We had planned to dip them tonight, but their storage location hadn't stayed as cool as needed. Due to our freezer layout, we have traditionally chilled the buckeyes in the backseat of our cars as this time of year usually has the garage at or below freezing. However we've had an unusually warm couple of days and the buckeyes were softer than needed :(

We pulled them out and decided to wait till tomorrow morning to complete the chocolate dipping stage. However that didn't stop all of us from consuming a few of the powdered sugar + peanut butter balls. From my typing vantage point of the kitchen table, I think I've counted at least a dozen balls disappear...

The tray that with a few new "holes"
Perhaps we'll make a second batch tomorrow to make up the lost-in-production difference ;)

::warm coats
::hot tea
::rolling backpacks
::sister talks
::clean desk
::Sunday mornings
::Sunday school
::drive to church
::last day of membership class
::warm clothes
::worship with my family
::productive Mondays
::wise spiritual counsel
::my daughters' voices
::walks in the rain
::vacuum cleaner
::washer and dryer (thanks, Kipp!)

::hot water
::Christmas music singing sessions
::ice skating trains
::friends who point me to Christ and whisper "I'm praying"
::doing a mall scavenger hunt (and winning!)
::Skype messages, texts, and emails from Mom encouraging me when I missed my family
::new mornings each day
::radio dramas
::Mrs. Subra's awesome cooking :)
::going to church with the CP gang
::singing praise God in unconventional ways
::snow fights
::re-enacting memories from previous gatherings
::having friends who pull all-nighters with you
::getting a few extra minutes with Emily & Charity before they had to board their flight
::reviewing the whole gathering with Andrew
::talking and texting with Mom and girlfriends the whole way home
::Mom and Dad picking me up from the airport
::a safe arrival home
::selfie wars

::autumn evening chats with said cousins
::greek making sense
::elves (Tolkien ones that is ;))
::chocolate graham crackers
::black and white

Buckeyes // Give Thanks ~ Days 12-14

I think it's time to return ;) Thank you for your patience...coming home from a CP gathering involves exhaustion, some serious missing, and a stack of responsibilities to make me want to run for the hills :P But lest you all begin to wonder why I go to such events... they also result in some pretty amazing memories which I hope to share over the next couple days here on the blog =)

While I begin the process of catching up (not a one day deal), I'll enjoy eating some of these little holiday treasures...

Buckeyes awaiting the chocolate-dipping phase
Melissa & Dad, our awesome buckeye-rolling team!

And let's also get serious about our Give Thanks challenge...Today, we'll cover November 12-14 :)

::fun surprises
::homemade cookies
::long-distance friends
::family connections
::Megan's blog
::consignment sales
::frozen yogurt
::Friday nights
::completed to-do list
::God's peace
::help with shopping
::our pastors
::Skype calls
::my family
::movie night

::helpful airline ticket agents
::that my delayed flight gave me a push to do some Bible study
::extra sleep on my flight
::Dad's transportation services (complete with lovely conversations!)
::teasing texts
::Melissa and Mom letting me raid their closets for this trip
::chats with Melissa to keep me updated on home life
::texts from Dad and Molly
::posing in the Des Moines sculpture park
::Mr. Subra's entertaining lesson on the 12 tenets of the Bible
::Josh's driving
::sharing a room with two of my dear CP friends
::talking listening to others talk about music and gaining a whole new playlist
::Catherine calling just to encourage me
::sharing hearts and feelings with the girls at the gathering
::getting to do more English Country Dancing (thank you, Emily!)
::Drew's willingness to share his swing knowledge
::the gift of friends who share memories, fun, and laughter
::the Subra's willingness to open up their home (and furniture!)
::sweet emails from Mom teaching on God's work in our lives

::His story
::new friends
::jump rope
::(mostly) catching up on NaNoWriMo

Packing // Give Thanks ~ Day 11

It's 9:33pm. I have a final music playlist syncing to my phone. I'm wracking brain of any items I haven't packed yet. And my family tells me that this is impossible considering the size of my bags (wasntme)

Mom comes in to give me final words of wisdom (yes, I will wear my purse cross-body tomorrow. promise) and ask for as many pictures as possible.

Melissa reminds me that she wants to be woken up and given a proper hug in the morning. Molly sadly says goodbye and reminds me that I'm only on loan-out for a week. She wants me back after all.

My whiteboard reminds me that the day has come. And my google messages with Dad this morning show evidence that one can never be excited too much ;)

My whiteboard which was creatively decorated by sisters about 45 days ago
I have the typical goodies from Mom. Tomorrow I leave for Iowa (where the temperature is less than half of ours). I'm going to see 20 of my fellow CP students -- and among them, some of my dearest friends =)

Mom is awesome about giving each of us a little something when we travel!
{as a note... We do definitely plan to keep doing our thankful lists. Whether or not they get posted depends on my ability/time to devote to the blog. Just bear with me and expect some long lists when I get back :P}

::God's constant presence in my life
::donut dates with Molly
::my computer
::inspiring music

::surprises being revealed
::google messages with my Dad
::beautiful fall-ish weather to enjoy before the cold
::goodies from my family
::blessing of resting in Christ
::a car to drive
::the excitement of this trip to Iowa

::a new day
::seat warmers

Lunch Guests // Give Thanks ~ Day 10

As I worked on some trip prep projects in my room and Molly was doing school, I heard a bit of a ruckus downstairs. Further investigation revealed that Dad had come home to eat with us --a rather unusual and pleasant surprise! We enjoyed discussing the morning's work and read a portion of an evangelism devotion that applied to some situations we've been dealing with lately =) All too soon, it was over and he had to go back to work. But I think we all went through the rest of the day a bit more invigorated by our special lunch!

::home tech department...thanks Meg =)
::Kipp coming home for lunch
::chocolate chip cookies
::eye glasses
::God's faithful servants

::conversations with Mom

::God's leading through opened and closed doors
::my electric blanket
::a clean room
::sister time with Melissa
::that Dad came home for lunch

::Word docs
::word wars
::promise of future
::prayers of friends
::Bible time
::my family