Glory to Glory to Glory...And then again.

I can not even tell you how many times I have started this post and then deleted every. single. word.  I'm not exactly sure why.  This morning though during my time in the Word it became somewhat clear, or at least less murky.  You see, I have entered a new season.  One where I feel my identity being called into question, my authority as a mother and my faith being challenged.  It's weird, for lack of a better adjective.  For some reason that seems to most accurately describe what's transpiring on the inside.  I haven't been able to put words to it until this morning.  In recent months, even the past two years, I have justified and explained it away as change.  So much change.  Daughters graduating, moving, not feeling settled where we were or where we've landed, all teenagers in the house, a new place of employment for Husband and the list goes on.  All of this and yet I hadn't given myself permission to truly see the mourning and dancing of the season.  How it isn't about getting through or moving to the "next" big event or scheduled trip or house guests, etc.  It is in the beautiful complexity of it all.  How within that tension God shows up.  He reveals Himself.  There is faithfulness and provision and it is all only because of Him. Well that and my obedience and intimacy with Him through it all.  And isn't that where most of us live anyway?  A dance we often call life.  

Our recent series at church is "Priests and Praise".  We were absent for the first couple weeks but this last week was revelatory.  The term "secret place" is a familiar word to those of us in the church.  Some refer to it as quiet time, at least I had until this past Sunday.  Being in relationship with the Lord is no different than having a friend here on earth.  Stay with me.  Obviously there are Holy differences but what is the same is the fact that relationships require time, listening, attention, love.  In order to have a friend I have to be a friend.  So the secret place is where that happens with my Jesus.  The time I spend soaking in His presence.  Reading His story.  Knowing His character.  Hearing what He has for me.  Being able to discern His will over my own.  Understanding the Truth.  Pouring my heart out even though He KNOWS it already.  Choosing obedience.  Fighting the battles with Him and in Him.  Going to this secret place is a choice and when we make that choice our presence is affected from being in His presence.   Leading us to deeper places.  In these deeper places we are more in tune with the Spirit and capable of going from glory to glory to glory.  

On the heels of sitting under this teaching and finishing up my study with She Reads Truth on "Mourning and Dancing" I expectantly went to the secret place this morning.  I'm so much a morning person.  I feel refreshed and ready and bright as the sun rises.  It is then I'm at my best and feeling much more capable of intellectual and spiritual conversations.  Here I am, sitting in a local coffee shop, digging in and it dawns on me.  This life, this journey I am on is nothing short of navigating the tension in the mourning and dancing seasons.  Duh.  Yep, wife of 19 years, mother of 4 and I am just now understanding this.  I know, right?  And I answer, yes.  I've understood it and applied it differently in the past.  Currently, in this season it has never made more sense to me.   In a peace-filled, glory be way.  Maybe I need to better explain the condition of my heart.  I have felt stuck, unsure, a bit lost.  Almost as if I was waiting for certain stages to be done.  Moves to take place.  Hear my heart on this.  Life is good.  The six of us are healthy, together and moving forward.  One day at a time.  I do believe thought that there is something to be said for sitting in the now.  Present.  Whole.  Fully taking in where one is at.  On the daily.  I may sound like a broken record.  You know how there are some lessons, growth opportunities if you will, that you think you have worked through with the Lord and dare I say overcome?  And then you find yourself smack dab in the middle of that mess all over again?  Yep.  That's where I'm at.  Learning new stuff I thought I had learned long ago.  I am giving myself permission to answer the question of "how are you?" honestly.  To genuinely listen and engage in conversation surrounding the health of my spirit.  Allowing myself to make choices that are healthy and whole and life giving for myself and my family.  Giving into the joyous racous when it arises from my soul and then too leaning towards the mourning when it shows it's face.

I am not sure I am fully downloading here.  My role as a mother is shifting.  Transitioning from needy toddlers to having teenagers that are forging their independence and preparing to change the world.  Husband Jared and I consistently say to each other let's finish strong.  We are not finished, nor will we ever be at the finish line with our role as parents, but we are nearing the time where are Things will be heading out to begin their journeys away from the safety net of our home.  That is surreal and bittersweet and makes my heart do flips in such weird and painful ways.  Disclaimer here, I am not a Mama that desires for my babies to stay home with me forever.  Witnessing them grow and change and step into the people that God has created them to be is such a privilege, an exciting and awe inspiring one at that.  All that said, family vacations are becoming more difficult to schedule, all but one is able to drive a vehicle, these people that call me Mama have their own opinions, can form complete sentences and articulate their thoughts around the dinner table.  I am no longer needed to cut meat, blow on hot food, kiss owies or rock them to sleep.  Emotions are all over the map here.  I was not ready for the rollercoaster that this stage of life is.  When people say, oh, you're busy, I have a difficult time agreeing.  Busy doesn't quite encompass what THIS is.  This is life.  The dance, as we've been referring to it here.  Mourning and dancing.  Running our race.  Dealing with constant change.  New.  Old.  Sameness.  All of the above.  And thus the state of my heart has been in upheaval.  Unsettled.  Most likely because I am re-learning how to do THIS.  In a new way.

This revelation is strange.  So contradictory to the strategy of fake it till you make it, put a smile on, and all that nonsense.  Embrace the here and now.  Wherever you're at.  Whether that is welcoming the guests as they pour in through the revolving door that is your home, or as you sit with silence and loneliness and a disengaged heart that isn't sure what to do next.  There is a time for everything, as scripted in Ecclesiastes 3:1 & 4, "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance."  That is truth right there friends.  When I press in to that, when I become a priest of prayer and praise, spending time in the secret place and having that be my starting place, the well from which I draw on and the lens through which I see this dance of life becomes a little less cloudy.  

February-April (And Mother's Day)

This blog has been neglected as of late, well actually as of this year.  Which, speaking of, can you even believe it is the end of July already?  I can not.  Halfway through another year.  Impending graduation celebrations looming.  Another school year in the books.  And you know what that means, the Things are getting older.  Heck, so am I.  That could be one explanation for my lack of writing.  My brain has not been functioning at full capacity.  It has been leap frogging all over the family calendar, in Edwin, our family van, at footie matches, at the market, crying in coffee, etcetera.  I'm sure I've painted quite the picture for you.  All that and yet here I am on a glorious Spring evening in middle TN, I can hear the baseball and lacrosse parents from my patio where I am sitting with my laptop.  Half and half tea at the ready and my fingers trying to tap out a long awaited post.  

We recently celebrated Mother's day and I feel as though that is where I should begin, even though my obsessiveness for order and chronological data is causing me pause.  Still, it is fresh on my mind and for now that trumps anything else.  First, though, let's just reflect on Spring in Tennessee.  I had forgotten maybe for a minute just how beautiful it is.  The green here is almost electric.  The entire earth seems to come alive.  Daffodils, lilacs, wisteria, then a bit later the irises and jasmine and honeysuckle.  They all smell so sweet, lingering in the air after a fresh rain.  I was able to plant in my pots before Mother's day giving us ample time to enjoy vibrant colors and hummingbirds on our patio, which is where I would like to spend every evening from here on out.  Alright then.  Back to Mother's day.

Our brunch and our people. 

Sweet Husband Jared spoils me every year, plain and simple.  I requested for the Things to pitch in a bit more than usual with our Friday chore routine and they cleaned the house for me.  Crab and champagne brunch was planned with the extended family and then an afternoon of just me and my people.  Well, minus Thing 1, which made this Mama a bit sad.  I don't think that in 19 years of being a mother that I have ever celebrated the day without all four of my Things within arms length.  Not a fan, people, not a fan!  Brunch was a roaring success.  We planned and prepped the night before so that we could enjoy the morning together, slowly.  And that we did.  I went for a run, we watched some footie, there was coffee and then a bit more preparing.  Thing 2 had a cooking/baking lesson and made the scones and cinnamon rolls on her own, to which Thing 3 was quite surprised!  The Things decorated our chalkboard and had confetti balloons on the table for me along with the perfect present and cards.  Such a sweet surprise to wake up to.  Our family arrived, Husband Jared grilled crab and we prayed and toasted to all the Mother's and those that weren't with us.  It was a good morning.  We sat around the table and soaked up the sunshine while the kiddos played, magic tricks were shared, popsicles eaten and the ENO was enjoyed.  When everyone had gone their own ways for the afternoon the Things prepared water balloons and the five of us ran around and squealed all while getting soaked.  So much fun.  Then we walked to downtown Franklin, grabbed dinner at Pucketts and had ice-cream for dessert.  Talk about splurging, it was a day of my favorites with my favorites.  I collapsed into bed that night sun soaked and grateful for a day of celebrating and being present.  Thank you Jesus.

Husband Jared and Mema

3 of the 4 that made a Mama

And now we regress to the months preceding May, beginning with February.  There was a 19th birthday for Thing 1, her first away from home and a 38th birthday for me and all sorts of stuff in-between.  More house guests, an overnight trip to Chattanooga with Husband Jared, a trip to Cali for me and even a little jaunt to Memphis for the Things and I, oh and the beginning of Thing 4's high school footie career for Middle TN Fire, a home school team.

Every year Husband Jared and I set our budget for the year based on the previous year's expenses, our tentative schedule for the current year and some hopes and goals we have for the future.  This year I thought it best if we do this away from home and distractions.  You should totally read that as Mama wanted a night away and this was how she decided to get it! Wink, wink.  So off we went.  A two hour drive away and we talked and sung our hearts out.  We played tourist and walked around Rock City, went to the lookouts, ate out, walked around downtown, slept in and ate breakfast at the coolest little cafe ever.  And yes, the budget got done as well.  Mission accomplished.

Pancakes as big as my face and some of the best I've ever tasted. 

The decor at Aretha Frankensteins.  Old vinyl, cereal boxes, concert paraphernalia...anything goes.  Even a skeleton riding a skate board hanging from the ceiling. 

Why yes we did ride the carousel, just like a couple of kids!  

Thing 3 was gifted a cooking class at Whole Foods for Christmas.  A chocolate class.  I accompanied her and watching her in that big, fancy kitchen was like watching a professional in their element.  It was fun and the treats were tasty too.

Such a happy Thing.

The almost finished product.  

One of our favorite Minnesotans came to visit and spend love day with us.  Laura arrived and the week spent with her exploring TN was funner than fun.  There were foodie excursions, coffee house field trips, shopping and lots of time spent around the table together, listening, fellowshipping and laughing.  She was here for our annual love day celebration too, which this year consisted of family breakfast and presies along with words of affirmation for everyone.  Another of my favorites.

 Need I say more?  Just the beginning of their time together.

Love day breakfast prep.

Love day around the table.

Our Love day table set  up.  Pre-breakfast.

Exploring Natchez Trace in the rain.  

Coffee shop visit, #20978.  

For my birthday this year Poppi gifted me a trip to Cali and I couldn't have been more excited to spend a weekend with the parents.  The weather was gorgeous and I had them all to myself.  Sometimes as an adult you find yourself just needing some Dad and Mom time occasionally.  We ran outside, enjoyed nature, did some shopping, ate lunch out at a new brewery and drank way too much coffee while playing Rummikub.  To top it all off my brother and Corynn and the girlies spent a night with us and celebrated my birthday too.  That day began with a picnic lunch at a winery, complete with live music and dancing, an afternoon grilling and a birthday cake made by none other than Gianna and Jason.  Wow!  Such precious family time.

 Picnic at the winery.

Around the table.

Helping Auntie LeLe blow out the candles.

When I returned home the Things had made me my favorite cake and were ready to continue the celebration.  It is well known in our house that birthdays should definitely last more than the one day we were given, at least a week if not the entire month is spent festively around here.  Thing 2 treated me to a coffee date with her at Crema on my actual birthday, Husband Jared and the Things made lasagna and we toasted and prayed with the family as I blew out all the candles on my cake.  Whew!  I felt loved and treasured and that was the best gift of all.

Rainbow chip birthday cake.  Yum.

Family birthday dinner.  And lots of candles.  

Husband Jared had a work trip planned to Memphis and I figured we could incorporate a school field trip into that so off to Memphis we went.  The Things and I visited the Civil Rights Museum and walked the halls reading and taking all the history in.  The museum is incorporated into the building of the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed.  Standing outside the hotel is nothing short of eerie, always gives me chill bumps.  This was my first experience inside the museum and the historical context it provides is impressive.  Walking the hallway of the hotel and peering inside the hotel room, left exactly the way it was the day of his assassination is unsettling.  Needless to say our dinner table discussion was filled with Civil Rights talk and copious amounts of historical context provided by Husband Jared.  So there was a pool in our hotel, indoor of course and the Things thought it absolutely necessary to take a dip.  Off to Target we went for swim suits because that's what we do and then on the way in to the hotel parking lot Thing 3 and I spied the cutest little bakery shop that was actually open and we ventured in and had to taste all the cupcakes.  Ok, not at all, but a few did return to the hotel with us.  And just like that the over night trip was over and we were on our way back to Franklin.

Outside the Civil Rights Museum.  

Waiting patiently for ribs?  You be the judge.

 Our sampling. Chocolate with PB frosting.  Matcha green tea.  Strawberry.
Chocolate fudge brownie.

Cutest little bakery.

A short aside here, Thing 2 officially finished her high school career as well.  In January her and Thing 3 traveled to MN for a church retreat where she spoke and our agreement was that school was to be completed before she left.  And it was and we had her diploma in hand and she even humored her Mama and wore her sister's cap and gown from the previous year and we hoot and hollered and took tons of pictures.  It was a good celebration.  Oh and about her talk, it was on joy and the time spent studying and preparing and writing was not a waste.  That girl gave it her all and I know the holy spirit filled and guided her right through those 5 minutes.  What a thing to witness as a parent.

The newly graduated, now preparing for Bible School in Germany, Thing 2.

I think we are on to Easter now.  And yes, more visitors.  This time not in our home but in our fair state of TN.  The Stinson family, all 7 of them made the trek South to see Franklin and us and a few other stops along the way.  I could not have been more excited to hug my friend's neck and see her crew.  They are precious little ones and near and dear to all of our hearts.  We have lived some life with them and to be reunited again was a God kiss for sure.  Once here we dined al fresco, toured some Nashy sites, spent Easter together, had an adult night on Broadway, (because that's what you do when people visit, you take them to the Honkey Tonks!) watched some footie together and celebrated a couple birthdays.  The pictures tell the story better than I could.  But oh my goodness did we have some fun!

Our last day together and the birthday celebration of Jack and Michael.

Stinson family table signing.  Worth documenting for sure.

Chick Fil A and watching our favorite footballer together!

Preparing for Easter with Nana's Easter cookies.

The group, minus Thing 1 and right before we all changed into comfy clothes.

Our favorite Stinson family.  

The 5 of us, not looking at the camera and being awkward with our hands because we never know what to do with them.

Loveless lunch and exploring.

Welcome to the South Stinson family.

A little corn hole while waiting for our table at Loveless.

A visit to the Parthenon, Centennial park, the gardens and even a picnic.

Captive audience.

Main Street, Franklin.  Girls and Noah shopping day.  

Our group at Loveless.  

Mama Stinson, Mama Hanson.  

Broadway, downtown Nashy and all the Honky Tonk glory behind us.  

A walk for frozen yogurt at Sweet CeCe's.

Shortly after that Husband Jared, Thing 4 and myself were off to Kansas City.  Thing 4 was invited to an all-star showcase for Sporting KC, the MLS team his club is affiliated with.  We were welcomed to Swope Village where he worked out with their trainers while Husband Jared and I explored the city, he went to the MLS match for chalk talk, watched warm ups on the pitch and was announced and shown on the big screen, then played a match on the most pristine pitch he's seen thus far.  It was quite the experience.  One that motivated and challenged him.

First night of training. 

All of downtown KC had Spanish colonial architecture with tiles and arches and I was swooning over it all.  This was a little coffee shop Husband Jared and I tried out while Thing 4 was working hard at the training grounds.

These two beauties spent the weekend together while we were in KC, this was the selfie they sent to their Mama who was missing them.  They hiked and then got lost and found their way together. Thankfully.

Just to the left of the "a" in adidas is Thing 4.

The boy's selfie attempt as he was watching warm ups.

First MLS match- Go Sporting!

Walking off the pitch after the match.

 There are no words for just how special this picture is to me.

While we're talking footie Thing 4 was invited to play with Middle TN Fire, a homeschool footie team in the greater Nashville area.  We begrudgingly obliged and accepted the invitation and lo and behold he was placed on the varsity team as an 8th grader.  Mixed feelings about that decision.   I rolled up to his first training session and saw MEN getting out of their vehicles, which they had driven themselves, with their facial hair and muscles and grown up attitudes.  They were not the coaches people, nope.  Players.  On Thing 4's team.  This Mama was not ready for all that business.  Although I will readily admit that the Lord's sovereignty was over this decision as well.  The team prayed before and after every match, including their opponents in their huddles.  The young men on the team encouraged and taught Thing 4 things well beyond the game.  His coaches were men of God and poured into him in a way I had never seen before.  This community that we stepped into was such a gift to all of us.  Even with the endless driving to Nashy in traffic.  All worth it ten fold.

This was a funny meme that one of the Team Moms had made and posted.  That's Thing 4 being pulled down by the man in the white uniform.  And it's one  of the only photos I have of him in his uniform.  And I think it's hilarious.  You're welcome.

All this was happening while Thing 1 was exploring the state of Washington, having adventures all her own.  Serving in Costa Rica, kayaking through the San Juan islands, rock climbing and camping and finishing up her gap year with Kairos.  I have so many words about her year away and all that we experienced at a distance, but that will have to wait.

Later in April my friend Holly and her daughter Caroline came to visit.  They were native Franklinites that had recently moved to NC, in fact right before we moved back.  Insert sad face here.  Holly stayed with our mutual friend and Caroline hung with us here at the Hanson B&B.  We were all ecstatic.  These are people more like family than friends and we love them all dearly.  So we did what we do when have visitors, we ate, Thing 3 and Caroline are both aspiring bakers so we let them loose in the kitchen, there were dance parties and drives and shopping and just hanging out.  The week was short and the memories plentiful.

The start to one of our many nights together.  I grilled and we ate dinner together on the patio.  

Main Street Festival and Baskin Robbins!  

Girls day at the Factory.

Chocolate Strawberry cake created by Thing 3 and Caroline.  It was delicious.  

Friends that eat ice-cream together, stay together.  Right?!

We had a half marathon after that.  Actually Husband Jared, sister Natalie and Thing 2 were the runners for our crew.  I was on the support team this year and cheered loudly from the sidelines as they crossed the finish line, each one being awesome!

The Finishers.

Mommy's cheerleaders.

So proud of these two. 

Husband Support Team.

That brings us right to Thing 3's birthday, the opening of the farmers market, a trip to TPAC to watch Mama Mia and then a trip to Seattle for Thing 1's graduation ceremony!  All that was happened in May so pictures and details to follow.  For now, we'll end with a few photos of life in the beginning of 2016.  Wow, what a start to the year.

Teaching Grandpa about snap chat.

Gemma had a birthday and the cousins celebrated at Chuck E Cheese.  

There was a serious conversation happening here.

His California look?

When Auntie Leanna picks you up on a hot day there is most certainly ice-cream involved.

Sometimes school looks like this for him.

My favorite sibling.  

Sometimes this is what school looks like for her.

Serving together at Harpeth.  The rest of the family was there too.