The Eve of Sixteen

I say it every year and I have no intention of stopping now, my babies are growing up after all and be still my heart.  This Mama is punch love drunk over her babies, all four of them and on this eve of the eldest Thing turning sixteen I am dizzy over these years.

 A road traveled unknowingly at first.  So young we were, little experience and no road map or navigation system.  I can throw the clich├ęs around and spin the stories.  There are no words infinite enough to grasp this Mama's heart.  To pin it down or define it.  Bursting.  Aching.  Feeling the rawness times one thousand.  Learning as we go and the first, well the first is sometimes also the most challenging.  Uncharted waters and roads with curves and hills one could not have expected.  Yet, now there is a guide.  And there is grace.  Above all there is love.  Thank God there is love.  Love that covers mistakes.  Love that envelops and dries tears.  Love that refines.  Love that disciplines.  Love blind.  Love that doesn't understand why.  And love.  Mama's love. 

When your eldest child reaches a milestone all the milestones before come rushing in.  First step.  First smile.  First word.  First lost tooth.  First book read.  First time saying " I love you".  First time reaching for me.  First time needing me.  First day of school.  First heart break.  First fight.  First loss.  First bad grade.  First late night study session.  First late night cry session.  All the firsts.  All the lasts.  All the change.  It floods the mind and the heart.  Causing me to pause.  Making this heart skip a beat.  Inspiring gratitude.  For it all.  ALL of it.  The journey we are traveling together.  One memory stone at  a time.

So on the eve of sixteen I am remembering.  Looking back.  Knowing that for now we have this moment and the privilege of remembering those past.  For the road ahead that leads to places we can't imagine.  Even for the bumps and road blocks.   For the smooth patches too.  Yes, even the in between. 

Sixteen.  The mere letters spelling that number out cause my jaw to drop.  There it is.  She is turning sixteen.  In all of her beauty.  Her hopes.  Her dreams.  The quirks.  The quietness.  The unknown.  The future.  Her love.  Her kisses before bed.  Her smile.  Her strength that she is so unaware of.  The walls that have been built and all the while being torn down.  The beautiful mess.  All the inside stuff.  What she does when she thinks no one is watching.  The gifts given from God.  The Jesus relationship she is building.  The driving.  The independence.  Life lessons. Learning. 

Shall we walk this road a bit longer?  Navigate the waters and ride the waves.  Stopping to remember and pausing before we inch forward.  Let's.  We'll go together into the next sixteen.  Heaping love upon grace and learning as we wade through. 

Thankful Thursday #120

* Sunset on Cape San Blas
2043. only 29 more days
2044. pink polka dot envelope waiting to be sent
2045. the Spirit's conviction
2046. the Minute Clinic
2047. training schedule hanging on the door
2048. magazines in the mail
2049. birth day of our eldest
2050. strawberry cake and pink frosting 
2051. a quiet weekend with Thing 3
2052. a bag full of books for $5

A Little Lewis, Just The Beginning

I declared here, my word for the year is "pray".  With that being said I set about my business in studying this word and attempting to have a better understanding of it.  So as I've been known to do I ordered a few books on the subject.  Just a few.  The first to arrive was C.S. Lewis', "Letters to Malcolm".  It is a collection of letters between Lewis and a friend I presume to be named Malcolm.  Their discourse is mostly intellectual, interspersed with some comic relief and rib jabbing, if you will.  And when allowed some profound observations on the church then, that are applicable today, forty years later.  Mainly the dialogue centers around the art of praying, the standards, methods and the like.  Is it an art form?  Or a constant state of conversation, petition and penance between the Almighty and oneself? 

That is where I am.  Not even one chapter in and my hand was pen laden and underlining like mad.  Making notes in the margin.  Rethinking and reevaluating the state of my prayer life as it stands today.  This bold statement made  by Lewis has me particularly thoughtful this afternoon, "We want to know not how we should pray if we were perfect but how we should pray being as we are now."  Exactly. 

Such a broad subject, one's prayer life.  Yet there is much obedience entangled with it.  The acknowledgement of being known, of presenting our requests, our confessions and unveiling the state of our heart.  All the while being mindful that all of this is being offered to an omniscient God who is perfectly aware.  Even what lies in the "secret" places of our hearts.  Which is why I long to pray now, as I am, not how I think I should be.  Not living up to my own displaced expectations of what is acceptable.  Simply coming before the Lord as a servant, bearing all.  Despite His holiness and because of it. 

These intellectual and deeply spiritual thoughts on prayer life are ones I'm just delving into.  I have much to learn.  So I'll keep reading and sharing and studying.  And of course praying as I go.  For now though, I will leave you with this.

" We must lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us."
C.S. Lewis, "Letters to Malcolm"

For Your Friday

Should you feel the need to celebrate today, do so.  Simply because it is Friday.  A day of the week.  You made it.  Don't know what you made it through or what you've done but celebrate nonetheless.  Life is a string of moments.  Some of them infinitesimal in size, others monstrous.  These precious moments.  All the ones that seem insignificant may not be so in eternity.  And all the ones whose proportions are overwhelming could actually be fleeting.  Well they will be anyhow.  So let's celebrate.  Share some cheer.  Maybe raise a glass.  Give a hug.  Place your hands around a warm mug.  Breathe it in.  This is life.  This is Friday.  The day the Lord has made.  Just for you.  

Thankful Thursday #119

2033. texting conversations that are more like therapy
2034. grateful for the friend on the other end of the text
2035. a gift of a book
2036. valentine's coming
2037. new quote, printed and waiting to be framed
2038. technology free nights
2039. cream swirling in my coffee
2040. making plans for the beach
2041. celebrating small victories
2042. quiet in an empty house

Family Fun Day

Husband Jared and I decided that with the cold coming, let me rephrase that, bone chilling weather on the horizon, we would enjoy a bit of fun before we were hunkered down indoors. With a few options to choose from we did ask for input from the Things and to no surprise they chose food and a park over a museum.  I suppose after a stressful week of finals and studying and papers galore they wanted some fun.  Have they not learned that every family outing is a learning opportunity just waiting to be exploited? 

By lunchtime my tumbly was quite rumbly and we thankfully made it to Cossetta's in the knick of time.  Along with the rest of St. Paul I imagine.  It is always a beautiful drive crossing over the Mississippi and entering the twin city.  Either way, this Italian market/cafeteria style restaurant peaked my interest and I was beyond delighted that we were dining there.  We stepped in line and began looking over the menu.  So many choices.  The pizza was superb we were told but I love me a meatball sandwich so that was my first choice.  As I was standing in line waiting for my grub a familiar smell invaded my senses.  I was back in my Nana's house.  Sausage and peppers cooking on the stove top and she was waving that wooden spoon at me.  The smell transported me back and all I could say was, "come smell this, it's just like my Nana's".  Sure enough it was just like Nana's. Husband Jared had the sausage and pepper sandwich and my oh my, the taste buds did the happy dance!  Here are the Things during lunch, I asked them all to show their food and not all obliged.  Typical.

With our stomachs quite happy and full and cannolis adding the cherry on top we were off to Rice Park to view the Peanuts statues.  We are Charlie Brown fans around here and I had read about the park and the statues adorning the area.  Sounds like our kind of outing.  The Things ran around climbing on snow piles, watching the ice skaters, chasing pigeons and having fun.  Then the wind came and we were almost blown away.  Really.  A few token pictures with the statues and stories about the characters and notes taken that yes Dad does actually look like Charlie Brown and then we walked to the river side.  As breathtaking as the view was, so was the wind-chill.  Hats blew off our heads and we were walking hunched over all the way back to the car. 

Linus, Sally and The Things, this one might be my favorite

Husband Jared, Things and Charlie Brown

 Me and Charlie, he's a good man you know

Linus and Lucy
There's a storm a brewing...
All in all a great family fun day. 

Down by the river, the great Mississippi that is


This past Christmas I did not remember to snap a photo of the Things with their ornament for the year.  I'm recognizing a theme here from previous non photo events.  Anyhow, I thought for posterity's sake and my fading memory that I should at the very least pen what ornament they received for 2012 and why.  So if you're interested continue reading  and if not go back to previous posts. 

Thing 1 - crutches ornament, for obvious reasons.  A knee surgery and wisdom teeth removal.  Quite a year.
Thing 2 - Tangled ornament, for the serenades that Thing 1 receives nightly, for her Rapunzel like hair and because she loves this movie
Thing 3 - baking ornament, well because if you're around here you know that our house is usually not without cupcakes or cookies or other creations whipped up by our resident baker, it's her gift!
Thing 4 - Manchester united boot ornament, enough said right?  It's his passion.  His love and right now his world.  All football, all the time.  Pardon me, Utd. football.  Thank you RVP.  You've made a difference.

Found it!

So, after searching and knocking and looking and meditating, the word of the year is pray.  Simple right?  Obvious?  Maybe.  Just right for me?  Yes and yes.  With a head nod, shake of the tail and a wink. 

I did not come by this word on accident.  It was there, staring at me.  Waiting to be unearthed.  Well, actually just waiting to be acknowledged.  This word found me.  Each and every time I sat waiting for the lightening bolt movie moment it softly spoke.  Nudging me toward acceptance.  I was hesitant.  Certainly, I pray, I journal, I converse with the One.  I do.  Yet to Pray  is so much more than that.  And that is exactly what I intend to discover this year.  A journey before me of learning more about this word. 

I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God- it changes me. - C.S. Lewis

“Your prayer will show you what condition you are in. Theologians say that prayer is the monk’s mirror.” - St. John of the Ladder (7th Century Christian Monk)

Thankful Thursday #118

* missing my morning coffee with this guy
2023. snowflakes falling
2024. fuzzy blankets
2025. slippers from Nana
2026. library books
2027. this house being full of children and noise
2028. new recipes
2029. Things being friends to those in need
2030. new dreams
2031. date nights
2032. laughter, really good medicine 

Finding a Word

I have been incessantly thinking about, dwelling on and nagging my self over my word choice for 2013. And guess what?  I still don't have one.  A word hasn't chosen me.  I haven't chosen a word.  Either way, here we are two weeks in to the new year and there isn't a word.  Nada.  I mean I know words and words have flooded my thoughts and all that but there hasn't been one ta-da moment if you can relate.   

It began before 2012 came to a close.  I assumed it would be simple.  Just pop right into my head during quiet time or maybe jump off the pages as I read, linger after a sermon.  Alas, no.  When explaining this concept of a word of the year to Husband Jared he just shook his head.  What was my word last year he asked.  When I responded "listen", he said to what.  Then I patiently took the time to explain to him what I was listening for and to and all that.  Maybe I just didn't do such a great job adhering to my word or allowing it to inspire the way it was intended to.  Must not have been quite the example I desired to be. 

Despite that and my loss for a word for this year of 2013 I am searching.  Still listening.  Waiting.  I thought I had one.  I was almost certain it would be "love".  But that just didn't stick.  Didn't sink into my heart the way I had hoped.  Now I'm left without a word. "Do" was the other choice.  Then I thought of the Nike slogan, "Just do it", and I discarded that one altogether.  Am I not listening closely enough?  Not seeing what's staring me in the soul?  Please help.  

I need a word.  And a meaningful one at that.  One that throughout the long days and the joy-less afternoons and on my knees in prayer kind of nights that will continue to spur me on.  A word that will offer a reminder of the intention of this year.  Am I placing too much emphasis on this?  Perhaps I am.  Still, I want a word.  Maybe if I close my  eyes I will see it there, in the dark?  Or possibly waiting with the sunrise in the morning?  I know it will find me and as soon as it does I will share it with all of you.

2012...A Collection of Random Photos

New Year's Day
Valentine's Dinner

Riding Lessons
Post surgery
Easter celebration at Grace church

Permit driver

Canterbury Park
First Half for Husband Jared

Father's Day
Grammy's blackberry cobbler
Anniversary dinner in NOLA

Record breaking fish at Grandpa's
The great MN get together

Family photos

D.C. summer road trip
Carrie Underwood and Hunter Hayes

Another Half
Pumpkin picking
Thanksgiving Dinner
Drop that funky beat

Silly Cousin Selfies
Funny Christmas present

Walking On Ice

I never thought I'd see the day where my California raised Dad, brother and husband would be ice fishing, together.  On a frozen lake.  With my Things.  Who would've thunk?  Certainly not me.  Yet, they did.  And I passed in favor of a girls day with Nani, Aunt Corynn, Gianna and Thing 1, who also did not want to sit on the ice with a jig and try to catch fish. 
This is how our morning started off after we bid farewell to the fishermen, sent away with thermoses of coffee and hot cocoa, snacks and hand warmers.  Just in case. 

Good morning Powo!  Yes, full kiss on the lips. 
They checked in and met the father/son who run the business and got a few important pointers.  Then Husband Jared drove the gang to the ice house and they went to it.

Poppi and the three Things that braved the cold

Getting started
Husband Jared and Things
Before our "girl" day officially started we met the fishermen for lunch at Lola's.  Beautiful snowflakes were falling and Nani insisted on pausing for a photo.  She was giddy over the snowflakes and even made Aunt Corynn stop in her mad dash to the door so that she could examine one that fell on her head.  Then she made Thing 1 stop and take a picture of one in my hair.
No, not dandruff, snowflakes
So sweet, Gianna liked the snow falling
Thing 1 and Gianna
Lola's boat house sits on the edge of Waconia lake and has amazing views.  In the bay area they were preparing the ice for broom ball and Thing 4 ran around making slides out of the snow piles and we all sat inside warming up and hearing all the fish tales.  There was a small wager placed on who would catch the first fish, the most fish and the biggest fish.  At lunch time Thing 2 was in the lead.  She was also still on the fence about joining us ladies for our trip to the book store.  After all the debating she stayed, only for sheer competition, she didn't want anyone else to beat her record, or risk losing her winnings.  In fact, she went on to catch 16 fish that day.  The rest of the results will remain unwritten.  Those that were present know the counts and that is good enough.  Lunch was great and those that hadn't seen the ice house wanted the opportunity, so Husband Jared drove us out on the ice.  And yes I did have a minor panic attack.  Yes, I did think about leaving the windows rolled down just in the event that the ice cracked and tried to swallow our vehicle we all would be able to escape.  I resisted the urge and prayed.  Then we made it safely.  Poppi and Nani walked across the ice from Lola's and met us.
There they are, brave souls
Once inside I was really quite impressed with the set up.  There was even a heater.  The Things impressed me with their ice fishing knowledge that they had learned in such a short amount of time and we saw fish and a few of us even gave it a try. 
Nani and Gianna
Stuck family

Husband Jared and Me
Thing 1 couldn't resist, the fish definitely resisted though!
Once our tour was complete we hit the ice again and headed to Wild Rumpus bookstore, one of my favorites.  I couldn't wait to share this special place with Gianna.  She wasn't so sure however.  We entered through the tiny purple door and immediately began searching for the animals; rooster, tarantula, lizard, ferret, chinchilla, birds even a few cats.  The rooster was ok as long as she (Gianna) was being held, the cat she loved and the birds she talked to.  We read a few lines and perused the shelves for a few good finds and then we were off to Great Harvest for a sweet treat. 
Big girl exiting the purple door
Please read with me...someone
 Mr. Rooster
We found our sweet treat and some fresh bread at Great Harvest but Thing 1 was wanting hot chocolate so we were referred to the coffee shop across from the bakery and it surely did not disappoint.  Sebastian Joe's I will for sure be back to visit you.  A spicy mocha and some special girl time, a great afternoon if you ask me. 
The day did not end there and even though it was our last night together it just got better and better.  We had another family dinner all gathered around the table sharing highs and lows and talking about the memorable week we had.  There is also a dinner table shot again, we do a lot of eating. 
Not too bad, Gianna has some nice hair, doesn't she?
It was the best one of the majority.
Then unfortunately there was packing to do and organizing and preparing and reality hit hard.  So I did the only thing I could, I snatched up that baby girl and gave her a bath and spent the rest of the night telling her 1000 times how much Auntie LeLe loves her.
Boy do I miss those eyes
One last cousin photo in Christmas p-jammy jams, a Nani tradition,
and one of my favorites
Once suitcases were packed, coffee set to go for our early morning airport trip and everyone tucked in and hugged goodbye we fell asleep.  Oops, how could I have forgotten, everyone but Gianna fell asleep.  Uncle J and I drove around the hood until the little munchkin finally gave in. 
Nice brother, sister time. 
Suffice to say these Hanson 6 are so very grateful to the Stuck families for enduring the bitter cold and trekking to the great white north.  Good times.  Good times.