Storytelling In Cali

We jumped on a plane to LAX with a dream and a cardigan.  Well, sorta.  I must give creds to Miley Cyrus for those catchy lyrics.  Every time I board a plane headed to my home state of Cali I admit that tune runs through my head.  I just can't help it.  I should.  But I can't.  Anyhow, about a month ago Husband Jared and I did catch an early morning flight to sunny Cali!  Only, it wasn't sunny.  That is entirely beside the point.  Or it would be if we did not live in the frozen tundra.  We had scheduled a quick few days in California, visiting family, attending a conference and catching up with loved ones.  Only it was so much more than that. 
For Christmas this past year I asked Husband Jared to attend the Storyline Conference with me.  After dubious research he agreed.  Storyline is a conference created by Donald Miller, the author.  You might have heard of his book, "Blue Like Jazz"?  Or the indie movie based on the book?  Regardless, the motive behind the conference spoke to me.  It is based on the notion of living a better story.  Finding a redemptive perspective on the past and passionately living out what you were created for.  Not pleasure seeking but deep meaningful life.  Full of intimate relationships in a community where one is unconditionally loved.  Inspired?  I was.  The weekend was filled with unexpected surprises and words of truth. 
Point Loma Nazarene University was the host for the weekend's events.  If you have never seen this campus, you must.  I wanted to be a college student all over again if it meant I could attend this university.  The locale can not be matched.  Overlooking the Pacific ocean, lush greenery everywhere and sunsets so majestic I had to pinch myself. Upon check in I dragged Husband Jared  in the rain to the cliff just so I could hear the waves.  That is balm for my weary soul and the one place I never fail to find God.  Ocean waves crashing on rocks and rain drops falling on my head.  In that moment I did not mind one bit. 
Lookout point on campus
Our schedule was full to the brim with sessions and break outs and note taking and listening.  Absorbing everything, sponge like, if you will.  The speakers were dynamic and each and everyone brought a unique perspective to the table.  There was a producer, a widowed mom, an entrepreneur, author, preacher, psychologist, Christian satirist, improve comedian, government lawyer and activist and even the founder of Food for the Hungry.  We soaked in their words.  Heard their stories.  The struggles, the mistakes, the redemption.  They each deserve a post of their own.  Although I could not do their story justice in my words.  A few were poignant for me, personally.  Another Husband Jared and I could not stop laughing with.  And still one had tears rolling down my face from the very beginning.  Their braveness touched me.  The authenticity they so freely shared was a window into their heart, and if anything an inspiration to me. 

The one we could not stop laughing with.  This is where Husband Jared and I were introduced to the phrase, "Bootie, God, Bootie".  Yes, God sandwiched right there between the ever potent "bootie".  Jon Acuff is able to claim the brilliance behind this notion and the way he presented it to us, his audience at Storyline, was hysterical.  Let me explain.  There was a secular radio station he listened to.  Every morning at the same time they would share a clip of a sermon. For real.  Right between Beyoncé and Pink there was preaching to the masses.  Of course, him standing on stage, singing and then switching gears to the "serious" God talk would be so much better than this.  Use your imagination people.  Animated, authentic and humorous.  Anyhow, he went on to say that was how he was living.  A little God time on Sunday and then Monday through Saturday all bootie.  You do know what I mean, right?  It struck a chord.  And the phrase has been coined and used excessively in this household.  Of course, breaking that down with the four Things was entertaining.  They got it though.  First time around. It resonated so deeply with us.  Within the humor there was truth.  Bootie, God, bootie, let it not be so. 

I learned things about myself this weekend that I hadn't paid attention to before.  Discovered long buried fears and dreams.  In the unearthing of these Husband Jared and I pontificated for hours.  Pouring over all that we had ingested each day.  Long dinners, one at a local pizza joint where we made friends with our waitress.  Another in the hotel room with the best Mexican take out we've had in a long time.  You knew I had to mention our meals, right?  Just to mix it up I'll even share with you a photo of the largest oyster we've ever seen.  Served so fresh at the local fisherman's wharf. 

Here we had yet another deep discussion.  This time surrounding the legacy we long to leave for our children.  How we want to put an end to generational sin that has entangled our families' past for so long.  You see Husband Jared and I had never before done anything like this together.  The experience in and of itself was life changing.  We asked ourselves incredibly challenging questions that forced decisive answers.  I was physically exhausted at the end of the two days.  Feeling as though I delved into uncharted waters without a life preserver.  Only there was one, shedding light throughout on the life He has given me.  The passion I was created to live with the grace He so freely gave.  Summary concluded.  I do not serve this conference well with my angsty descriptions.  For a more definitive explanation of all that Storyline has to offer you should visit their website.

Switching gears to the "other" side of our visit.  Family.   We were fortunate enough to have arrived for sister in law Corynn's birthday and what better way to celebrate her than family dinner and dessert! Before dinner Auntie Le Le needed some Gianna and Olivia time. 
A walk to the park was in order and I even wore the Baby Bjorn with sweet Olivia. 
We ran through the grass, chased Uncle Jared, swung on the swings and played lots of pretend games.  More family togetherness was on the docket for our return from the conference. 

A selfie with my goddaughter 
There was even family togetherness happening in San Diego.  Unfortunately there are no photos to offer as proof.  We enjoyed some adult time with Aaron and Maggie.  Loads of laughter, non stop catch up on the latest and greatest with the kiddos a slumber party and then a yummy breakfast at a new fave breakfast place, Snooze.  I stumbled across it in the hotel magazine and I was adamant about giving it a taste test before we left Southern California.  Stuffed French toast with mascarpone and strawberries, a peanut butter banana pancake and the freshest coffee.  We all agreed it was delish and a perfectly sweet ending to our short visit with the Strands. 
 Yet another reunion was in the works with the Aunties and Uncles and Grandparents.  All meeting at Mom and Dad's for dinner.  Yes, most of our plans are centered around food.  Aren't yours?  I was able to visit with cousins and laugh and take silly pictures with them.  We told stories about the Things, shared lessons from the conference and reminisced about times together from the past.  All while carrying on and interrupting each other and talking way too loudly and over and around one another. 
On the way to the family gathering, Jared, Gianna and Me
I'm older than them and I changed all their diapers, yet they're all taller than me! 
How did that happen?
And in the blink of an eye it was over and we were having breakfast with Nani, readying ourselves for goodbyes at the airport, which with this family, is never an easy thing to do.  Thanks Cali for the good times, and yes even for the rain, see you on the flip side.  Or something to that effect. 

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