Friday, January 29, 2016

Stoney

My cousin Stoney passed away on Sunday.
There were three grandkids on my Mom's side.  He was a year older than me.  He grew up in California where Mom's family is, and was currently living in Seattle.


I wrote this right after I heard the news on Monday afternoon.
I thought I wasn't going to post this publicly, but for me, grief becomes easier when I write and share.

On any other post I would apologize for the raw language and the bitterness.  I thought about writing a disclaimer on this one, too... but then I would be apologizing for what I really felt that day.  Something tells me it's not right to say "sorry" for being true to oneself.


At Anne's wedding, June 2000


Stoney.

I don't know what to say.

You are gone and I can't do anything to bring you back.

I know I could have done something.  I know I should have done something.

I never got to tell you how much you meant to me.

You were my best buddy out there, my partner in crime.  Ever since I can remember, you were what going on vacation was all about.  We're going to California - it will be fun!  We're going to California - my cousin will be there!  We're going to California - STONEY!

"I can't wait to get there!" I'd think.  "We'll swim, and play."  We played ALL day, and as long as we could make it into the night.  We ate a lot of great food, like fresh cherries and peaches.  So many cherries, in fact, that Grandma told us to stop because there would be none left for the freezer.  You showed me how to eat an avocado and I pretended to like it.

I do like avocados now.  You showed me how good they can be.  I didn't forget you.

Remember how we used to play Jenga with your friend Mike?  We laughed until we couldn't breathe over the dumbest things, but they were funny to our 12-year-old selves.  We ate orange popsicles...6 popsicles each.  We played piano.  You told Mike I was the best piano player you'd ever heard.  I was proud to show you what I could play and you told me I needed to teach you everything I knew.  That piano from Grandma and Grandpa's house is in my house now...along with that memory of you.

Thank you for making me feel like I was great.  I didn't forget that.

We went to church and you brought your Bible.  Anne and I were just coming from Hidden Acres and our hearts were on fire, wanting to know your thoughts about God and if you knew Jesus loved you.  He loves you.  "He loves you and He wants you to love Him!"

He loves you more than anyone ever could.  I hope you didn't forget that.

We were self-conscious teenagers, myself more awkward than anyone.  You brought me to your friend's house and we hung out with them for a while in the backyard.  You and your friends used words like "hella fine" and the girls were all so tan, lovely and mature.  The boys wore their hats sideways and their pants too-big.  You were protective of your intimidated cousin and made sure to introduce me to everyone.

You were like a big brother.  I loved you.

You used to let the cockatiels fly into our room when Anne and I were still sleeping.  The birds landed on our heads and it scared the living daylights out of me.  I was mad and you laughed.  

You were an annoying big brother.  I still loved you.

In Grandpa's pool that he built for us, we had a ridiculous amount of fun.  You did a running front flip off the diving board and called it "Chinese Egg Roll."  The front flip without running was "American Egg Roll."  I'm laughing now thinking about it.  We had a trampoline to jump into the pool from.  I still hear Grandma telling us that it was a bad idea and one of us was going to get hurt.  We didn't jump when she was watching.  You played along with my pretending to be Ariel.  You were Ursula the Sea Witch and the pool vacuum was "Scuttle."  We'd try to remember to put the pool vacuum back, because if we forgot... just watch out for Grandma.  She loved us a lot, but the vacuum sprayed water everywhere if it wasn't put back in the pool.  Pool water equals chlorine.  Chlorine kills flowers.  We apologized that one time we left it out, and we felt bad.  But as soon as we were outside again, we ran away giggling.

I'm so glad we have that memory together.  I still think of it often.  I didn't forget you.

You were the best cousin I could have asked for.

Oh Stoney.  Why??  And no, I'm not yelling WHY at you.  I'm yelling WHY at myself.  Why didn't I try?  Why didn't I at least try to reach out to you?  You probably thought I didn't care.  You probably assumed I had forgotten about all the great memories.  You probably wondered why my folks returned to California but my sister and I never did.  You probably thought I was too busy.

Too busy for you.  Too far away to care.  

That wasn't true.  I'm so sorry.

My heart is broken.

Why are we so convinced that we have "needs" that should come before people we love??

I need to do this.  I need to become this.  I need to achieve this.

All of the things we "NEED" to do and "NEED" to be and "NEED" to be successful at...the things that we "NEED" to do before we are there for our family.......

Those NEEDS can go to hell.

Why do we only realize what is truly important when they are gone??

I'll miss you forever.


"Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.  Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus."  Phil 4:4-7 NLT


Monday, September 28, 2015

Dreams

Dreams are fascinating.

By definition: a dream is "a series of thoughts, images, and sensations occurring in a person's mind during sleep."

Usually for me, the thoughts, images, and sensations in my dreams stem from memories and experiences from the previous few days.  My dreams are mostly pleasant and brief, sometimes laughable (like the time I dreamed my college roommate Karina was a cattle farmer and we were wearing heavy puffer coats while looking at her bulls at the state fair).

Last night, though, I had the rare treat of dreaming a precious memory from many years ago.  I didn't want to wake up.

The Backstory:
As many young girls are, I was always interested in horses and wanted to take riding lessons.  My mother found an opportunity for me to learn at a local family farm and I loved it -- I groomed, saddled, rode, and fed the horses, and couldn't get enough!  My riding lessons didn't last for more than a month or two, but I had gained a lot more enthusiasm for horse care and riding western-style.  


The summer before I entered the 6th grade, I got to go to Horse Camp at Hidden Acres for a week.  I had the time of my life and returned the next year for two weeks as a wrangler-in-training.  The summer following that I was an assistant wrangler.  I loved using the skills I'd learned over the years in a leadership position, and everything about the work was fun for me, even the dirty chores that started at 6:00 a.m.!

I'll never forget my very first ride as a brand-new horse camper in 6th grade.  We were allowed to choose our own horse.  I chose a large, gentle chestnut gelding named Champ.  We helped groom and saddle, and when we mounted I was instantly uncomfortable.  One of the cowboys could tell, and told me I needed a smaller horse since I was so short -- my feet were nowhere near where they needed to be on the sides of the horse.

I was disappointed because I already liked Champ, but I obeyed the handsome cowboy and walked across the ring to a smaller, strawberry roan mare he had directed me to.  Her name was Lady.

I fell in LOVE.  Lady was a Missouri Fox Trotter, meaning her gait was smooth as silk.  No awkward bouncing when she trotted, and her canter was an absolute dream.  Her beautiful coat was reddish blond and shiny.  She nuzzled and gave "kisses", and was never temperamental.

Lady and I stayed together for as long as I attended and worked at camp.  Since she was short like me, she was always in my care group (along with Gus the mule and an appaloosa pony whose name I can't remember) and was, of course, my first choice for riding.  She was great with scared riders and didn't react to rider tension, so my fearful campers always got to ride Lady.  

So, my dream:
I was at camp again and it was present-time.  I was walking toward the horse barn, and of course, I was wondering if Lady was still there after all the years.  I walked in and saw two roans.  The first one had dark-rimmed ears and no blaze...not Lady.  The second horse had a rider, and was irritated -- ears flat back on her head and starting to rear.  I walked up to the horse and looked at her.  She instantly calmed and came right up to me with a nuzzle.  I swear she smiled, too!  It was Lady!  I wrapped my arms around her neck and cried with happiness...she was here!  She had grown some gray in her mane and tail and looked tired, but no doubt about it, this was my girl.  "Lady...do you remember me?"

I'm pretty sure all the other horses and people disappeared at this point.

Everything was the same about the barn.  That horsey smell, the smell that some people can't tolerate but I think is therapeutic...Lady's sounds and mannerisms...the tack room...my dirty, worn-out black Ropers with fringe on the toes...the feed buckets dangling in front of each horse's special place on the posts.

Lady was wearing her halter so I led her around the barn.  She stopped by the tack room and all of the sudden, her bridle was in her mouth and she dropped it into my hands.  I laughed and said "Want to go for a ride, old girl?"  

I woke up as soon as I mounted.  Have you ever tried as hard as humanly possible to "get back to a dream" after waking?  I have never been able to do it.  Lady was gone, camp had vanished, I wasn't going for a ride...and it was 5:30...time to get up.

I didn't want to let go of the dream or the memory, so I stayed in bed and recounted every single thought over and over so I wouldn't lose them.  

I am so thankful for those opportunities and memories.   
I am thankful that I'm only a couple hours away from Hidden Acres and that visiting is never too far out of reach.
I am thankful that even though horses aren't part of my life anymore, I have unique knowledge and skills that I can always use if the opportunity presents itself again.
I am thankful that night-time dreams remind us of our childhood dreams.

Love, Betsy










Thursday, August 27, 2015

Random Thursday

Tonight I have a few not-too-important ramblings...12, to be exact.

Each of these are somewhat cryptic, and some will be much better suited to a longer blog post of their own.  I don't want to forget my thoughts but I'm too unfocused and busy lately to write... so I'm shortening them.

1.  KINDNESS.  I am amazed by the amount of it around me lately.  It's humbling.  It brings me to tears, honestly.

2.  PARENTING.  Holy buckets of difficulty.  It is not for the faint of heart.  Or the weak-stomached.  Is "stomached" a word?

3.  SCHOOL.  It's here.  I love my job again.  Yes, again.  Last time we had a first day of school, I did not like my job.

4.  SUMMER.  I'm thanking my lucky stars that we have cool weather for the first week of school...summer would be a lot harder to leave behind if it were 80 degrees and sunny.

5.  ICE CREAM.  Just....thank you, Jesus.

6.  RED WINE.  See #5.

7.  HOUSE HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL.  Easily one of my favorite, most-watched shows on TV.  I can't get enough.

8.  MARRIAGE.  I married up.


9.  NIGHT TERRORS.  They happen (to me) and they suck.

10.  BOOKS.  Thankfully, I have a stack of fantastic Christian fictions next to my bed and whenever I get freaked, I read.  Instant peace.

11.  BATH AND BODY WORKS.  The hand soap and plug-in air fresheners.  Amen.

12.  1-YEAR-OLDS.  Because this:


Goodnight.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Two Words: Beurre Blanc.

One of the last projects I had to complete for my last class was a presentation.

"Invite three interested adults to participate in your presentation."  So, Tom of course, and our BFFs Hollie and Brett.  That was easy.  

"Include a visual."  How about a PowerPoint?  Done.

"Create an activity that they must participate in during the presentation -- sitting and listening to you describe the activity does not count as participating."  Well, my research was on pitch-matching in 10-11 year old male voices, so they will sing through some of the exercises and complete the same assessment that my student subjects had to do.  They will sing in their "kid" ranges -- this should be entertaining.

I knew this wouldn't be a complete presentation without dinner, so I invited them over for an entire evening and got the menu planned.  Keeping in mind that I needed to utilize the massive quantities of herbs from the garden overflowing our backyard, this is what I came up with:

Brown Sugar Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp
Summer Strawberry Salad with Poppyseed Dressing
Salmon Beurre Blanc
Roasted Vegetables
French Bread with fresh herb compound butter
Vanilla Bean Cupcakes
Craft Beer
Sparkling White Wine

The dinner was a success even though I felt the salmon got a little too overcooked and I didn't have enough time to bake the cupcakes...Hy Vee bakery to the rescue!  We had mini vanilla cupcakes with pretty sprinkles on top.  Oh, and by "craft beer" I mean "Michelob Golden Light."  We forgot to pick up a growler from MC Brewing.

I fell into deep, committed love with the main course.  Beurre blanc is a French white wine butter sauce and OH MY LANTA.  Fantastic.  

Needless to say, I feel obliged to share this beurre blanc recipe with you, which is slightly adapted from one of Mr. Alton Brown's recipes.  These photos are not from the original sauce-making experience, but the emotions most definitely are.

1.  Chop up some shallots.  I used a half of a medium-sized shallot, about a tablespoon and a half.


2.  Remember your ski goggles under the sink and put them on.  My eyes were already watering after about .5 seconds of chopping.  Does anyone else have super-sensitive eyes?!


3.  Put the shallots in a prep bowl with 6 whole black peppercorns (I used 7 because I am a rebel) and one bay leaf, and set aside.


4.  Get to work on the star ingredient, the butter.  Here is one stick.


5.  Do a double-take at the recipe.  OMG this recipe calls for three.  THREE.  Three sticks of butter.  Wallow in the gluttony that you are about to experience and go to the fridge and get two more sticks.

6.  Stop wallowing and do a joy dance because this is going to be delicious.

7.  Cut the butter into cubes.  Halve them the long way:


Then into quarters:


and into cubes.  Put them in the fridge so they stay cold.


8.  Grab another small prep dish and measure 2 tablespoons of dry white wine.  I used some of my beloved Naked Grape Pinot G.  Also, add 1/4 cup of white wine vinegar into the same prep bowl.  It's not pictured because vinegar is boring.


9.  Gawk at your cutie-pie son who is having his own supper.


10.  Get to work on some fresh vegetables.  1/4 of a red onion!  Ski goggles back on, stat.


(Stat.  What does that even mean?  I know that medical pros say it and it means right away.  Why "stat?"  Feel free to fill me in, medical friends.)

11.  Red and green bell pepper, half of each.


12.  Red skinned potatoes...I think probably 4 or so, cut into bite sized pieces.


13.  Go into your backyard and crawl into the literal jungle of herbs.  I picked parsley, thyme, and rosemary.  I would have included sage so I could sing Scarborough Fair while picking them, but I didn't really have a need for sage.  Next time.


14.  Realize that the photo of herbs also includes a hair brush.  Why a hair brush?  Jude likes to carry random objects around with him and this was one of the objects of the day.  Promptly move the brush somewhere else.

15.  Chop up the lovely fragrant herbs and set aside.  I mixed the rosemary and thyme, to use with the roasted veggies.


16.  Prepare salad ingredients.  In this photo I forgot the radishes.  Shame on me.  Radishes are one of my top 5 salad toppers.  Imagine romaine, these strawberries, green onions, carrots, thinly sliced radishes sprinkled with sea salt (they are so good) and fresh parsley.  Salad perfection, I believe.  Any sweet vinaigrette like raspberry or honey mustard would be good, but ours was Panera poppyseed dressing.  


17.  Put your toddler to "work" in his cupboard, filled with baby-friendly kitchen things.


18.  Toss veggies and potatoes in olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary/thyme mixture.  I always cook the potatoes on a separate pan and give them a 15-minute headstart.  If I cook them together, the onions and peppers burn.  I also used asparagus on the original recipe.

19.  Roast in a 425* oven, potatoes in first, then veggies after 15 minutes.  30 minutes total.


20.  Notice that Jude has declared it "break time."  He is all about that blue sippy cup.


21.  Start the glorious, heaven-sent, wondrous beurre blanc.  Shallots, peppercorns, bay leaf (I guess there were two in mine), wine and vinegar all get hot together.  Boil, then simmer and reduce until there is about 2 tablespoons of liquid left.


22.  Add 1/4 cup heavy cream.  I didn't mention that in the ingredients before.  Don't you go and forget it though, because it is miraculous.  Bring this to a simmer and let it reduce by half.


23.  While the sauce is becoming magical, put some chicken breasts in a saute pan.  Just salt and pepper and olive oil, nothing fancy.  My veggies were done at this point so there they are, cooling off a little on the side.


24.  Put some bread on the veggie pan and plan on putting it back into the oven right before serving, so it gets warmed.  This bread is one of my favorites from Aldi.  It's a big round loaf of Italian bread and you can find it in the bread section.  Duh.


25.  When the sauce is reduced by half, call your handsome husband in for help.  Ask if he would rather be the "feeder" or the "whisker."  Tell him that he should be the whisker, because he has whiskers.  LOL.  He's not laughing.

26.  Add the cold butter one piece at a time while your Whiskered Husband "vigorously whisks" the butter into the sauce.  This takes a while.  Look at that mountain of butter cubes.  If you've ever seen Julie and Julia (one of my favorites!), this is the sauce-making process that Julia Child describes to her sister in a French restaurant while they eat Brie and drink wine.

I want to be Julia Child.

This isn't pictured, but don't forget to flip the chicken over!  :)


28.  Strain the sauce through a fine mesh colander and you're all done!  It will smell amazing.  Don't taste it yet, because you'll burn your mouth.


29.  When all is brought together, you'll have THIS:

Chicken with the awesomesauce, topped with parsley.
Roasted veggies which taste great with the awesomesauce.
Bread with compound butter -- this particular one is garden basil and garlic.
Pinot Grigio


30.  Revel in the deliciousness.  You're welcome.




Saturday, August 1, 2015

Vino Vednesday: Copa di Vino

Disclaimer: This blog post contains an informal, somewhat amateur review of Copa di Vino wines.  Copa di Vino has no clue who I am nor are they paying me to talk about their product.  All the opinions are 100% my own.  The favorable opinions on The Naked Grape and Barefoot wines are also unpaid and completely belong to me.  Read on, wine drinkers: you will thank me and my friends for this one.



This week, Shelby and Loni came over so we could have a much-needed Vino Vednesday and the 3 Amigos could have a playdate.


The boys jumped into the toy pile and the mamas got down to business.  We had The Naked Grape Pinot Grigio (one of my personal summer favorites), Barefoot Bubbly Pink Champagne, and three mini-glasses of Copa di Vino: Cabernet, Pinot Grigio, and Chardonnay.  Copa di Vino, which literally means "wine in a glass," is a new product in the states.  

According to the website,

"Copa di Vino wines is America's leading producer of premium wine in the glass.  Founder and owner, James Martin, discovered the concept on a bullet train adventure through the south of France.  A year later he brought it to the states.  His passion for the wine [led] to Copa di Vino - wine in a glass - a ready to drink wine glass that could go anywhere without the need for a bottle, corkscrew, or glass.  Just open and enjoy!  Wine is no longer trapped in the bottle."



Prior to this evening, I had noticed these cute little ready-to-drink wine glasses at Hy Vee Wine and Spirits, displayed next to the cashier.  I hadn't really given them much thought.  When Loni brought them over, she told us they had been on Shark Tank!  I enjoy watching the show but haven't watched in several years.  Shark Tank is a show on ABC where inventors and innovators present their ideas to investors.  Some are accepted, most are declined.  Apparently, Copa di Vino had some offers from the Sharks but the founder declined the offers, "knowing his dream was worth more than the offers" (http://abc.go.com/shows/shark-tank).

Loni admitted that the cashier warned her when she purchased the three tiny wine glasses: "They're awful!" the cashier proclaimed.  We decided to try it anyway.  Sometimes people are too snobbish when it comes to wine, we said.  How could this be bad if the company has had so much success?



We opened the Cabernet Sauvignon first.  My first sip was pretty tart but I attributed that to the Tropical Sno I'd just eaten with my husband and son at a (super-fun) neighborhood birthday party.  The rest of the glass (we split it into three even mini-glasses) wasn't bad.  It was actually pretty good.  It didn't, however, taste anything like a Cabernet should.  I described it to the girls as tasting like a "pretty mild Pinot Noir."  We all finished our mini-glasses and moved on to the next: Chardonnay.


If you know me, you know this:  I hate Chardonnay.  I do.  I think it tastes like a moldy old log of oak wood that has been covered in rancid butter and sour grape juice.  When I was a fresh 21-year old junior in college, I ordered it at weddings and restaurants because I didn't know any other names of white wines.  I thought, well, this tastes like crap but I guess all wines must be pretty hard to choke down.  I thought I would learn to appreciate it and just get used to it.  When I had my first glass of Riesling my life was changed and I never gave in to Chardonnay again.  Ugh...even the thought of it makes me want to urp.

Anyway.  We opened the cup and sniffed at it.  First impression on the nose was, honestly, sulfur.  I passed it to the girls and their noses curled up just like mine had.  We tasted it carefully and decided it wasn't as bad as the smell had been.  However, just like the Cabernet, it tasted NOTHING like the variety it claimed.  Nothing about it was Chardonnay-ish.  We took another tiny sip then down the drain it went.

The next one was Pinot Grigio.  I adore Pinot Grigio so I was very hopeful.

Ummm...

WRONG.

We sniffed.  We almost gagged.  The cup claiming to be Chardonnay smelled like sulfur, and this one was worse.  This so-called Pinot Grigio was sewage.  Oh my gosh it was so terrible.  Shelby wouldn't allow it into her glass and Loni and I were scared...but we sipped it anyway.


Honestly, it tasted the exact same as the "Chardonnay."  Very basic, and nothing like real wine should taste.  The smell was so off-putting that I couldn't think of taking another drink, so like the Chardonnay it went down the drain.  We eagerly filled our glasses with The Naked Grape PG and Barefoot Bubbly champagne, hoping they would diminish the nastiness lingering in our senses from the Copa di Vino.

**Side Note:  Copa di Vino's website is very boastful about the concept of wine sold in a glass-shaped container being a "new" thing.  I agree, I haven't seen wine in a ready-to-drink glass.  But the actual concept of wine-to-go isn't new.  There are several brands that sell wine in mini plastic bottles, ready to take on-the-go.  Sutter Home and Beringer are the first two that I think of.

(And by on-the-go, I mean picnics, boats, backyards, etc....NOT ON THE ROAD.  Please don't be stupid and drink alcohol in a vehicle.)

The Naked Grape Pinot Grigio is an inexpensive, tasty white wine that is one of my go-to whites in the summer.  It is perfectly sweet-tart and balanced.  No burn, no funky aftertaste, and fresh.  Love it.

Barefoot Bubbly pink champagne is everything you'd want for a bridal shower, girls' night out, cocktail party, or celebration drink.  Uncomplicated, sweet, fizzy and fun.  It was a great choice after we'd been bad wine-scarred.  


Here is my saint of a husband, who cooked and served us (and the babies) frozen pizza.  It was the 3 Amigos' first pizza party, Loni said!  They were so cute.  We can't believe how big they are getting.  

They had their traditional photo shoot as usual!  Jude, Everett and Easton.


Not so sure about this, mommies!


We were making ridiculous faces and noises...Jude thought they were pretty funny!


For our next Vino Vednesday, which I'm hoping will be soon - I love these girls and their boys! - I have my sights set on some more expensive reds.  I'd like to do one without the babies so we can have a real dinner, too...maybe do a tasting at one of the restaurants in town?!

Happy wining!  Remember to stay away from Copa di Vino!

Love, Betsy




Thursday, July 30, 2015

God is REAL

"God is real."

My friend Melissa (whom I miss dearly) sent me this challenge earlier today:

This is for a good purpose.  Hope you do the same.  The sole purpose is to fill Facebook of these sentiments:

God is real.
God is good.
God is faithful.
God is my strength.
God is my shield.
God is love.
God is alive.

The challenge goes on to explain that we are to post these sentiments daily without explanation.

When I read that, I thought, where's the purpose in that?  I have things to say!!  So, instead of facebook statuses (which wear me out anyway), I have decided to employ the blog.

I'm thrilled that I get to talk about God's real presence in my life.  There have been so many, SO MANY things I've encountered that have proven Him to be real, but the one I'm going to share with you is particularly meaningful because it happened almost exactly two years ago.  Also, my friend Kristine recently wrote a beautiful story that inspired me to share this with you--when I read hers, I knew I needed to get mine out there too.

Rewind a couple years.  Summer 2013.

It was a roller coaster of a year.  You see...Tom and I had struggled to start a family.  We married in August of 2012 and knew it could happen anytime.  It did happen, but we miscarried in January of 2013.  It was a terrible, painful, heartbreaking time.  I spent a lot of that winter being depressed and feeling hopeless.  

Spring came, and so did the opportunity to perform in "The Sound of Music."  I cannot tell you enough that THAT SHOW was what brought me back to life.  Maria brought Betsy back.


I was telling a friend about this whole story one time and she said "Do you think the miscarriage happened for that reason, so you could be in the show?"

No, I don't.  I do know that the show couldn't have been a possibility for me if I'd had a big belly.  But, I don't think it was God's "logic."  I think His plan all along, through the heartbreak, was to remind me that HIS plan is sovereign and that He is good, all the time.  He drew me to Him as I felt my life crumble to pieces.  He kept me in perfect peace as I trusted that He would give us a child someday.  I didn't have laughter and happiness and joy, but boy did I ever have peace.

I knew all of these truths about God.  But I wasn't believing them at that time.  We hadn't been trusting Him to provide in that season of struggle.  Talk about a wake-up call.

The musical was a gift from Him.  It was His unique and awesome way of bringing happiness and joy back to me.

Back to the present.  I saw this picture on Timehop a couple days ago:


This is an Instagram post from July 2013, from a North Iowa Fire (our local AAU basketball organization) weekend when Tom was coaching.  I snapped this photo with a bit of an attitude...it was early, I was tired, and I was eager to get it all done so we could go home.

The musical had just closed and I missed it terribly.  Reality came crashing back down after our beautiful song-and-dance world was no more.  There was no positive pregnancy test yet and we were feeling the weariness of trying and waiting creeping up on us yet again.  Here we were at yet another basketball game...the gym floor and bleachers were crawling with kids -- talented, beautiful, happy kids -- and I felt as though I was surrounded by their talented, beautiful, happy moms.  Moms and kids, moms and kids.  Then there was me.  

Alone.

Do you ever have that feeling inside you that is like a storm?  A twister of emotions...it might start quiet, but it's unsettled and gloomy.  As it grows bigger and stronger, it begins to roar, and you feel like there is no escaping.

I felt my mind-storm growing stronger and darker in the gym that morning.  The buzzers and whistles and bouncing basketballs only added to the noise.  Horrible, ugly noise.  I wanted to go away from there, and fast.  I put my head down and felt some hot tears in my eyes.

Then this happened, and I am not embellishing or elaborating ONE BIT:  I heard a Voice.  I can't really describe the Voice.  It was quiet but firm.  It was louder than my storm.  It calmed my storm.  My storm was instantly gone when the Voice came.

What did the Voice say?

"Don't be discouraged."

What??  I sat STRAIGHT UP and quickly looked around me.  I knew it wasn't a human voice; it was different...but I was pretty alarmed.  Just...what???  That Voice was so....clear.  That Voice was for me!  THAT VOICE WAS GOD.  I knew it.  

I wasn't even seeking God in that moment.  I wasn't listening.  And there He was.

Don't be discouraged.

That's all I heard, even though I was straining, leaning forward even, to hear more.  The mind-storm was completely gone and it was quiet.  All I could hear was the gym, and it had reverted back to being pleasant game noise that I was so accustomed to.

After the game was over and Tom was back with me, I told him about what had happened.  I'm not sure it meant the same to him, and I wasn't expecting it to.   He was happy to see me feeling reassured, though, and said that he too had been praying for peace and patience in our season of waiting.

In the days following, every time I was tempted to feel sorry for myself and give in to sadness, I remembered the Voice.  I repeated those words to myself over and over, and meditated on Psalm 139...Isaiah 26...Psalm 27.

We found out we were pregnant on August 10.



Do I believe God is real?

Yes.  I absolutely do.







Tuesday, July 28, 2015

DONE!...Now what?

I'm done.

I AM DONE!!  My comprehensive exams, final research paper, all the assignments,  collaborations, discussions, reflections, projects, surveys and blah blah blah... 

THEY ARE FINALLY DONE!!!

In a few short days I can add "MA" to the end of my signature.

Someone asked me a week or so ago when I'd start the coursework for my doctoral degree.

um...

HAHAHA

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

NO.

From now on I'll enjoy what I've earned, and when I need renewal credits, look forward to choosing classes that interest me and help me further improve my teaching and/or musicianship.  I've heard there are jazz, theatre and even rock music courses out there.

Morningside won't have a graduation ceremony for this summer's MA graduates until next summer.  Next summer.  Not sure if I can wait that long to get that coveted light blue hood, so I plan on stealing Tom's until I can get my own.  :)

My plans for the rest of the summer, since I have my days back, include:

1.  Spending more time with Tom and Jude.  We have parks to explore and a pool to splash in.

2.  Experimenting with my Canon 60D.  We've had it for 3 years and I'm still kind of pathetic at taking pictures

3.  Training for a half marathon.  Part of me doesn't want to but a bigger part of me DOES

4.  Having a girls' night out (or day out...shopping?) before school begins

5.  Trying and blogging some recipes from Pinterest

6.  Spending a LOT more time in the music studio...my guitars are calling.

7.  Exploring Bob's Guitars in Cedar Falls and maybe bringing home a new Taylor...

So, ready-set-go...one more month of break!

Thanks to all my encouragers and at times, pushers.  Can't believe it's over.  :)

Love, Betsy