Saturday, December 06, 2014

"I go by Sam"

The first time I laid eyes on Sam Painter, I was sitting in homeroom on the very first day of my junior high career. Up until that point, I had gone by my middle name "Nichol" and felt the need to graduate from the "little girl" name and move on to my more mature, more sophisticated first name of "Jade". Roll call was happening, right as I was having an internal battle whether to correct the teacher when she called Jade or to just "go with it" and be a new me.

As the teacher called my name, I almost wimped out and said "I go by Nichol" but instead simply replied "here" with a raised hand.

Not much later she calls the name of the boy sitting to my right to which the kid responds with "I go by Sam".

I thought "Man! I should go by Nichol!.....".

Years later I would tell Sam this train of thought that I had which caused him to laugh at my lack of decision. He then on referred to me as Jade Nichol whenever he would see me just to tease me. It wasn't anything special, but it always made me smile.

He could do that. Make anyone laugh. He could wrangle a grin out of the grumpiest soul. I wanted to be like him. I'm not really that funny of a person, but being around him made me want to make people smile. He made me want to be good and kind...and I was desperate to be funny like him.

It's embarrassing, really, my humor scale tends to run along that of Marlin from Finding Nemo, the clownfish who couldn't finish a joke.

Our friendship was a simple one. He lived across a few fields and a park from me. I used to walk my dogs in the evening and we discovered that we didn't live "that" far from eachother. I would stand on one side of the ditch and he would meet me on the other and we would walk down to the closest point where we could have a conversation without having to yell. Sometimes he would jump across and sit by me, but mostly we would stand there in the twinkling light just as the sun would begin to set. We would talk about our dogs. About other kids in school. I would tell him stories and he would listen to me like I was the only person in the world. I always felt important and I learned a lot about the importance of undivided attention from him.

I told Nate that some of my favorite memories of Sam are moments when we didn't say a word. We would pass by eachother in the hall and make faces at one another. He would open his mouth wide and grin and his eyes would twinkle. I would shake my head and walk away smiling.

Years later, when we reached adulthood, we had long since journeyed our separate ways and the nights spent singing and laughing and eating rice krispy treats at my house seemed far away. The laughing, fearless days of our youth sometimes felt like a long lost dream. But any time I would pass this twinkly-eyed boy by in the grocery store, he wouldn't say anything. He would usually notice me first and stare at me until I noticed him. I would smile with delight and he would grin back with his mouth open wide and give me the silly face that would transport me back to high school. The familiar, satisfying emotion of safety and joy would resonate against my heart and we would wave and keep walking. Sometimes we spoke, but usually we just smiled and waved.

Now I wish for more words. But he didn't need words to show love.

I sat at his funeral and watched his family grieve, feeling so helpless and sad. I watched his wife and sisters hug person after person. I sat by some precious school chums and cried, thankful for the familiar faces all around me.

Friendships that span decades are precious.
I feel immeasurable sadness for the loss of Sam here on earth.

The best thing about his great love for people is the source for it all. Sam loved big because he had faith in Jesus. And like Amy said when she shared the news of his loss, "that he was saved in the best and only way possible" is the greatest comfort for those of us who know Jesus. We grieve and weep and yell at the sky, but we hold hope close to our hearts and give and love big and deep. Because that's how Sam lived. He loved big. He loved deeply. He was always giving.

I want to be like the kid who lit the room up with his mischievous grin. I want to love big and deep. And I want to give.

We love you, Sam.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thankful musings

“The world is dark, and light is precious..." -Kate DiCamillo

Thanksgiving arrived quickly this year. The world is churning along at a steady pace, as it always seems to do, yet the world seems darker. The news is spilled with sadness and tragedy and hate while people angrily set their own towns aflame...

I am not okay with this. It knots up my stomach and fear whispers heartbreak into my listening ear. Fear of the future. Fear for my children. Fear for my children's children. Something isn't right here. It's dark and sad and grief-stricken.

But then, in spite of all that's dark and dangerous, I look around and see the beauty and light.

I see my children running through the grove of mesquite trees at Zephyr, with burning sunlight streaming through the branches. I hear their laughter. I witness their wonder. I peek at my husband while he works and see his brow furrow in concentration. I lock eyes with him and blush at the twinkle behind his smile. His eyes are the kindest (and often most tired) I have ever known. And I continue to discover grace abounding within their depths.

I see my parents working hard for our family. My dad always giving. My mom always listening and encouraging. My brother doing what he can in his own bit of the world. Hardworking, giving souls. It isn't easy being in separate cities. It's good to be together when we can. The laughter and the teasing and the merriment is beautiful. Family is beautiful. With all it's imperfections.

I witness my community fighting to spread the light. They walk daily amidst trial and hardships, yet they push forward, brandishing swords of truth and goodness and beauty. From the Carolinas to Nashville and across the mighty mountains to the western ocean, there are light-bearers that I love and learn from. They are bits of my tribe. My dear kinsmen. It is a great honor to know them and call them friend.

My grief is not hidden to God. He knows how I lay awake at night weeping for the ones I love. The pain I feel when we experience the mysterious ache that is loss and grief. The physical nausea that comes when a new headline is splashed across my vision bearing tidings of despair and sorrow.

And yet I feel such an overwhelming thankfulness. This hope fills my being with the courage that comes only by the delicate placing of my fears into the hand of an everlasting God of comfort.

Thankfulness overflows when I glance up in prayer and my breath is caught in my throat at the sight of the stars flung across the inky sky. Or the sun bursting forth in joyful newness each morning. The stack of old books that litter the crooks and crannies of a home filled with a love of learning.

Hands clasped across the cab of a little white truck.
Dolphins leaping for joy with diamonds glinting off their backs.
Trees bent from the winds, story-lined and old and wise.
Babies and the new sounds they make; the coos, the cries, the sighs.
Waves crashing.
Clouds meandering.
Horses running.
Sunflower fields waving.
Mountains grinning, strong and true and glorious.
Butterflies landing
Hummingbirds flirting.
Sleeping babies
Used bookstores filled with old, forgotten tales.
Campfires roaring.
Friends laughing.
Friends weeping.
Walking barefoot across soft, lush grass.
Rose petals blushing.
Thunder crashing.
Lightning blazing.

The darkness is terrible. But the light is so good. And where there is light, how can we abide the darkness? We cannot. It is pushed away. It doesn't slink away in shame, it flees in fear. In fear of the light and those who bear it.

So this Thanksgiving (and every day) I tip my head to the heavens above and praise God for new mercies everyday.

"All praises to the One who made it all and finds it beautiful." -Gungor

(Watch the Andrew Peterson video in the above post--he conveys my own heart on Thanksgiving so much more eloquently than I ever could.)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Tale of Three Hutchmoots

A week ago I sat in a sanctuary in Nashville, biting my nails and being a fidgety nuisance to my neighbors in the pew. I was waiting for the moment when I would have to stand and say goodbye to some of my favorite humans. I can, at times, be the "glass-is-half-empty" girl, and I was that girl in this moment as I sat alone, waiting for the loneliness that comes after a voyage into the sun.

The loneliness never came. Reentry for so many of us is an arduous task. We all talk about it. The annoying duty in leaving something so precious and wonderful and we must talk ourselves into adjusting to the world we live in. Some of us are teachers, doctors, authors, craftsmen, salesmen, pilots, and more. All of us are so different with stories to celebrate outside of Nashville (some within), but we all have to say goodbye at the end of the week. And it isn't without difficulty.

The difficulty in leaving was softened for me this year. I think it has to do with the fact that the weeks leading up to Hutchmoot were turbulent. I was terrified of going and leaving my family on top of the long list of things that had gone wrong. I was stressed and tired and feeling ill from it all and found Hutchmoot to be a breath of fresh air (I knew deep down it would be). I felt like I was drowning and then suddenly I was buoyed up by my allies. I also found the reentry simpler in that I cleared my schedule upon my return and spent quality time in the refuge of my home with my man cubs and my darling husband. It's unheard of for my family to not be busy, but I am grateful for the quiet days we had. I've been able to think deeply about my trip and to miss my Rabbit Room family terribly, but to also give thanks for where I am at. I think I have finally figured out how to bring Hutchmoot home. But that is another story and shall be told another time.

This was my third Hutchmoot. My first was in 2012 and I knew not a single soul. I walked in alone and unsure of why I was even there (I was also 5 months pregnant). How did I even find out about such a thing as a "hutchmoot" all the way from South Texas where art and beauty are not often found in the easiest of places. Gulf Coast beaches and excessive queso, sure, but certainly no forests or mountains. I was surprised by what I discovered that first year. I kept it close to my heart and when I arrived home from my first moot, I spilled out garbled excitement to anyone who would listen. I was mostly met with pleasant, polite smiles of understanding from my loved ones, though none truly grasped the heart of the experience from my poor recap. 

My second Hutchmoot was filled with the sweet fragrance of blooming friendships. Conversations were richer. The sessions were more meaningful. The lessons I carried home were even louder and resonant than the previous year. I was a mousy brown feather dipped in gold and the generous glow reached out further and brighter than ever before. I was wealthy now. The embarrassment of riches that Hutchmoot bestowed on this little ragamuffin was a true gift and I couldn't believe my good fortune in the friendships and community I had found. I doubted that I would return the next year, because I had felt that I was given so much already, I couldn't possibly obtain another precious ticket and partake in the feast yet again. 

I was wrong. The day the tickets went on sale found me burning a hole in the floor in front of my desk. My pacing was frantic. My heart was racing. I kept telling myself it would be fine if I didn't get a ticket. I was lying to myself, of course, and rejoiced at having succeeded in obtaining another ticket.

My third Hutchmoot proved that each year stands alone. Here I am, a week later, still struggling to put to paper what this year taught me. What was so different about this year than previous years?

The people. Of course. This year I didn't rent a car. I didn't stay in a hotel. I stayed with Helena and Jon. And Ming. And the Brunones. And then we had some other rascals come through their red door into the true comfort of their cozy haven. Ming and I discussed our favorite moments from the weekend and they all fit into a category of their own. Conversations that took place outside of sessions, outside of events, outside of the concerts and magic that fills up the time of Hutchmoot. 

The camaraderie and laughter and tears that we shared when we opened up our hearts and our souls to one another in true friendship were what made the weekend special. Hutchmoot is the people. Yes, it's true that the sessions twist me and wring me and tie me in a little Jade knot, they undo me in the best way possible. The music that dances through my ears and into my heart are incomparable. The food that Lewis and his team conjure up for us isn't even something I try to describe to people. It would be disrespectful to him for me to even try, so weak are my words and so great is his Totatoe Soup. (Yes. Totatoe Soup. Read these books, people.)

The merriment that I so gratefully experienced brings pricks of tears to my eyes. The conversations that affirmed and affected me deeply will always be held closely to my wandering heart. 

Hutchmoot makes me brave.

It makes me glad to be me.

And it makes me love even deeper the place that I am at and the people that I live everyday life with.

(Ming, I'm bringing up that same page from that book again, feel free to skim this part.)

My friend Ming shared a page from a book the week leading up to Hutchmoot and it struck me fiercely. I feel silly for how often I brought this up to her, but I wasn't lying the day she shared it when I said I needed it in that moment. I need it still today as I sit here flipping through pictures and papers and notes from my trip:

“Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”

This was a major theme for my Hutchmoot 2014 experience. 

I have been so earnestly seeking adventure and excitement and extraordinary days, I have been missing the smallest joys and sweetest pleasures. I've been berating myself for not having written any books or painted any grand paintings. I was fighting with myself and missing the opportunity to teach my children. Though in retrospect, I suppose seeing me floundering is good for them and the reality of it is that children learn how to handle grief and pain and insecurities by watching their parents handle it. 

The above quote is a parenting tip, but I take it to heart. 

I cannot ask my children or myself to strive for extraordinary lives. 

I need only to find the beams of light that shines through the old toolshed roof. I need to stare hard at the dust motes and specks that float on the beams of the sun. And I need only to look up and find the source from which the light comes. 

So thank you to all of you who made my week what it was. It was a sweet affirmation in the goodness of life and the unmatched pleasure of good conversation. 

Walking Radnor.
A couple of my favorite people
The Proprietor, Jill, Andy, and Ben. My favorite Hutchmoment was when AP and Ben ran up and accompanied Jill and Andy in a fond display of friendship. I needed to see it.
Arthur, Jon, and Helena @ Whole Foods
Africa: the person, me, and Ming
Arthur and Helena making some music in Jon and Helena's living room.
My worthy friends and allies, Jon and Helena.
The view from Helena and Jon's living room

Arting it up with my kindred spirit, Kristen.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

A tree story. Part One.

When I was a wee Jade, my dad nailed three small, wooden boards to our big tree in the front yard. He did this so that his short legged daughter could scramble up the side of the tree up, up, up to the waiting branches. Whenever I would reach that safe spot where I could sit with my legs dangling, I would look all about me as far as my sight would reach and imagine in earnest a new adventure for myself. Hidden notes and small figurines lived in the knots and divets of the branches. It was my magic place, and I was it's queen.

It's been twenty years since I climbed it, for we moved not long after I reached the age in which little girls quit climbing trees. As a teenager, I would simply spread a blanket underneath a tree and rest against it's warmth. As a grown woman (yes, I still find myself shocked that I have reached adulthood), when I pass a tree, every fiber within me screams "Climb it! You must climb it!" Gratefully I live in a place where good, sturdy climbing trees are in abundance and my little boys beckon me with their small hands and big smiles into the eaves of their own imaginary kingdoms. And I am still the queen.

Last year, a friend of mine sent me a picture of a tree. He texted the image to me, teasing me about the picture I had just bragged about of our own "Big Tree" here in the coastal bend. Our "Big Tree" is on Goose Island near Rockport and has been there for about a thousand years. During the Civil War, the town of Lamar (Goose Island) was bombarded and destroyed by the union navy. All that remained were the ruins of a few old shellcrete homes, a Catholic chapel, and the Big Tree. The Big Tree possesses a circumference of over 35 feet, is more than 45 feet tall and has a crown spread of 90 feet. And I love it. I picture it standing alone amidst the ruin of the war, sad, worn, but still alive. Devastation all around it, and yet it lives. I imagine the tree standing firm against hurricanes and droughts and the world growing around it. And yet it continues to breathe, tall and beautiful. (This is where I discovered my business name "Journey Tree Studio" and where the name of this blog comes from. Trees tell good stories.)

A picture I snapped one sunny day at Goose Island. The Big Tree

So my friend saw my picture of my tree and laughed, then sent me a picture of the tree he knew would make me swoon. The Angel Oak on John's Island in South Carolina. 

The Angel Oak Tree is variously estimated to be at least 400 and as much as 1400-1500 years old, stands 66.5 ft tall, measures 28 ft in circumference, and produces shade that covers 17,200 square feet. From tip to tip, it's longest branch distance is 187 ft.

The picture my friend texted me of the Angel Oak
When I saw the text, I nearly fell out of my chair. Something inside me woke up and I knew that I needed to see it. I didn't know how, but I simply had to see this tree. (insert dramatic music here). The simple fact that you can walk around this tree, touch it, sit beneath it was absolutely surprising to me. The Big Tree on Goose Island is behind a protective fence, and I would never break the rules and jump it. Ha! And the fence is so ugly too. I wish it were a quaint picket fence with ivy growing on it, or something of the sort. But no, it's an ugly chain link fence. (picture eye roll here). The fun coincidence is that months before my friend texted me, I had found a picture of The Angel Oak online when I was reading up on The Live Oak Society. I had counted it as my favorite in the trees that I had read about, but it didn't compute that it was still a living tree that was up for visitors. I showed the text to Nate and gasped something unintelligible and squeaked that I needed to go there. He snorted and smiled his usual patient smile that he reserves for me and said "Sure, Jade. We will go see that tree." And of course it's 1500 miles from my house. Of course it is.

Fast forward to about a month ago when Nate and I were realizing that the busy season of Summer would be upon us and we needed to have a no-child adventure before our lives became overrun with Zephyr craziness. We talked about things we could do and I batted my eyelashes at him and asked with all the sweetness that I could muster, "How about a trip to see the Angel Oak?" After a bit of bantering and teasing, my sweet demeanor turned to wheedling and whining and the cute husband finally gave in. (Enter happy Jade jumping up and down.) He agreed and we settled on a date knowing we were dirt broke and had no idea where we would stay or what the drive would be like. I'm so glad I married a man who was perfectly fine with driving across the country for a tree. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

There's no crying in baseball.

"There's no crying in baseball!" --Tom Hanks, A League of Their Own

I grew up around baseball. My dad lived and breathed baseball as a kid. He played on through the years on adult leagues, finally retiring from the game to teach and nurture my own brother in his love for the game. Though my brother eventually gave up the game for football, we always seemed to be at the ball fields cheering someone on.

I never got it. In fact, I never got sports. I thought the "costumes" were too weird and the game too dull. It never got in my blood. I spent more time trying to flirt with the cute friends of my brother (and failing miserably) and eating lots of snow cones with my best friends. We ran around behind the bleachers, laughing and having fun. I have one memorable experience of sitting next to a cute boy, batting my eyelashes, trying to be cute myself when a crazy sea gull dropped an icky bomb on my thigh. I was mortified and we all laughed and screamed in terror.

Through the years, my interest in going to the games to cheer on family or friends began to significantly wane. I had ball player friends in high school, sure, but I rarely went to the games. I just didn't care for the game. The only baseball film I really enjoyed was A League of Their Own with my darling Tom Hanks. I love that man. And I thought the movie was fantastic. It was the only time it sparked a little interest in my gut for the game. I remember seeing the movie, then walking to my room thinking "I could play baseball just once. Maybe I'm really good at it and don't know how good I am..." Ha! Of course I wasn't factoring in the whole need for balance, agility, coordination, and strength. All of which I desperately lack.

Now, a girl of 29 with three little boys under my wings, baseball is coming back to me. My parents and brother have done their job of ingraining it in the minds of my man-cubs. Playing catch with Wesley. Teaching him and Spencer how to hold the bat. Buying them gear. Gloves and bats and tees and balls. I was anxious about it at first. Frustrated even, that people were insisting my little guys should even play. We had to jump through so many hoops to even get Wesley on a team since we aren't a part of the local school district nor do we live in the neighborhood. I also wondered if any of the boys even liked the game, or if they were just doing what they were told.

Of course they like the game. Of course they LOVE the game. Of course Nathan became choked up and sparkly eyed the first time he and Wesley played catch one warm, winter evening. Of course this is a natural part of growing. Learning how to be a team player. An encourager. Running with the wind in your hair and the smell of grass crushed under your cleats. Of course the part where you make friends would be one of the best memories for Wesley. He is so socially inspired.

"There's no crying in baseball." Right. This mama is a weepy mess. Seeing my boy grab his bat and glove and run out to the car makes me melt into a puddle of tears. I'm so pleased for him. Finding something that makes you come alive is a treasured thing. I see how baseball was that for my dad. Still is. He loves ball games. And knowing his grandson is playing makes him so proud. For Nathan, it's always been people. He loves to serve and help any way he can. It sets him on fire to be able to serve someone and provide for those in need. For me, it's always been creating things. Painting and drawing and writing. It fills me up to the top of my head with warmth and light and joy and I hunger for more. I don't know if baseball will be that for my boys. I don't know if it will be the arts or academics or maybe parenting someday. The opportunity for the abundant life is endless. And that includes baseball.

For the moment, I will simply defy the shouts of Tom Hanks and cry in baseball. Good tears, of course.

Monday, April 21, 2014

a painted tree

I've been on an adventure, you see...

But I will leave you with one picture for the moment. Of me and a painted tree.

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The wildflower season

“If people did not love one another, I really don't see what use there would be in having any spring.” 
― Victor HugoLes Misérables

This past weekend was a busy weekend for my camera. I was able to rub so many pregnant bellies and capture some special moments amongst friends. I was able to prance through some wildflowers and make some children laugh. I was able to pull over on the side of a lonely Texas country road and stare at the setting sky for a minute. The sun waved me farewell and I jumped back in my car and flew home to my babies. It had been a long day away from my family and their smiles were what I was missing most.

Spring is really and truly my most favorite season of all the seasons. Abby has me convinced. I used to think that winter was my favorite because of the twinkle lights and the cuddles and the sparkles and Christmas. All the festivities and cheerful smiles always fill me up with joy. Celebrating the birth of my Jesus makes it all the more special and wonderful.

Then I thought my favorite season was fall for all of it's leaves and pumpkins and delicious food. Nothing beats the feeling of the first cool front that blows through the hot, thick air of South Tejas. If you can be outside when the first cool front cuts through our land of heat and sunshine, you are a fortunate soul indeed. It's an exhilarating feeling that wakes up the heat-sleepy senses and the spike in cheer is an almost tangible thing. 

Summer is a fond time for my family, though bittersweet. Living on a summer camp, Nate's days become so very long and busy, but we are able to experience summer so differently than most. We get to have never-ending pool days and amazing views of fireworks for 8 weeks out of the summer (we just sit on our porch and marvel at the beauty). We get to walk down to the camp cafeteria and dine with friends and family. We get to experience a lot of blessings in summer that normal families don't. The heat is exhausting and the mosquitos and bugs are annoying, but summer is beautiful and sweltering and satisfying. It's wonderful.

But after all those marvelous seasons, I know that Spring is my most favorite. It's a time of renewal. Of rebirth. Of celebration. The skies change. The flowers begin to grow. The trees bloom. The cows and horses have their babies and wee little bunnies peek out from the woods. 

But the wildflowers. Ohhhh the wildflowers. The sunsets. The sky. The joy of standing in the middle of a field of flowers and staring up at the wild horizon is miraculous and freeing. The happiness that comes from the fellas in my life picking flowers for me. Yes. Spring is my favorite. The wildflower season.

Friday, April 11, 2014

A letter to Cristina

Girl on fire,
I miss you.
The easter festival is coming up for our beloved church and I feel a sadness mingled with the intense joy that comes with celebrating the resurrection of our Jesus.

I met you at an Easter Festival of old. I ducked into the ladies room to hide for a minute from the crowd. I was tired and cranky and it was a hot day. You had one leg propped up on the sink and you were fixing a tie on your weird MC Hammer pants. They were so weird. I decided to ask you about them instead of just stare at you. I'd seen you around, heard of  you, but never met you officially. You grinned the most brilliant smile at me and I was instantly a fan of you. You laughed that intoxicating laugh and told me about Zumba. I still secretly to this day think those pants are so goofy, but I love them so much because of you.

I didn't know that day in the bathroom that you would become a friend to me. A friend to cherish. A friend to share life with. To have community with. I didn't know that one day I would put a protective mask on and sit in MD Anderson with you, laughing about books and movies and nerdy things, but never fearing the end of our journeys. Because our hearts were set on Jesus. You never seemed afraid. Just so concerned with everyone around you. People became braver through their friendships with you.

I sat at the celebration of your life and marveled and wept and laughed and wept more.  I leaned against our friends and saw eyes sparkling with peace and pain. Seeing you sing. Seeing you dance. All those videos and amazing pictures and people. I saw your husband stand and hug one person after another, thanking them over and over, and smiling through his tears. I see him serve the community now with his strong love for Jesus and his strong love for people. I see the people closest to you working daily to fight the good fight. Loving people. Loving Jesus. Loving People. Loving Jesus. That's what you did, my friend. You loved people. You loved Jesus.

I never knew that the picture of you sitting on that curb would be passed around like it has. I had no idea that it would cause such tears while simultaneously spilling wonder across my heart at the fact that I got to be your friend. What a blessing our God bestowed upon me and so many. You were so good at making the person you were having a conversation with feel like they were the most important person in the room. I want to be like you. I want to be generous like you.

I took a hundred pictures that day that I met you. Snow cones dripping from sticky fingers. Hay rides, painted faces, and laughing children. But I didn't get a single picture of you. I wish I had. I wish I had a picture of you in those goofy pants, smiling that brilliant smile. I did get one random picture of your adorable husband. His kindness is always so evident. His wisdom far exceeds so many. I know you would have liked this one of him. He's a doll, right?

I miss you. I am thinking of you often. Especially as we celebrate Easter. As we celebrate the resurrection. As we teach our children about Jesus and his sacrifice for us. How even in death, we are made new. And we continue to hope and celebrate life and life abundantly.

I love you, my singing, little mermaid friend. The girl on fire. You don't even know the effect you had on people. The song Benaia wrote for you was pure perfection. You're singing. You're dancing. You're living.

It is we who are in the shadowlands. We are not home yet.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Back to writing.

“Why must people kneel down to pray? If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I'd do. I'd go out into a great big field all alone or in the deep, deep woods and I'd look up into the sky—up—up—up—into that lovely blue sky that looks as if  there was no end to its blueness. And then I'd just feel a prayer.” 
― L.M. MontgomeryAnne of Green Gables

I've been thinking about coming back to writing. 
I consider myself a painter. 
A photographer. 
A mother and wife and daughter and friend, but certainly not a writer. 

I fumble over words constantly and forget what I was originally focusing on. See, right there. I sat for about 45 seconds too long, trying to remember what it was that I was going to say. 

No, I'm certainly not a writer. I do enjoy recording my thoughts and daydreams and brain doodles for me to look over in later years. I enjoy journaling. I enjoy sharing my heart. I don't know why that's so. Mostly, I want to write to remember. 

I want to look back on these hay days when I have three scrambly kids smooshing my cute husband and me out and away from each other in our big king-sized bed. I want to remember the milk spills and the laughter and, yes, even the tears. 

I want to remember Wesley's first baseball game and Spencer's first time to climb his favorite tree all by himself. I want to remember Eli's first day of school and all the kisses and grins and rays of sunlight in between. 

I want to remember Nate's special smile for only me. It's a great one. One that takes me to our happy place. I do love that scruffy man. 

And I want to remember Stormy girl, our faithful dog, who is getting on in years, but still runs for that frisbee and is hopeful for little hands to drop scraps of food from the dinner table.

Life moves fast. It is here and then it is gone. I know this for certain. The previous months have been difficult for my aching spirit. We've lost people we care about to beyond the veil. They are home while we remain here in the shadowlands. But through it all I see the sun rising gloriously with new hope for the day and true joy shining through the clouds. And I see how rich we are.

So I think I will get back to writing. Because I want to remember. And I want to give thanks.

Friday, March 14, 2014

How the third son gained his name.

Over one year ago, Nate and I packed our car for the hospital, drove down the road from our new house at Camp Zephyr, to the camp office where our new Zephyr family prayed over us. It's one of my absolute favorite memories of the day Eli Griffin came into the world. It was a beautiful, comforting moment. I was scared, though not admittedly, of the planned c-section. It wasn't my first. Who knows if it's my last. But at that moment, I was anxious, and those fears were lessened greatly while our new Z family prayed over us. (They also made a bet on how big this kid was going to be when he made his entrance to the world...I forget who won..)

We had moved to Zephyr only weeks before. And those weeks had flown by. They were full of doctor visits, flu striking us all down, Photizo 2013, unpacking and everything else that comes with the demands of settling into a new home and way of life. We had left our little blue house in the city, a mere five minutes from our church and closest friends, and moved an hour into the Texas country to a camp that we loved and believed our path lay. It was a rocky few weeks with lots of weeping moments for this tired, very pregnant wife. My two oldest were gracious and generous with their undying love for their mama though. To them we had moved to a wonderland of dirt mounds to play in and trees to climb. Freedom was at their fingertips and they made the transition to Zephyr smooth as could be.

It was in this ease that I foresaw a gentle transition from two boys to three. I knew that having a third child would change everything, but I was certain that the change would be easy and welcome. I was amazed that God saw me fit to bear a third son. Three sons? Three boys that will one day grow into men who will change the world? Three sons to raise into good husbands, fathers, brothers, friends. Three sons to share the love and light of Jesus with.

I was not beyond this honor. I still am baffled about this today, as I sit in the quiet of the evening pondering my third son's recent birthday. Wesley is building and dreaming and speaking life into his Legos. Spencer is curled up watching one of our many Pixar films. And my third son sleeps, sweetly and soundly, not knowing what a source of joy and peace he is to so many around him.
So here I share why we named our third son Eli Griffin.

Nate and I could not agree on a name. I desperately wanted to name my children hippie names. Or at the very least literary names like Huxley or Kingsley. I might have thrown Bastian and Atreyu in there once or twice. But to my intense, maybe over-dramatic dismay, my husband would not cave. So we wrestled with names for months. I can't even recall the horrible suggestions we came up with. Not one seemed to fit. I ought to share with you that we are not people who "wait" for the child. We need the name before we go to the hospital. We NEED the name. No rational explanation. Just a strange need that we both agree on. We also are not one for surprises. So we don't care about hiding names or genders or whatever. Sharing is caring, right?

The morning we were scheduled to deliver, we still hadn't discovered a name. We had been toying with the name Eli Griffin for a while. We just hadn't felt like it was him. Eli is one of those names that has been in the hat through every pregnancy. Along with Jasper and Simon. Sticking true to tradition, the first name was really just a name we liked. There wasn't any special meaning to it, just as Wesley and Spencer were both names we enjoyed, but not altogether something with great meaning. We may have heard of characters from books, movies, authors, musicians, etc with these names before, but none held any special place with us. We just truly enjoyed these first name choices. We decided on his name as we were pulling into the parking lot of the hospital. We said "Eli Griffin it is" and gave each other a high five. Then Nate received a message from my friend in Oregon who confirmed that I had a ticket with my name on it to Hutchmoot 2013. I squeaked with delight on both counts. (Hutchmoot is another story for another day)

Yes, the first names are loved, but it is in the middle names for which the meaning is great for our children. The story is special. The history is appreciated. Wesley's middle name is for my father's middle name. He has always had such a special relationship with his Poppy. It makes sense that a part of my dad should be in the naming of his first grandson. Nathan won my heart, so I took his name with much joy, but I wanted a piece of my father's name in my eldest boy. Spencer's middle name is for C.S. Lewis, a sort of grandfatherly figure to both Nate and I. We love the heart of Lewis and his wisdom has been a big part of our journey to serve and love Jesus better. I cannot speak of Narnia without getting chills. Thanks for that, Jack.

So now I am left with Eli and where the name Griffin was born. Several friends who know my love of the Harry Potter story accused me of naming him for Gryffindor House (my own house had I been born into the magical world of Harry). As cute as that thought might be, it is not the case. I would have named him Eli Gryffin with a 'y'. #teamgryffindor (just had to throw that in there...Nate is a hufflepuff.) No. Griffin comes from a book. Of course it does. It comes from my most re-read book in my library. I can nearly quote it by heart. Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast. Really. A fairy tale. A favorite fairy tale of mine, in fact. My top three favorite fairy tales being the Story of Rapunzel, the Twelve Dancing Princesses, and, of course, Beauty and the Beast. But this fantastic retelling by Robin McKinley caught the attention of twelve year old me when I was in my most swoony, romantic tweeny stage. I used to draw roses over and over and over again as I daydreamed about the peaceful, gentle, beautiful prince that would win my chaotic and dramatic heart. It's no secret that my nature is one of adventure and drama. I am Beauty in the flesh. Awkward and swoony and yearning for adventure in the great wide somewhere. I want it more than I can tell.
Thankfully, I married a man who balances my flighty, dramatic, dreamy, adventuring spirit with peace and gentleness. And this peace is where I drew the name Griffin from.
In the story, the first frightful encounter that Beauty's father has with the Beast ends in the promise that father would return to the castle with one of his daughters in a month's time. Upon his return to the family, they discover the Beast has sent saddlebags full of gifts for everyone. Candlesticks, money, jewels, and clothes. One gift that Beauty receives is a golden ring in the shape of a griffin. Throughout the story she wears it, carries it in her pocket, sleeps near it at night. It comforts her as she prepares for this new adventure, one that she is ready for. The symbol of the griffin is shared again and again throughout the story and it is always used as a symbol of comfort and peace.
"I hadn't worn the griffin ring since the first night, but I had begun carrying it in a pocket. I found that I didn't like leaving it in my room, that I kept thinking about it; I was comforted in some obscure fashion when I carried it with me: It was a token of my future; I read it as a good omen." -Beauty, part 2, chapter 2
It is in this that the name Griffin holds special meaning for me, a source of peace and comfort. I was scared to be pregnant again. To be expecting a third boy. But I was excited and comforted at the honor to do so. To be able to be pregnant at all is something I don't ever want to take for granted. Having Eli is a gift that I am in awe of. Seeing Spencer celebrate his role as a big brother is wonderful to experience. Wesley is such a natural daddy, I'm grateful to witness him blossom as the eldest boy. In a world of uncertainty and chaos, I get to experience true life and light with my family. Through heartache and sorrow, loss and shame, we get to experience peace and comfort. Our family isn't immune from pain. It isn't immune from sadness and grief. But we have reminders everyday to have peace.    

 I marvel in their unique gifts. Their individual personalities. I'm encouraged by their spunk. By their sweetness. By their mischief. And yes, their sensitivity. It means they are very much alive. (Thank you for that wisdom, Adam Eddington)

So that was the story of how my darling Eli Griffin was named.

Monday, July 01, 2013

See you soon

It's been nearly six months since my family packed up our little blue house and moved to Camp Zephyr. In this six months I have neglected this blog, but I've kept a handy list on my iphone of important things I want to and NEED to write about.

So it is time, i think, to anticipate a blog makeover.
I have a lot on my mind and I need an outlet to share.

See you soon.
xo, jade

Friday, February 01, 2013


Tomorrow will mark FOUR weeks that we have lived here at Zephyr and what a whirlwind month it has been. I'd like to say it's been easy cheese and rainbows and sunshine the whole way, but growing is never easy (especially when the FLU virus takes your family out for several of those weeks). We are doing much better and enjoying the sunshine today (Thank you Lord!!) and I promise to write a good, long post coming up. Plus I am mailing out some change of address cards this week, so keep an eye out for those!