Sunday, August 31, 2008

Pics from our Eventful Week

1st Day of School - Tues., Aug. 26th
(Bekah had to bring a lunch box for herself too when we dropped her sisters off)
She didn't handle the drop-off very well either

Faith walking ahead of us with gusto

She was so excited about going to Kindergarten

(by the end of the week, she said school was boring....go figure)

our new Boxer puppy, Mocha
(we got her on Thursday night, Aug. 28th)

Faith capped off the week and went to the UT game with her grandparents on Saturday

This is Faith with her Big Dad

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Real Me

Ha...I made you look. JK. I'm sure some of you can identify "the real me" way better than I can.

No...really, I'm going somewhere with this though...I think. So last Thursday night, I went to see Natalie Grant in concert and though there are several songs of hers that she sang that night that I really enjoy regularly, there is one that she sang that I really hadn't listened to a lot before Thursday night. But I immediately added it to my ipod playlist afterwards because of how deeply it spoke to me then. And it just happens to be the song "The Real Me", thus the title to this post. I actually was so hoping I could put in on the top of my playlist on this blog too so it would be playing as you read this, but no such luck as it wasn't an option to add...bummer! It's really been in my head often though since Thursday night and the words have really touched me quite a bit. You can find it on UTube easily to listen to by the way.
The theme of the night during her concert that I grasped was about finding our true identity through the our personal Creator, which is of course, God (and Jesus, as Faith would say. She always says the two together).
So Natalie spoke a little about the temptation that we all have to let our standards for ourselves and our identity be dictated by what the world says we should be...yada, yada, yada. And how it is always a struggle to listen to the One voice who is calling us to listen to Him over everything else, who knows us inside and out. For He is the One who created our inner-most being and He knows us more than we or anyone else can ever know about us. And that brings real hope to me, friends.

The words to this song say it so clearly:

The Real Me
Foolish heart looks like we're here again
Same old game of plastic smile
Don't let anybody in
Hiding my heartache,
will this glass house break
How much will they take before I'm empty
Do I let it show, does anybody know?

[Chorus:]But you see the real me
Hiding in my skin, broken from within
Unveil me completely
I'm loosening my grasp
There's no need to mask my frailty
Oh,Cause you see the real me
Painted on, life is behind a mask
Self-inflicted circus clown
I'm tired of the song and dance
Living a charade, always on parade
What a mess I've made of my existence

But you love me even now
And still I see somehow
But you see the real me
Hiding in my skin, broken from within
Unveil me completely
I'm loosening my grasp
There's no need to mask my frailty
Oh,Cause you see the real me
Wonderful, beautiful is what you see

When you look at me
You're turning the tattered fabric of my life into
A perfect tapestry
I just wanna be me

But you see the real me
Hiding in my skin, broken from within
Unveil me completely
I'm loosening my grasp
There's no need to mask my frailty
Oh,Cause you see the real me
And you love me just as I am
Wonderful, beautiful is what you see
When you look at me

I have been through a phase over the past few years where I really felt like I lost who I was in so many ways. You may not have noticed so much or may have noticed more than I realized. I was so immersed in trying to be a good mom, good wife, keep the friends I had, among other things, yet inside I felt like a failure in so many ways and someone that couldn't find a purpose anymore besides keeping my kids fed, clothed and bathed on a daily basis, and trying to keep my husband happy enough to still love me despite my shortcomings. I know, it's sad. I've still been having ups and downs with it even now and I know some of you have dealt with that same so that's why I'm addressing this. I've considered myself a pretty open book with my friends, so don't think I have some deep, dark secret that I'm about to reveal, I guess it's just that, like all of us, I am still a work in progress on so many levels, and sometimes it just feels as if this life here on earth leaves me walking in circles and not on a straight path to somewhere.
Well, I've had to come to realize that the only way that my true identity and purpose will be revealed to me is when I am listening whole-heartedly to my Creator and allowing Him to mold me and make me into His image the way He intended to. If someone were to ask me to explain my personality, what others see in me, how I'm perceived, etc., right now, I really can't give a clear answer because I've allowed way too many thoughts come into my head that I'm sure are not from my Creator. But that's my own fault for not being with Him enough on a daily basis. And I'm ashamed to say that I have believed too many of the negative thoughts. I'm working on weeding them out but also having to embrace the areas that He really wants me to work on, whether I want to or not. It's not easy, is it?
But for today, one thing that I can say that I am sure of is that I am a daughter of the King, a new creation, and that Jesus is trying to break through the walls of unbelief so He can pour into me all that He knows that I am. And what pours in must come out. Therefore, if I want the things to come out of me that are of Him, I absolutely have to empty out the junk, and let Him fill me with His truth and His life so that my life will reflect "the real Christ" who lives inside of "the real me".

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Week Full of Surprises

Well, our family vacation brought on many twists and turns that is worth telling about. So I'll try to line it out the best I can from beginning to end.

Our timeline goes a bit like this:

Monday: proposed time of departure (by car) with the family for the beach is 9:00am. We're all excited, up at 7am getting everything together.Then the phone rings at 8:00am and it 's my mother sounding not so happy saying we are on hold for departure because of a tropical storm that is possibly heading right to the location that we are going...sigh. So we wait til 11:00am for the updated report. I get a call from mom at 11:00 and she said we are gonna give it a go and see what happens when we get there. Yipee!! Everyone is gearing up, getting the car loaded with all the stuff, only to get another phone call a few minutes later and we screech to a hault again. A deputy from the beach area returned a call from my mother and highly discouraged that we come. So, we sit and wait for a possible alternative plan to spring up. In the meantime we decided to take the kids down to Barton Springs for the day to help kill time until we knew more that evening what we were to do. So then dad was surfing around the web Monday night trying to find other places to go because they were pretty much resolving to the fact that the beach is out. So he finds this farm house online out in Bastrop, in the country, 6 bedrooms, a covered pool, hot tub, game room, plenty of space for all to sleep and things to do in case it rained half the week (which it never did). And it was available last minute! Oh, and the road trip would be cut by about 3-4 hours. Definitely a bonus! It's not the beach but somewhere we can still have some good family time together. So after corresponding with each other that night, we decided to say goodbye to the hopes of going to the beach and take a wack at this other place and made plans accordingly for the next day.

Tuesday: departure time is 10:30am. After discovering that the storm never hit our original vacation spot and accepting that we could have still gone to the beach after all but are still not going, we all leave on time to head to Bastrop and arrive there at noon.

I'll now share quote of the day is from Faith. As we were driving toward the farm house, there were lots of cows of course, and Faith said "Oh! I thought those were just decorater cows, but I saw an ear move". We still laugh about that one. That's my intuitive girl!

So when we arrived at the house, the owner was still there cleaning (which we knew she would be) as we had given them very short notice obviously, so that was fine. Well, this next part will be the surprise of the day I think. We 1st learn when we arrive quickly that this is definitely a farm with all the old shack-looking buildings around the house (obviously not shown on the web). We then find the "game room" is a dirty glorified garage. It's no wonder they didn't show this room on the web either. Then we walk into the kitchen only to find some leftover food laying around, the fridge and freezer had food in it still(eyes are getting bigger by the minute), then we find that there's many filled closets, a very used laundry room with dirty linens still laying around, floors that really are not very clean, you get the picture. Just not exactly what the web made it look like to say the least. The rooms were quite nice though and had made beds and all. So that was very appreciated. Oh and for the record, the owner did empty out her fridge for us before she left. It just needed cleaning afterwards. So after a final analysis, we finally realize that the people who own this house actually live here!! It turns out it's a farm house that a couple lives in, but goes and stays in an RV in their shed next door while some strangers come and take over their home....can I say strange!? It took me and the others some time to get used to the idea. But there we were, so we adjusted over time. We just kind of all rolled with it, got settled, found a groove for the week, and became used to living in someone else's home while they lived in their RV...still wierd. I felt pretty bad that first day for my mom and dad, since they were the ones who paid for all of this. They seemed a bit perplexed as well. But we spruced up some things throughout the week before it was all said and done and made the best of it. The guys then took the kids swimming that afternoon while us ladies went and did all the grocery shopping for our meals for the week. The pool was definitely a hit...and the food got eaten quite well. :)

Wednesday: We went to check out Lake Bastrop this day. It was actually quite beautiful to look at. It just felt like we were swimming in bath water. The kids didn't seem to mind, but I couldn't stay in that very long. The water was feeling warmer than the outside air. We also had a picnic lunch out there. We did let the kids attempt to fish too and they loved that. Serah caught a dirty sock, but that's the best anyone could seem to do. We then went back to the house later and jumped in the nice cold pool. It felt so much nicer than the lake, needless to say.

So later that day, we had dinner and were just visiting around the table, when suddenly the ceiling fan above us lost a blade as it was on and it fell on Tim. It was like a "Money Pit" movie moment. We were waiting for the ceiling to just cave A bathroom cabinet door fell off the day before as well. And we couldn't get the top range to work where the double ovens were. But then later in the week it started working. Hmmm....what else will we discover in this house? Time would tell.
To cap off the day, we got the kids settled in bed and the enjoyed some fun game-playing amongst the adults. That will go down as my favorite times of the trip. We did it every night after the kids went down. Lots of great laughter and just plain fun

Thursday: We were awaiting the arrival of Liz that day. This was definitely a big blessing from changing our plans. She wouldn't have been able to come had we been 5 hours away. So we went on our normal routine that morning. The guys offer to take the kids swimming at the pool while us ladies caught up on "So You Think You Can Dance" (you know...priorities). We had tivoed it the night before on the big TV there. So as we were enjoying the show, suddenly I hear a door open and a crying child. It turns out it was Tim and Hannah. And he was holding her arm up as her hand was falling limp. She had fallen off the diving board at the pool and landed on her hand on the concrete. On the bright side, at least it wasn't her head. And we pretty much knew by the looks of her hand that her wrist was broken. So off to the hospital Tim, Hannah, and I went. After we left the ER, we took Hannah for some ice cream and to buy a game or two so she wouldn't be too bored the next few days while the others were swimming. Her friend Azalea apparently was so worried the whole time we were gone as she paced around waiting for our return to the farm house. Azalea was so cute the next few days being Hannah's little hand-maiden as she helped her to do things you can't do with just one hand. Hannah was a trooper and really hasn't complained much about her wrist. She's a tough kid. We capped off the day once again with some good ol' game-playin' that night. This time we had Liz with us which made things even more fun.

Friday: no more surprises this day, thankfully! Well, except for the miserable cold my dad started coming down with. Poor guy! But the guys graciously let us ladies, along with Hannah and Azalea, go do some window shopping but without the little kiddos, at the town square in Smithville. We enjoyed lunch together too at a local soup/sandwich place that once was an old filling station years ago. We then came back and did some swimming with the family again, played some ping pong at the pool, had dinner later that evening, and watched the opening ceremonies of the Olympics as a big family. The kids even watched most of it until most of them fell asleep in our laps. It was a very special time.

Saturday: time to head home! We were all scurrying around that morning getting everything together, loaded up the cars, and said our goodbyes by about 11:00, and made our quick drive back home. That quick trip was fantastic by the way. I had the whole rest of the day to unpack and unwind. Big bonus for sure!

To mom and dad: Thank you so much for all you do to keep the tradition of our family vacations going every year. We could never do it without you. And it's not about where we go, but who we're with. This year was a bit different than others and some ways difficult at the beginning, but when it's all said and done, we still were able to accomplish what we wanted, and that's to just be together, make great memories and have more stories to tell, and I wouldn't have traded it for anything. This will go down as another very memorable, fun-filled time with my incredible family and friends. Love you all so much!

Ed, Liz Timothy, and Silas: I'm so glad that y'all were able to squeeze in one more vacation with us. We are so glad that y'all were included in this memorable week. We hope y'all are able to take some memories from it with you to Atlanta. We love you guys!

Vacation pics...

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Just Catching Up...

I know I haven't been on here much lately. I have so many other things going on and really have been having another case of blogger's block. Things have been good around here. To start off, I'm seeing much fruit already from my nutrition changes. There have been many "testing" times to help me see how I've handled certain situations now vs. how I used to handle the same type of situations before. And I have to attest, things are sooo much better. I am much more even keel. And I'm actually starting to have fun finding new recipes and things that I can eat as well. I'm even gradually involving my children in it which is a big step considering I've only been at this for about 6 weeks. It's all a process, though, and I just gotta keep at it.

I happily hosted a 80's-themed Diva Night Friday night for a bunch of ladies at church. For those who don't know what Diva Night is, it is basically a ladies' social that we formed about 3 years ago with our ABF at church, and it comes with a trace of craziness and being silly:). If it were about 3 months ago, the thought of hosting anything like that would have sent me over the edge. My anxiety was on full force then and anything added to my everyday life was just too much for me to handly. I look back to this past week though and think about how incredibly calm

I was in the preparations and how I was able to enjoy the anticipation of having a blast with my fellow sisters. And it wasn't something I consciously had to do. I'm praising God for showing me a path to healing and now I just have to keep down the narrow path.So back to Diva Night last Friday, we all dressed up in 80's clothes (well, most of us), had a best-dressed contest (by which Shelly won), had a bunch of 80's music playing all night, and we had a crazy Scavenger Hunt doing the kinds of things most high-schoolers would do. Each group videoed themselves doing their scavenger hunt stunts and then we all came back and watched all of the vidoes. Talk about peeing in your pants laughing! And my team won, by the way ;).

We also celebrated all the fun times we've had with our dear friend, Liz (pictured below), who will be moving out of state in just a month from now. She has always been our party animal at Diva Night and it was great to dedicate this past Friday night to her as we knew it would be our last with her before she moved. We had a time of prayer over her and had the ladies write notes of encouragement to her to take with her and her family on their new journey, as well as just plain having a blast laughing with her one last time.
Liz, if you are reading this, you probably have figured out by now how incredibly loved you are and that we are gonna miss you terribly. But I am excited to hear about all that the Lord is going to do in yours and your family's life as y'all walk it out on faith. I hope you can start your own Diva Night up in Atlanta with whoever ends up being your fellow sisters up there.

This is Shannon and Liz, the Diva Sisters!

So now that brings us to tomorrow as we leave for our annual family trip. We are going to Surfside beach this year with my mom and dad, Matt and Shelly and kids, and Ed Lockwood (Liz's husband) and Timmy (their son). Liz can't make it because she has to stay and help get fall registration going on campus where she works.

Anyways, I am just trying catch up a little before I am gone for 5 days. I will probably be back with pictures and an update from our trip. Pray for safety for us and that we will have a relatively stress-free week. There will be 14 people total including kids in our beach house for a week and it can get hectic sometimes.