Sunday, March 29, 2009

Spring found me looking for her

A week ago, i noticed my 7:30 bed time was just touching the end of dusk. Strange to me, to be brushing my teeth when i can still see the trees blowing in the wind through the window. So i pushed it to 8pm - just makes me feel more normal.

And somehow in my mind, i thought that these lighter evenings meant Spring was here (and it IS technically). So Landon made us a Greek salad with chick-pea patties and we decided to eat outside. I gathered my Spring placemats and cloth napkins to enjoy our Greek feast. After less than 10 minutes we moved everything into the house. I realized it was 42 degrees. Duh. Spring dinners outside will have to wait awhile.

And today we woke to the most beautiful snow. After these clouds dumped on Colorado giving you all a blizzard of "historical proportions" and 2 "snow days", it paid us a visit last night. It was amazing to wake to 6 inches of snow once again. It was a beautiful day! Landon and i took Duvick for a walk beside the river, below the trees which were dumping wet clumps of snow on us as we walked below their branches. It was a beautiful day! And in the distance rising over the tree tops were some dense, dark clouds. Though, when i simply glanced in their direction, in that moment they were a mountain range. How foolish. After these many months here, I still see mountains on the horizon. Why does my mind do that? Well, pretty soon i won't have to make-believe mountains any longer, they will be real and I will be among them again. woo hoo!

Spring is here!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

photo by Philipp Klinger

'O dreary life,' we cry, 'O dreary life!'
And still the generations of the birds
Sing through our sighing, and the flocks and herds
Serenely live while we are keeping strife
With Heaven's true purpose in us, as a knife
Against which we may struggle! Oceangirds
Unslackened the dry land, savannah-swards
Unweary sweep, hills watch unworn, and rife
Meek leaves drop yearly from the forest trees
To show, above, the unwasted stars that pass
In their old glory: O thou God of old,
Grant me some smaller grace than comes to these!
But so much patience as a blade of grass
Grows by, contented through the heat and cold.
Patience Taught by Nature; Elizabeth Barrett Browining

Monday, March 23, 2009

World Water Day

Yesterday was world water day.

I am fortunate to work with a guy who spent the majority of his childhood growing up in Peru. We talk a lot about what it is like to live in a poverty-stricken country, and what it is like to transition to America (i can only sort-of relate, obviously). We have these talks between 5-5:30am, usually, after we get done setting up the store for business before we get a steady stream of customers. My favorite part of the morning - getting to know my co-workers. Anyways... Friday, we were talking about water. He was remembering doing laundry by hand and bathing in buckets. Of course i have no memories such as these from our year in Kenya outside of filtering our water and boiling water from dishes. Yet, I do remember that rain was always on the list for prayer requests at our village church. I remember Francis used to gather water in the river and carry buckets of it back and forth every day on his bike for the orphanage (until my in-laws purchased a rain collecting system for them!).

Though we were very fortunate, because we lived in the upper elevations where there was always water in our local stream. I remember reading about tribes that wer further in "the bush" of Kenya who battled each other for puddles to water their livestock. Children were raped and murdered over water.

Water is essential. For food, for health. For life.

Landon and i really enjoy supporting this organization that works with the water crisis (as well as the AIDS crisis) in Africa. We especially enjoy it because they do a lot of work in Kenya, and they are a small enough organization that we get hand-written notes of thanks and actual pictures of the villagers around the well that we helped build. A little money goes such a long way. That organization is blood:water mission. They build wells in the name of Christ in Africa. I am so grateful that Landon and I can play a small part in what they are doing in the lives of numerous communities in Africa.

Another organization that I've heard a lot about (thanks Emily) that gives water is charity:water. Here is a quick video of theirs to inspire you!

Maybe think about celebrating World Water Day by giving to one of these organizations!

Sunday, March 22, 2009


we are not having a baby. let's just get that out of the way.

i haven't posted anything about this yet because i needed to chill for a few days and wrap my mind around this. Also, it's not OFFICIAL so Landon's been a little apprehensive about my "shouting it from the roof-tops".

The University of Utah in Salt Lake City

Last week Landon received an acceptance letter from the Philosophy department at the University of Utah! (!!!!!!!)


What that means: we are PROBABLY moving there this summer! woohoo!!!! We are so excited to return to the mountains! landon and i have really realized that there are certain things in our lives that are necessary for us to live in the fullest of happiness. one of those things that we have learned is necessary is outdoor recreation. And i'm not talking about taking walks or driving through the country. We need exciting recreation: backpacking, camping, rock climbing, canoeing, skiing, hiking, etc... and so Utah, here we come!! we are so excited.


Monumnet Valley

the reason i said that we will "PROBABLY" be going to the U is because our going there is contingent on a few things: the hope that landon receives a fellowship, and actually receiving an acceptance letter from the graduate school itself. Hopefully those 2 things are in the mail, but we can never be sure. If landon does not receive a fellowship, i will be working 2 jobs again for the next 5 years and we will be taking out student loans to pay for his PhD program. That's a little bit suffocating to think about right now, but it isn't totally a crummy option, either. But in the past, the U has given all of their PhD students fellowships (i think), so they are paid to teach undergrad courses and do not have to shell out money for their own schooling outside of their books. that would be awesome.

Bryce Canyon

home of the 2002 Winter Olympics, Utah has some of the best skiing in the world - with 500ft of dry snow each year and monsty mountains, Landon's already looking into prices of ski passes. this picture is of Snowbasin. And yes, you all are invited to stay with us any time, even if it is only to have a warm meal and soft bed at the end of a day on the slopes.

SOOOO, i can hardly contain my excitement! can you sense it!? I am so glad that the next 4-5 years will be spent at the base of some BIG mountains. We can begin our family (God willing) in a place where our kiddies can experience the big outdoors and see Christmas in snow and God in the beauty of nature. We will be relatively close to my family (8 hours), yet we will be the farthest from the McBrayers that we have ever been (well, besides when we lived in Africa).

The Wasatch Mountain Range hugs Salt Lake City

So, more to come as we pack up our lives here - moving at the end of May, buy a house in Utah, and enjoy summer in Georgia and Colorado before we get established in our new home. Lots of exciting things going on!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wedding Celebration in Georgia!

The absolute JOY of being surrounded by the honest yet unconditional love of family is a rare and beautiful gift. I was so blessed to be with the McBrayers last week.
We had so much fun gathering together for Haley and Joel's wedding! It was a beautiful occasion and they were dearly celebrated! Right now, though, we are desperately sleep deprived from late nights with each other and early mornings with babies. And THEY are in Can-cun! Hope they're having fun and enjoying each other - i don't doubt it.
Landon and i were remarking of our nieces and nephews and what fun little people they are! Finally "the four" (2 boys and 2 girls all born in 2007) are over one year old and have their own precious and hilarious personalities! Patrick has somehow become a little BOY in the last 9 months since i last saw him and is full of energy, creativity, curiosity, and sweetness! Avery is almost 3 years old and she is so cute! She is very precise and speaks in full sentences. She is a loving cousin and an adorable toddler. I really really miss watching this kiddies grow on a more regular basis, but i really enjoy seeing them when i get the opportunity!
There were 23 of us in a 5 bedroom house for a few nights. What FUN to all be together!!! We spent evenings around the kitchen table playing cards and a McBrayer favorite: "where will you be in five years?" which says a lot about you and gets us updated on things quickly. We played the same game last February at our camping trip and NO ONE has the same plan for their next 5 years as they did last year. Ha, i'm glad we're not the only ones.

God is really at work in our family and it is amazing to see the family GROW and members thrive. I was so encouraged by the brothers and sisters and just desperately needed that love and support that i have been so starved for out here.

and thanks to Merritt for the pictures!

Happy St. Patrick's Day from Chicago and Me!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Where they know you by name and treat you like family.

(photo of US at the Blue Ridge Mountains, taken by Aaron!)

Almost exactly 5 years ago my buddies and i planned a road trip to GA to see Landon's fam and get the heck out of CO and busy studies for Spring break. Landon and i had been dating for a month, though the trip had been planned since before we were "together". Brandon bailed at the last minute to go to Texas with a girl he had a crush on (Love you, Maryn!) and some other friends...nerd. So it was just the 3 of us: Aaron, Landon, and I.

We drove all night long from CO to Missouri where i met Justin and Anna for the first time! They had just bought their house and i remember that while Aaron and Landon slept, i got to talk to Anna and get to know her a bit. How sweet. Then we drove off to GA and i met the McBrayers for the first time! We went straight to the lodge in Jasper and arrived there at dark. The drive up the dirt road onto the property was bordered by trees still flickering from a controlled burn (at the time i was almost in tears - one of landon's favorite places on earth had caught fire!?).

When we got there, the only person in the ginormous lodge was Peyton. He was smoking a cigar and drinking a beer alone on the back porch - bearded and just chillin out, i was frankly terrified of him. He and Landon saw a light in the woods so Landon left to check it out. So now i'm alone with Peyton. We didn't make small talk. we just stood there looking across the lake at the light flickering in the woods.

That night I also got to meet Mike, Charleen, Preston, Haley, and Ann, and that was it. My new family (though i didn't know it at the time), had embraced me with such love and were already initiating me with the McBrayer sarcasm (nothing else on earth quite like it). That trip, my first time to Georgia, my first time with the McBrayers, i ruined the propellers on the boat and broke the botchie-ball (HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN!?)

On the way home from that week in Georgia (and a few days in NC), Landon told me that he loved me. WOW! We were engaged 3 months later and married within the year. That trip to his home really solidified a lot for us. He could see me there, in his life, in his home, in his family...and so could i.

We're headed in that South-bound direction again today. We are going to celebrate Haley and Joel's marriage with family and feasting!!! (Though landon says people called the McBrayers "the squirrel family" in his childhood, i always look forward to the food there!). Some southern bbq, sweet tea, ambrosia, and chick-fil-a! And even more, the company of (DEARLY) loved ones! Preston got married 10 months ago to LeAnn and now with Joel, the family seems complete. It's perfect. Of course, the kiddies are still piling on, making the family into a great "McBrayer Nation" (who started that joke?).

I am so excited to be in the company of family. Soon! (15hrs-ish from now!)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

For a dear friend, you know who you are:

You have to expect. You have to believe. As in Jesus' parable of the Importunate Friend and the Unjust Judge, you had to keep at it. It took work. It took practice... More than anything else, it took faith. It was faith that unbound the hands of Jesus so that through your prayers his power could flow and miracles could happen, healing could happen, because where faith was, healing always was too... and there was no power on earth that could prevent it. Inside us all...there was a voice of doubt and disbelief which sought to drown out our prayers even as we were praying them, but we were to pray down that voice for all we were worth because it was simply the product in us of old hurts, griefs, failures, of all that the world had done to try to destroy our faith. More even than our bodies, it was these hurtful memories that needed healing. For God, all time is one, and we were to invite Jesus into our past as into a house that has been locked up for years - to open windows and doors for us so that light and life could enter at last, to sweetp out the debris of decades, to drive back the shadows. The healing of memories was like the forgiveness of sins...We were to believe in spite of not believing.
Frederick Buechner retelling a teaching of Agnes Sanford.

Friday, March 6, 2009

One of my greatest fears

While living in africa i developed an extreme fear of monkeys, but most specifially for THESE monkeys. Just doing a flickr search for these pictures has my heart racing. I am pretty rediculously terrified of these jerks.

one of the best thing about our time in Kenya was that it was Landon's job to put together a more extreme adventure program for Brackenhurst Adventures as a follow-up ministry (business) to the ropes course team building/leadership training. So he often was at Hell's Gate National Park. It was a pretty bumpy ride from Limuru to HG. We actually drove in the dirt on the side of the road that was at a 60 degree angle rather than brave the actual paved road. It was on this drive into the Rift Valley that I saw my first glimpse of African wildlife, something i will never forget. My first time into Hell's Gate was not with Landon at all, actually (he was taking a group up Mt. Kenya), but with some people i had only met days before. They were telling me about the Baboons, and i thought their stories were hilarious. We pitched our tents that evening and went to sleep. The next morning i was the first to wake (still getting over jet-lag) and decided to read my bible and journal as i sat outside and looked over the Rift Valley. It was beautiful. In the distance below i glimpsed a group of wildlife running from the water hole across the valley toward our camp (which was situated on a cliff above the valley). They were fast. I didn't care - the valley had many animals and, plus, we were on a cliff 50 feet above. Pretty soon, though, i saw them: the baboons. They were in our camp. Being my first week in Africa, i wasn't sure what to do, so i ran back to my tent, crawled into my sleeping back and just layed there with my heart pounding, hearing them run around outside.
Once, i was making sandwiches for friends out of the tailgate of our van. We were surrounded by monkeys. We trapped one on the car, which was so terrified it actually dropped his loot and leaped out at the first chance we gave it. Though i like the idea of me being inside fo the car and the monkeys on the outside, instead of vice-versa. so i sat in there for a LONG time and watched monkeys clawing and the windows.
As our ministry developed in Kenya, we started taking people to that camp site in Hell's Gate. We would hike and rock climb during the day and spend the evenings at the camp site. I soon discovered that the morning bacon and trash from the last night's dinner tantalized those jerks. Once i got the pancakes over the fire and the bacon on peoples plates, our camp was surrounded on all sides by these HUGE monkeys. They would take turns charging the table and making off with whatever they could catch off of the table/fire. They loved sweets, and once stole an entire bundle of bananas from inside of our car. Eventually i made a rule: while camping at Hell's Gate i am NEVER making breakfast again unless it's oatmeal. We ate a lot of oatmeal that year.
The Maasai people are shepherds and carry Rungus and Sticks as weapons against lions, buffalo (, babboon). We saw that their defense tactic was much more effective than ours (we invested into 4 machette's and just started shaking these huge knives at them when they were close - the only thing this did was provoked them to show us their fangs up close and personal... we soon abandoned those machetes). So Landon invested into broom handles. We handed them to the biggest (and bravest) kids and while breakfast was being cooked, the kids would shout and swing these sticks. That worked better.
Justin and Anna came to visit us for thanksgiving our first year out here in illinois. We went to the Field Museum in downtown Chicago. We were walking through the exhibits and i turned the corner and entered the Monkey room. Of course, the monkeys were dead and stuffed, but they took me by such surprise, and it had been a year and a half since i had seen a monkey, i got goosebumps all over my body and my heart started to race.

I hate monkeys.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

things i'm LOVING lately

******just so you know, i opened blogger to write a post yesterday (Tuesday) but didn't get around to doing it until today (Wednesday). So, the date isn't right - just so you know:)*****


my beautiful, loving, sarcastic, and absolutely HILARIOUS in-laws. I get probably 10 emails every day from McBrayers(parnells/merritts) LOVE IT!

Kate Rusby. She is FANTASTIC!!!

My nose ring! It is becoming what i wear most. i just love it.

Gail Godwin. Justin and Anna turned me on to her books and she is such an amazing writer. Check out her books if you get a chance. My library has 8 of them.

my "wicked good" L.L.Bean slippers (that's what their website calls them!)

The Olive Bar! I love chowin' down on this healthy snack!

AND yesterday i didn't have to go into work at all! My boss called me the night before because all restaurants in Waukegan were closed because they found some amount of fecal matter in the water - i guess the boiling system wasn't working at the water plant or something. that's what i heard today, anyway. gross. SO, i got a free day from Starbucks, which was awesome!

Monday, March 2, 2009

in the cold of March

March is here! I don't really remember starting February, let alone finishing it, but time flies when you're having fun! ha!

I had a REAL weekend this last weekend it was WONDERFUL. i had both days off at Starbucks, which doesn't happen too often. I went to work with landon on Saturday to the Deerfield Outdoor Show where his job was to teach kids how to rock climb on the climbing wall - or pretty much just belay all day. I met him there after a quiet morning spent reading, journaling and drinking coffee. it was GREAT to put my climbing harness on again and i just LOVE, LOVE to teach kids to climb. Landon and i often did this while we were in Kenya - it was part of our job there, so it was fun to do it together again. I love to see Landon teaching kids how to climb - he is so patient and sweet to them. I love kids in general and had a BLAST!!!

It is still cold here. Yesterday i took Duvick for a walk beside the creek for an hour. I sent him to chase geese, and he pretty much just ran through the woods whil i walked on the dirt/ice trail beside the river. It was wonderful to be among all of the beautiful trees - and i was completely alone for that hour (besides Duvi) - no one else out here ever ventures outside when it's cold. It was SO cold that Duvick came upon a frozen squirrel. The squirrel and my completely frozen cheeks, buns, toes, and legs made me realize that it probably was time for us to head back home.

When i got home i discovered these daffodils!
I was just amazed! where do they find the strength and energy to grow when they live in the frozen earth? Aren't they early? Well, anyway, i'm excited they're here! I couldn't believe that in the same day i saw a frozen dead squirrel and the beginning of such beautiful life in our Spring flowers! hooray!

This morning we woke to snow and it's still snowing now.