July 31, 2014

July 2014 in Pictures

Be sure to check out our July 2014 Family Update. Lots of news to report!
Happy 4th of July!

 Jumping off the diving board!
4th of July fun!
 Showing some teens how to make #nYn lip balm. 
History's Mysterys Camp at Traveller's Rest Plantation
 My sweet girl excited about her decision to follow Jesus!
 Celebrating with ice cream, of course!
 Art camp at Clay Lady Studio
Some of my garden plunder!
Houston. We have a watermelon. Yay!
 In the mountain. In the river. 
Love everything about this!
 The hammock was a big hit!
More hammock action. Like, in action!
This girl hiked 2 miles with me (uphill) and never complained a bit. 
She's awesome like that!
 Taking a rest after our long hike!
 All tattooed up thanks to Aunt Nita who sent us an entire book of them!
 Train ride with Daddy 
 Playing at the state park. 
 tLG made a new friend who likes to collect nature things too. 
He also likes Minecraft so they were destined to be buds. ;)

Until next month.... 

July 2014 Family Update

Ok, lots of news to report for July so I'll just hop to it.

For starters we celebrated 4th of July with a pool party and fireworks with our Lifegroup. That was also the day that I officially decided that tLG can swim. She finally decided she was ready to learn last month when we were at the beach and she is now jumping off the diving board and swimming in the deep end. Like most things in life, when she finally makes her mind up to do something she does it with gusto!
tLG completed her last two camps which were both awesome (full summer camp review coming soon). One was history camp at Traveller's Rest Plantation and the other was art camp at Clay Lady Studio. These are definitely going back on our list for next year.

We are super excited to announce that our girl accepted Christ as her Savior this month. I want to say a special thank you to all of you who have helped us plant seeds with her over the years and for those who will help us guide her in the future. It was really encouraging for her to see how many other people supported her decision by the simple click of a "like" button. She read every single comment too!
My garden is coming along nicely and I even have a baby watermelon. Hoping to see some baby pumpkins next. And if my tomatoes and peppers would ever turn red, we would eat those too. LOL! It has taken a little longer than usual to harvest mainly because I started so many things with seeds and/or small plants to try to push my skills a bit. I'm plum tickled with how much we have grown.

I've been kind of quiet for the last 2 weeks. Mainly because I was hiding. I just felt the need to get away and also to give my girl some good old-fashioned summer fun. We quietly slipped out of town and spent 12 days in the mountains with some sweet friends. I love that tLG was out exploring and enjoying nature every.single.day. We hiked. We played in the river. We identified herbs. We swang on great vines. We picnicked. We read. We played. We collected rocks. We found animal bones. We made a salamander habitat. We rode trains. We went to an orchard. We learned history. Basically, we took a break from the daily grind and slowed things down to a more creative pace and we both LOVED it!

We've just returned home and I'm trying to wrap my mind around reality. Second grade starts in a week and I will head into the busy time at my job. I've learned to just take it one day at a time but, between you and me, I'm pumped about 2nd grade! For real.

Click here to view more July photos!

July 17, 2014

[REVIEW] Four (Veronica Roth)

By: Veronica Roth
Preview Here
Earlier this year I blew through the Divergent Series (book 1 review & series review). This week at the library I happened upon Four, otherwise known as the short stories that make up the backstory of Tobias Eaton. I had heard these existed but I was excited to find The Transfer, The Initiate, The Son, and The Traitor all packaged together in one book. This version also includes 3 additional chapters told from Tobias' perspective: First Jumper - Tris; Careful, Tris; and You Look Good, Tris.

It had been a few months since I read the trilogy so I felt like my eagerness had wained a little bit. Once again, I blew through this book in less than a day. Granted, it's only 309 pages but I was sucked right back into the story. Unlike Allegiant (3rd book) where I had a hard time reading from Four's perspective, I flowed through this book very easily.

If you've ever wanted to know Four's backstory, how he got those awesome tattoos, and what he really thought when he met Tris, you will want to read this book. Dare I say, you NEED to read this book. You will also learn about Amar's death, why Four just happened to be nearby when Peter attacked Tris, how Four knows that his mother is still alive...

...AND SO MUCH MORE! So much. 

I didn't think I would like reading back through a story when I already knew how it ended, but I loved how the author answered questions that I didn't even know I had. She blends the story together so beautifully that before I even realized what's going on, I'm like, "oh, so that's how that happened" and "that's why he did that."

If nothing else, this book will hold you over until Insurgent is released in theaters next March (2015). It's filming now. I sure wish we could get some video teasers, photos, something.

*Affiliate link included. 

July 10, 2014

My Little Redneck Garden

This is my 4th year to have a garden and every year I get a little more redneck. Interestingly enough, my green thumb has been increasing in direct correlation to my renecking. Odd. Personally, I find my garden endearing and cute. I started out with just a wooden garden box that my sweet hubby built me so I could grow kitchen herbs. We've progressed quite a bit since then. 
The chicken wire? Yeah, in our neighborhood there are rabbits that can leap a building in a single bound. In addition,  I now have a steel drum that holds strawberries, 5-gallon buckets that hold peppers, and tires that hold potatoes. 
Last but not least, there is a wooden pallet that usually holds onions and garlic but is miraculously holding tomatoes this year as well, and they are thriving. Trust me, no one is more shocked than I am. This gardening thing, it's trial and error, I tell ya. 
You may be curious about the location of said redneck garden. Well, it's partially due to the sun but predominantly because we don't have a spigot in the backyard but this spot is just below the kitchen window where the sink is. Meaning, I can open the window, pull out the sprayer, and give my little redneck garden a drink. See it hanging down? Pretty smart if I do say so myself. And, redneck, of course. 
I also have a fancy rain water collection system. Jealous? 
This week, the my little redneck garden got a little more redneck. You see, I grew pumpkin and watermelon plants from seeds (SEEDS, y'all) and successfully transplanted them. Go, me! 
The only problem... I highly underestimated the square footage these suckers require. So, now I'm trying to kill grass as quickly as possible to made more bed space for these boogers to spread out. With cardboard. Nice, right?
Last but not least, there is my lazy composting pile. I dig holes in the yard, throw some food in them, and cover them with dirt. Every few days, if I think about it, I poke around the pile with my shovel and then cover it with a piece of cardboard to keep the dog out of it. I know, I know. You true composters are gasping for breath about now. 
For the record, I never said this was a well-researched project. The title of this post alone should have tipped you off to my gardening style. I still maintain that it's cute and endearing. And occasionally it grows something. ;)

July 7, 2014

Uganda: I Almost Didn't Go

I've been home for a week after my trip to Uganda with Mercy for Mamas. But, there is something you should know.

I almost didn't go. 

When the trip was first presented to me, I said no. There were a million reasons why it wasn't feasible. Being away from my family for 2 weeks (a week is my max), the cost to go ($3000), the travel involved (30+ hours one way), the required vaccines (we don't vax), taking off work for half a month (if I don't work, I don't get paid), and the simple fact that it was not just another country but another continent. Just the idea of the trip was way outside my comfort zone. So, I said no.

Over the next week the Lord was really working on my heart. Even now, I specifically remember the moment He told me to go and I relented. I was ready to say "yes". It was like an instant weight had been lifted. There is a certain freedom in being obedient to the Lord. It's something that I've been working to accept.

The only problem was, I thought the opportunity had passed. I was so disappointed in myself and my lack of faith and trust.

Then an email showed up in my inbox asking again if I wanted to go. I couldn't say "yes" fast enough. The conviction on my heart was so strong and I was thrilled that God gave me another opportunity to exercise my faith.

Now the pressure was on. I needed to raise $3000 in 90 days but I had no doubts that God would provide and he did. Even when there were some unexpected expenses, he provided for those too.

Yet, there were times when I still wanted to back out. In my mind, I backed out a million times and then some.

I didn't want to be away from my family for that long. Could my hubby really manage the logistics of running our household on his own?

I didn't want to go without pay for 2 weeks. Could we really afford that loss?

I didn't want to be in a third world country. Could I really survive without modern conveniences?

I didn't want to get vaxed. Are they really warranted in this situation?

The Lord gave me peace and provision for every scenario including a wonderful babysitter for tLG, a vaccine exemption and an alternative treatment regimen.

I really tried to approach this trip with a sense of adventure, which kind of goes against everything in my type A personality. My goal was just to take each day as it comes. I'm a strong believer that "knowledge is power" but, in this case, I was content to subscribe to the "ignorance is bliss" philosophy.

Then, this travel warning was issued. One of my biggest fears is being killed or captured in a foreign land. It's one of the main reasons I don't travel abroad anymore. This had been an underlying fear from the very beginning. It was a huge unspoken reason for why I backed out the first time. Here I was being legitimately faced with my biggest fear. I ultimately decided that the Lord knew advance about this travel warning when He asked me to go and I trusted that He needed me in Uganda either way.

Honestly, I thought I was going to be killed in Africa. I'm serious. I accepted this fact with as much grace as I possibly could muster. I didn't tell anyone but Mike and we had a good cry about it. I wiped my work computer of all my personal files. I wrote notes explaining my last wishes. I set as many things in place as I could to make things run smoothly without me. It may seem silly, but it's just as real to me now as it was then. I was legitimately scared.

I sincerely didn't think I would come home from Uganda.

My husband's last words to me were, "think with your head and not with your heart." He's a marine, obviously. Talk about a contradiction of purpose. I'm going on a trip to serve underprivileged women and children in a impoverished nation. How can I not think with my heart?

While we were there, I was "waiting for the boom" everywhere we went. I am always calm and cool on the outside in the face of adversity. It's part of what makes me a good doula and I am truly thankful for that characteristic. On the outside, I was thinking with my heart. I completed my assignments with passion. However, I was on constant alert everywhere we went. I always knew my surroundings and was on the lookout for nefarious characters or suspicious activity. I almost always sat by the window or in the front of the bus where I could see. Each morning, I packed my backpack with my OB medical gear right along side some carefully tucked away survival gear. Internally, I was thinking with my head. Hard core.

While we were in Uganda, there were bombings happening in Kenya and I knew that we had to fly through Nairobi to come home. Even once we had successfully made it out of Uganda, I still sat in that Kenyan airport "waiting for the boom".  Everyone else was watching World Cup while my heart palpitated in a different way. Basically, I didn't fully relax for 2 weeks until we were flying out of Sudan airspace and headed for London.

Yes, I'm home and thankful to be here but I'm so glad I didn't change my mind and officially back out. The Lord was truly in control of this trip. I departed wondering if I would even have something to contribute but it became evident quickly what my role was. 
I had the opportunity to see these mamas hear their baby's heartbeat for the first time.
I educated women on labor techniques and comfort measures.
I showed teenagers at a crisis pregnancy center how to breastfeed their babies and resolve feeding issues.
I provided basic prenatal care to women who had never received any before.
I got to see how a group of women who didn't know each other come together and each have a role to play and fulfill it naturally and beautifully.
We were able to provide sterile birthing supplies to women who would have no other way of obtaining them.
I thought I was going to serve the women of Uganda and glorify God in the process. Ultimately, that is what happened. But the Lord, He is so gracious, He allowed me to be blessed in the midst of it. Yes, the days were long and the work was exhausting. Meals were skipped, sleep was random, and conditions were sketchy at times. Despite all that, it was hands down the most fulfilling thing I have ever done in my life and my heart is SO full! Why? Because there is freedom in being obedient. When we are faithful, God fulfills us in ways we never thought possible. Then, like icing on a cake, He reunited me with my peeps!
*All photos courtesy of A Southern Ruckus who more eloquently explains the details of what we saw and experienced in Uganda in this post. Check it out!