Saturday, January 31, 2015

And So It's Begun...

We are well into the 2015 Basketball season. This year we chose to have Peyton be on a team with some friends from his school and church, after having been on a team for several years with our wonderful neighbors. Though we do miss the Mack boys and time spent with them, we are grateful for the opportunity for him to get to play with boys he see daily at school. With that said, Adam decided to coach both Peyton and Lawson's team, which seemed like no big deal when I was filling out the forms in Scottsdale last year, but now that we're living it out….I'm gonna be honest, it's kind of all consuming.

Take today for instance, Adam and Lawson left the house for team pictures at 7:45 (THAT.IS.EARLY!) His game was from 9-10, we had an hour and a half to get some things done at home and feed them lunch before Adam and Peyton headed back to the gym at 11:45 for his team pictures and then his game was 1-2. So, yes, I spent a lot of time inside Agape's gym today. Even so, it is really fun to watch the boys get super excited just to put on their uniforms but even more excited when the ball that they have dribbled all the way down the court with one arm up (guarding against the other team from stealing it) and then when it does in fact swish through the hoop…that's a great moment watching their reactions! Both arms straight up, pumping the air in excitement….and that makes the early mornings, the crazy moments of keeping the other kiddos at bay for 2 hours on the side lines, all worth it.

So here's few pics from the season so far. On Lawson's team, this is everyone's first year to play, so its pretty comical to watch these little ones. (Having sweet friends on the team makes it all the more fun!)




There's definite excitement when a teammate scores some points!

And they're learning sportsmanship, which is very important.

Since this is Peyton's third year to play, he is gaining confidence dribbling the ball from one end to the other and driving in toward the goal.




Those of us on the sidelines stay busy with stickers and crayons, iPads and iPhones, popcorn and goldfish. I look like a pack mule carrying in a huge bag of distractions that don't always do what I intended for them to. Like today, it was taking a little longer then usual to load the games and Ava Jane WAS.NOT.HAVING it! So after several rounds of screaming we made a trip to the ladies room…thankfully she chose to stop! We also have spent a little time with the Upwards Mascot (whose name has eluded me at this moment).



And here's our little cowboy chilling with his snack of skittles…and yet again, we don't go anywhere without these boots…have I mentioned that before?!! And this hair, the yucky nose and the cocked to the side hat all proves that these last few Saturdays have been pretty grueling with early starts, long periods of me giving this and that trying to just make it through the entire two games.


Hope you've had a good weekend! Ours has been pretty laid back this afternoon which has been nice after the last two weeks of constant illness.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Celebrating 4 Years

This year we decided to do a combined birthday for Emerson and JoJo since they are just four weeks apart. With their birthdays smack dab in the middle of winter its hard to plan a home party for lots of kiddos since the weather is always a gamble, so we chose to do a Jumpzone inflatable party. I think the boys had a great time! Trying to get two excited kiddos to look at the camera just didn't happen, this was the best shot of the two of them that I could get in their kingly birthday chair.

The boys loved bouncing and running all over that place!


Some of the slides are quite high but that did not deter them one bit!


There was some crawling, walking, jumping and of course lots of bouncing--fun was had by all.





This is what a head full of two year old hair looks like in mid-jump motion! She was Miss Independent the entire party.  Keeping up with this chick was a full time job!

Once again, I couldn't have pulled it all off without the help of my parents, they always are ready to jump in however I need them and for that I'm so thankful!  Lawson unfortunately started running fever while we were at church so my Dad volunteered to stay home with him while we did the party.  And Mom saved the cupcakes from some little girl (who wasn't a party guest) who thought it'd be fun to run her fingers across the icing, lick her said fingers and then proceed to do it again. Really?!  (Thankfully she only got to three of the cupcakes!)

The boys enjoyed blowing out their "4" candles but poor JoJo's cupcake did a little acrobatics off the plate so he got to have "Happy Birthday" sung to him twice.  I love how both boys are blowing their candle out with such gusto, that's pretty cute!



And these sweet boys, oh how I hope that they'll be life long friends! The faces are priceless, there's the goofy face, the no smile and then the fake squinty-eyed smile--I'll just take what I can get!

We had fun partying with lots of friends and family. The cupcakes and ice cream were a hit with everyone, even a few parents jumped in on the sugary goodness. I don't think Ava Jane enjoyed hers at all!



Thanks to all who came out and helped us celebrate these two boys. I'm pretty sure our little cowboy had a terrific time! It looks like JoJo did too!  It's hard to believe four years (with Emerson) have come and gone.  Though JoJo still has a few days until he's officially four, we're all so grateful for the time we've been given with these little guys!  We sure love these kiddos and are glad that they get to grow up near one another.



Monday, January 12, 2015

Behind the Scenes: Survivor Gallery Photo Shoot

A few months ago Ava Jane was asked to be apart of the 2015 Go Red For Women Survivor Gallery with the American Heart Association. The Survivor's Gallery is a traveling photo exhibit celebrating the personal stories of local women (and in her case children) who have experienced heart disease or stroke. Each survivor will have a story board that will be unveiled in a few weeks at the Arkansas State Capital during a national Wear Red Day press conference. The story boards will be displayed throughout Central Arkansas, at the Go Red For Women's luncheon and featured in Arkansas Life.

I hope the photographer was able to get at least one good picture, this sweet thing was quite the stinker the day of the photo shoot! She wanted to hide and climb up all the stairs, run around the halls and climb up to see down into the rotunda. Thankfully I had my Mom with me to help.






Did you know:
-Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined
-Heart disease causes 1 in 3 women’s deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every minute
-An estimated 43 million women in the U.S. are affected by heart disease
-Ninety percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease
-Since 1984, more women than men have died each year from heart disease
-While 1 in 31 American women dies from breast cancer each year, 1 in 3 dies of heart disease

Because Mom came, I was actually able to hear most of the women share their courageous stories of different types of heart disease they've struggled with.   It's amazing just how many women have experienced some type of heart problem and to hear how modern medicine and new procedures have been able to help each one of them was pretty remarkable.  (Here's a very blurry shot of some of the ladies from the 2015 Survivors Gallery.)

So join with us, help celebrate National Wear Red Day with Go Red For Women on Friday, Feb. 6, 2015 to raise awareness of how heart disease effects women---you just might help save a women’s life!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Treasured Friends, God's Blessings

I've always known that God blessed me with great friends. Even from the early years of elementary school God blessed me with good, solid friendships. Honestly, most of those friendships have stood the test of time and lasted over many decades now. Though life has taken us in different directions and we've not always been in the same city, state or even the same country (at times), somehow we have managed to remain dear friends. It's not something that "just happens", its really not even something that can be "created", its honestly more of a divinely appointed relationship that truly was orchestrated totally by God. As many of us have moved and had to start over with friendships in new places we've realized how special this group of women is.   Over the last decade and a half, I don't think any of us have been able to "recreate" the depth of friendship, spiritual encouragement and mutually challenging accountability.

(This was the only picture I could find with all of us together and its from 2002, girls we've got to find a time to get everyone back together!)

A lot of these friendships go back to kindergarten and second grade.  All of us definitely knew each other by fourth grade and by the time junior high and high school came along we were together regularly whether it was at school, cheerleading practice, youth group nights, or our weekly Bible studies.  All of us were tremendously blessed to have gotten to "live life" alongside one another.  There is just something truly sweet about friendships that have spanned the decades.  Getting to watch how God turned our dreams into realities, as we prayed for godly young men to date (and eventually marry), as we begged God to show us what our life's "calling" was (and still is), as we prayed through college choices and which sorority's to choose or whether to pledge at all.  As God saw fit, we prayed for wisdom in marriage and then came parenting (we definitely are on our knees in this arena).  We have literally walked the years together and what a blessing to have this deep history with such beloved people.

This was FSM's Beach Blast 1999 or 2000 (not sure which).

It's literally been 14 or 15 years since we were all together around the same table that we met around each Wednesday night before youth group, when Ann Parkinson and Jennie Allen led a Bible study our junior and senior years of high school.  We regularly ate cheese broccoli soup and called Mrs. P's house "the refuge on the hill". We'd meet over dinner and discuss what God was teaching us and how we were growing in our walk with Him.  We shared prayer requests and were truly "iron sharpening iron."

Well the stars aligned and more than half the group was in town last week so we were able to carve out a little time to reconnect and enjoy the deep friendships that God gave us so long ago!  (We certainly missed Jennie, Amanda, Katie and Lindsey, we'll have to try and get a another reunion planned soon!) But what a treasure to sit there and go around the table sharing the good and the bad, praises and sorrows.  Then to spend some time praying specifically for those things really was encouraging and edifying, literally we talked and prayed for more then five hours.  As each of us shared how God is still moving and working in us, I was overwhelmed with how good God is.  Mrs. P's verse for us when we all left for college was Philippians 2:15 which says, "so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life."  As each of us shared, it was pretty amazing to hear all the ways that each of us (by God's grace and in His strength) are doing just that, "holding out the word of life" to those around us---to those in our sphere of influence.  Whether its through a major world wide spiritual awakening and gathering of women through IF; or by using the artistic abilities that God has given another to shine a light into the art community here locally; or through a job at a well known corporation where one gets to share Jesus with vendors who otherwise might never engage in spiritual conversations; or another who interviews people and writes articles for a major social magazine; while another leads many women (young and old) to the throne of Christ as she speaks regularly into the lives of her small group as well as a large gathering of women each week at church; or the others of us who have 17 children between us who are in the trenches every day trying our best to teach God's word to the next generation of believers, trying to show them how to respond and react in a godly way, helping them memorize God's word and giving them a biblical foundation as a grid to live there lives through.  We are all in the battle, we are all engaged with God and doing our best to "work out our faith with fear and trembling".

We all desire to do what God has purposed for our lives and wrestle to do just that every day. We aren't perfect, we've made mistakes, we've doubted and feared, grown cynical at times and then been awed by miracles God's done in our own hearts as well as the hearts of our spouses, our children and others we come in contact with.  If we didn't engage, if we didn't remain in the battle, we'd miss out on the opportunities to see God moving and at work, so we keep the faith, we press on, seeking to "shine like stars in the universe".  I am blessed to call you all friends, I love you deeply!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Happy 4th Birthday Emerson!

Emerson Clark has been a blessing to our family since God graced us with his presence four years ago today. This morning we celebrated with sprinkle donuts and donut holes which are his all time favorite!

We lovingly called him our "easy going Emerson" for the first year of his life. As he has gotten older and his personality has continued to develop we have begun to use the adjective, "intense" to describe him. He does everything with gusto, with volume, with intensity! He loves to sing at the top of his lungs. His favorite song, as always, has been the "Holy" song. For Christmas we got the boys some Toby Mac CD's and he enjoys singing any and all of those songs, particularly, "Me Without You" (which talks about what we'd be like without God). To hear him singing this song as loud as he can is pretty sweet, though I often have to say, "Em, I love to hear you sing but could you please sing a little softer?"

Right now, he's still into Cars and all things Lightening McQueen. When I asked his favorite show, its definitely Octonauts. He still has a shoe fetish but these days he's all about his cowboy boots (which he says aren't shoes, so don't make that mistake. He has worn the sole off of his current ones so today he got a new pair. He literally wants to wear them everyday (along with any one of his Razorback shirts) and every once in a while he actually asks to nap in his boots and cowboy hat, to which I lovingly say "yes, as long as you stay in your bed and truly nap".


Out of all of our boys, this little guy loves to tell stories and I must say he's quite creative. Recently he told Adam and I about a "lunger-builder". Have you heard of these? According to him, its an under water crane that has a car but cannot float, though it does have tires. Then there's also these things called "red-gups" and "blue-gups". They are a type of submarine and the red ones can fly while blue ones cannot. See what I mean…flying, underwater submarines? His imagination runs wild and it's often pretty comical to hear him tell a story. As of late he likes to tell us about "when I was old, I used to be in the Army and I went to war." (I think he's just recalling little bits of what he's heard Adam say about his own military experience.) It's pretty cute how when kids say something funny and they get a good laugh from their audience, they keep repeating that line over and over again assuming that they'll get the same reaction each time. Currently the line that Emerson keeps telling us, is from the Ice Age Wii game where Sid says, "Lets do a viiiictoooory dance!" Emerson always jumps up from the kitchen table quoting this line and doing a little wiggly dance, the first time was really quite funny.

This little guy is by far our most polite child, usually easily saying "please" and "thank you" without having to be prompted. He regularly asks me, "Mom are you OK?" patting me on the back or stroking my arm, he seems to genuinely be concerned with how I am and easily offers hugs when I ask him for one.

Earlier this year (in October) we were having a conversation in the car about wanting to go to heaven. I proceeded to re-explain how we get to go to heaven (by recognizing our sin, asking God to forgive us and then by asking Jesus to come into our hearts.) Emerson said he wanted to ask Jesus to come into his heart so we called Daddy and over the speaker phone we prayed together. Adam and I realize that he is quite young, so we will continue to explain what Jesus has done for us and in us and continue to help him memorize scripture and develop a foundation of belief. We hope and pray that the seeds continue to take root and grow in his heart.

We love this sweet boy and are thankful that God chose us to be his parents. We love you Emerson and hope you have a great birthday!

Lake Day With Friends

Back in March, Adam and I began setting aside weekends on our calendar to go to the lake this summer with friends and family.  It felt a lit...