TRUTH! Not lies!

If you think you've blown God's plan for your life, rest in this:
You, my friend, are not that powerful.


When I first read this quote, I laughed out loud.
And then, I started thinking about it.
How often do we find ourselves saying things that are absolutely ridiculous, even unbiblical
when we are in the pit of despair?
We doubt God's ability to forgive. 
We doubt His love.
We think He will never be able to use us because of our mistakes.
We believe we change the course of heaven's plans as if our choices actually affect God's sovereignty.

This is why we must continually and purposefully take our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ and replace emotions and doubt and the lies of the enemy with TRUTH.
And there is only one place truth can be found - in Scripture!
We must, must, must be in the Word to fill our minds with what is TRUE so we are able to stop the fiery darts zinging toward us from the hands of the enemy.
He loves to fill our minds with doubt and despair. But we cannot allow him to do so. 
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8

"If you think you've blown God's plan for your life, rest in this:
You, my friend, are not that powerful."

Though I laughed when I first read it, this quote is absolutely true.
How do I know? Because Scripture tells me so!

I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. Job 42:2

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
Proverbs 19:21

And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion 
at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6

The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; Your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. 
Do not forsake the work of Your hands. Psalm 138:8


AMEN! And thank You, Lord, for the TRUTH of these verses!


This and that.

We finished another level of reading!
(I say "we" because I rejoice as much and as loudly as our children after walking through each and every step with them. It is a joint effort to be sure.)
When I think of where they were a year ago, how they could barely eek out a one-syllable word, I am awed by their progress and sing the praises to the Lord who allowed it to happen.
Who knew that listening to my children sound out FOUR syllable words could be so incredibly satisfying?!?
Thank You, Lord!

~~~ It rained three times this week! REAL rain! (As opposed to the scattered and minuscule drops we generally witness when the weatherman declares, "Rain is coming to southern California!") How refreshing it was to wake up to water falling from the sky and enjoy the heightened color of nature after the heavenly cleansing. I l o v e rain! And the clouds after a rain? WOW! WOW! WOW! I cannot take my eyes off of them!

Another Eastman is now behind the wheel.
Luke passed his permit test. Woohoo!
He has been waiting for this moment since he was about, well, three years old.
Luke is a highly motivated individual in general, but when there is something he wants there is absolutely nothing that can stop him.
He will work harder, longer, earn more money, study - whatever it takes.
Of course, he had to learn the ever-important lesson that PATIENCE is part of the package. Hard work does not make time go faster, money is not waiting on your pillow when you wake up in the morning, and often, there are things that are completely out of your control. All of them good lessons for LIFE!
The "new driver" rule in the Eastman house is simple. The teen spends one month behind the wheel with Dennis - listening, learning, obeying the rules - and then, when he deems the teen a "safe driver" he moves to the Thunder Bus, and drives with me. This is a big deal because he is now carrying precious cargo - his siblings!
A HIGH level of accountability!
It's fantastic!

~~~ Dennis has the privilege of traveling four times this calendar year. This is not a normal itinerary, but we are glad to let him go because he and his colleagues are doing Kingdon Work - and it matters!
This year he will spend time in Lebanon, Canada (Prince Edward Island to be exact!), Jordan, and Cambodia. As always, the team will be training and encouraging teachers and administrators who work tirelessly to serve rescued children.

There is a new and exciting piece to his travels this year. Micah will be going with him to Jordan!
An administrator from Jordan was present at Dennis' "Walk A Mile In My Shoes" seminar (about learning and special needs) in Lebanon two years ago. She went home and told her team, "We need this guy!" A year later they extended the offer for him to speak in their country - and - invited Micah to join him as a voice for students with learning needs! Dennis will speak about the education, science side of learning/special needs, and Micah will speak on the emotional struggles and stresses.
They have already started preparing and Dennis is THRILLED to have Micah join him in this.
Who knows what the Lord has planned for this tag-team adventure!
*** We do have to raise $2,000 for Micah's expenses (most of it plane fare), so if you have any creative fundraising ideas, please send them my way! Other than reviving Camp Eastman, we are drawing a blank. BUT GOD will provide for it was Him who brought this together!

Caleb, Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie are studying astronomy this year - and they LOVE it!
Living in God's created universe is a delight, but studying about its vastness and perfect design for human life makes us appreciate Him and His creation even more.
(photo: making their own mini volcanoes after studying those on Mars)
We will end our school year with a visit to the Griffith Observatory, and I think I may be more excited than they are about that trip! <grin>
We also get to enjoy a personal tour of JPL in May because P.J. (the Father of our G3) is actually a rocket scientist and invited us to the NASA Lab! That is going to be one great day!

Funny story!
Due to a generous monetary gift from my grandfather at Christmas, we were finally able to replace our old and poorly working television. We need help installing and connecting it, and guess who volunteered? P.J.!
He told us he would call us if he needed us, so Julie and I sat on the couch talking without pausing while he began sorting through the contents and devising a plan of attack.
I was bragging, "I will forever be able to tell people that a rocket scientist installed our television! How cool is THAT?!?"
Just then, he interrupted us. "Ladies, can you help me for a second?"
Now I get to tell people that I assisted a rocket scientist??? This day just keeps getting BETTER!
Julie and I eagerly walked over to offer our fantastic skills, only to hear P.J. say, "I am going to hold the T.V. Can you pull off the box and move it out of the way?"
What? That's IT?
So much for saying I assisted a genius. All I can say now is, "I moved a box." <insert eye roll here>

~~~ Happy Saturday!
I pray you will enjoy a great night of physical and emotional rest so you are able to fully engage in worship with the body of Christ tomorrow.
The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God. - C.S. Lewis


Remembering our son, Matthew.

This was the sky that greeted me this morning.
Bright blue.
Clear as clear can be.
Soft, white, fluffy clouds.
A gentle breeze.

A perfect backdrop for the day we remember and honor the life of our son, Matthew.

Twelve years.
It has been twelve years since my doctor looked at me with a downcast face saying, 
"I think you are miscarrying."
Twelve years since I held our son in my arms, washing his tiny face with my tears.
Twelve years since I watched my husband fall apart when he unwrapped our son so his best friend could see him - and dedicate him to the Lord.
Twelve years since hearing our dear friend read these beautiful verses from Psalm 119:73-77 ...
Your hands made me and fashioned me;
Give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments.
May those who fear You see me and be glad, Because I wait for Your word.
I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are righteous,
And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.
O may Your lovingkindness comfort me, According to Your word to Your servant.
May Your compassion come to me that I may live, For Your law is my delight.
Twelve years since I sat on my hospital bed saying, "Lord, this has to be bigger than me losing my baby. I am not the first woman and I certainly won't be the last. There has to be more."

Twelve years.

In the beginning, I wondered if I would laugh again.
I wondered if the tears would ever cease.
If the painful ache to know my son and feel him in my arms would diminish.
If anyone would remember him.
If he knew I was his mom and would recognize me in heaven.
I wondered so many things through my sorrow and my tears.

And the Lord faithfully walked beside me every single one of those days - 
and turned my mourning into joy and my weeping into laughter.

And why would He not?
He is a God who "heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."
Because He does so faithfully, we can echo the words of the Psalmist,
"This is my comfort in my affliction, that Your promise gives me LIFE." Psalm 119:50

And like the bright blue sky that follows a storm, 
Weeping may last through the night, but JOY comes in the morning! Psalm 30:5


I want to laugh!

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. Proverbs 31:25

This is one of my favorite Scripture verses.
Laughing at the future.
What a wonderful way to live!
The only way we can laugh at the future is to fully trust in the God who controls it.
We can only see NOW. He sees into eternity.
We have no idea what is ahead, and we can be pretty sure we will not like everything that awaits us, but we can stand confident and secure, ready to face whatever may come, because we know who HE is. A God who cannot lie. A God who promises He will never leave us or forsake us. A God who gives us wisdom whenever we ask. A God who is full of mercy and unlimited grace. A God who loves us with an everlasting love.

On my trip, I searched for one item in each state to take home as a memento of my time with my sweet sisters. In North Carolina, I found a lovely pewter bookmark, embossed with the state flower: the flowering dogwood. In Tennessee, I chose a coffee mug from Biscuit Love with the phrase, "Bless Your Start" imprinted on it. (A twist on the southern phrase "Bless yer heart" which, apparently, is a euphemism for, "Oh ... what an idiot." Makes me laugh every time I hear it!) And in Indiana, I found a treasure at a charming little shop in Newburgh called The Refinery. An ID bracelet etched with the phrase "she can laugh." It was perfect. And every time I look at it, I smile.

In a world that continually (though impossibly) tries to silence God, it was a delight to see His name and the words of Scripture boldly and joyfully displayed in the public square. 

Not only did I choose the bracelet because it highlights one of my favorite verses, I chose it because of the truth behind the entire Identity in Christ line.
I spent far too much of my life looking at myself through the lens of the world and what others thought of me rather than seeing myself as God sees me. Who I am in Christ is the only way I want to be identified. I am His. And nothing can snatch me out of His hands. 

God lovingly chose to create us in His image, and through the sacrifice of His Son, we were cleansed from all unrighteousness.
Because of this wonderful gift, we need never question our value or our worth for we stand perfect and COMPLETE in Jesus Christ - and safe and secure in the arms of the Father.

It is this safety and security, knowing who we are in Christ, that gives us the ability to laugh at the future. I want to be a woman who laughs. A woman who laughs because she is free from bondage and free from the opinions and criticisms of others. A woman who laughs because she was fearfully and wonderfully made and her soul knows it. A woman who laughs because even though she does not know what the future holds, she knows the One who holds the future.

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. Proverbs 31:25
Lord, may this verse become a synopsis of my life. Make me into a woman who believes "she can laugh" at anything and everything because her confidence is not in her circumstances or in people, but solely in You.


I have to remember.

Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually.
Remember the wondrous works that He has done,
His miracles and the judgments He uttered. I Chronicles 16:11,12

Some memories are sweet.
Some memories are sorrowful.
How easy it is to bask in the sweet, and quickly run from the sorrowful.

And yet, Scripture asks us to REMEMBER.
Not the hurt and the pain, but the work of the Lord in the midst of both.
Because good or bad, sensational or sorrowful, He allows it all.
I know, O Lord, that Your rules are righteous,
and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me. Psalm 119:75

As the 12th anniversary of the loss of our son Matthew draws near, I must choose to remember

And so, I will.

I will remember who God is, His faithfulness, how He worked in the dark and devastating days surrounding the stillbirth, and how He has used Matthew's life for His glory by allowing me and a team of women to offer comfort and hope to those who have suffered the same sorrow. 
Losing a child in the womb, whether through miscarriage or stillbirth, is a grief only those who have walked through it can imagine or understand. We need each other. To talk, cry, share, ask questions, scream, hug, listen, and pray. And to do these things, to empathize with a woman who is drowning in fresh grief after losing her precious baby, we have to remember our own pain. Our own story. Our own heartbreak and tears. And most important ... how God showed Himself a faithful, loving, comforting Father when we didn't think we could get through another day. 
Once we connect with those memories, we are able to identify with her pain, and then - sit down beside her in the cold, dark pit until she is ready to climb out into the sunlight once again.

We do not remember in order to re-open old wounds or invite bitterness into our hearts.
We remember so we can offer PRAISE to a God who "heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." For He is a loving and merciful God who sits with us in our darkest moments, never leaves us, never forsakes us, and promises that He is our rock and our fortress. A place where we can run - and feel safe.

My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Psalm 42:6

When my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord,
and my prayer came to You, into Your holy temple. Jonah 2:7

I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember Your wonders of old. Psalm 77:11

Praise the Lord!
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.
Full of splendor and majesty is His work, and His righteousness endures forever.
He has caused His wondrous works to be remembered;
the Lord is gracious and merciful. Psalm 111:1-4

I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all that You have done;
I ponder the work of Your hands.
I stretch out my hands to You;
my soul thirsts for You like a parched land. Psalm 143:5


A quote that stands alone.

If in the integrity of my heart I speak the words, 
"Thy will be done," 
I must be willing, if the answer requires it,
that my will be undone

- Elisabeth Elliott



As I think of those who are fighting different battles of varying intensity on this rainy and melancholy day, this quote provides perspective - and peace. 
I pray it will bring comfort to others as well. ♥

"The Lord is my Shepherd - I shall not want!" Psalm 23:1
"I shall not want!" Surely not! He is the Good Shepherd who gave His life for His sheep; and if He has loved me, and given Himself for me - then what will He withhold?

Oh that I knew Him better, and trusted Him as He deserves! Then I would be kept quiet from fear of evil, and be ever assured that He will supply all my needs, according to His riches in glory.

Do I need guidance? The Good Shepherd goes before His sheep - He instructs and teaches us in the way we should go.

Do I wander - and need to be reclaimed? He seeks and finds His straying ones, "He restores my soul, and leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake."

Am I wounded? He binds up my wounds and heals me.

Do I need rest and refreshment? "He makes me to lie down in green pastures, and leads me beside the still waters."

Do I need encouragement? "His rod and His staff, they comfort me."

Do I need provision? "He spreads a table before me in the presence of my enemies."

My Shepherd is infinitely wise and kind and gracious. Surely then, "Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever!"

"The Lord my Shepherd is,
I shall be well supplied;
Since He is mine, and I am His,
What can I want beside?"

("Every Day!" 1872) author unknown



The night before I left for my vacation, I prayed with each of my children because I wanted their last memory of us together to be connected to the Lord, not just me. It was a sweet time of prayer and conversation ending with hugs and ''goodbyes." A wonderful way to part with those you love!

The Lord used Micah's prayer in a unique way. Somewhere in the midst of his supplications on my behalf, he said, "I pray that my mom will be a blessing to everyone she is with on her trip." DING! DING! DING! Next stop, Conviction Alley! In all of my excitement to spend time with dear friends whom I had not seen in almost a decade, it never occurred to me to think or pray about how I could serve and bless them. I was only focused on being with them because I missed them and wanted to reconnect. {insert headshake here}
Once Micah uttered that phrase, however, being a blessing to my sisters was the only thing I could think about. My perspective completely shifted, and I was thankful. What better way to spend a vacation with three unique, godly, loving women than seeking to make them smile, ease their burdens, listen to them share their hearts, pray for them, and encourage them in their faith. The Lord gave me nine days to live out the "One Another's" of Scripture - and it was a delight!
I cannot speak for my sisters, but I know that I left each one feeling encouraged, stirred up to love and good deeds, and completely refreshed ❤ - and I pray they felt the same.

Each of my friends is unique.
Yet each one loves the Lord, her husband, her children, her family, friends, and ministry.
If we had nothing else in common, we share the greatest thing in common - Jesus Christ. And He is enough to sustain our friendships throughout eternity. Praise Him for such a gift!

Though each woman is different, we all shared the same joys.
Mutual enthusiasm and encouragement.
Fantastic conversations that mattered.
Lots and lots of laughter!
Adventures and new experiences.
But the best part was being TOGETHER - because I never thought I would be able to experience such an opportunity.

A little less than a year ago, I sat in our van in the driveway staring at our house while tears poured down my cheeks. I was overwhelmed with parenting, homeschooling, learning needs, behavior issues with our daughter, personal struggles in the hearts of my teens, and outside pressures. I literally cried out to the Lord, "Am I EVER going to be free?!?"
I could only see what was in front of me - and it was more than I could bear. I felt trapped in my own home - everyone needed me - and most of them were completely dependent on me. Leaving the house could not last more than a few hours, and I rarely did that because the cost was too high. Even with the full support of Dennis, the needs of my children outweighed my own personal need for space, fellowship, and peace.
As the tears continued to roll, I knew I had to surrender. I thought of every woman who had struggles far beyond what I was experiencing and knew that if this was the life God was calling me to, there was only one response I could give. "Yes, Lord." And I refused to leave the van until I could speak those two words with full and sincere conviction.

Fast forward eight months. I am standing on the other side of the country. Alone.

As I stood on North Carolina soil the first day, I marveled at the goodness of God. A woman who didn't feel she could leave her house for a day was about to spend ten days enjoying good friends, God's creation, new sights, and unique experiences. Because the Lord was faithful to remind me how far I had come (literally and figuratively), I purposed in my heart that I would soak in every moment - fully present and fully aware - for it was He who placed me 3,000 miles away, with three precious sisters, "for such a time as this."

When I planned my trip, I thought it was what I wanted.
But the Lord made it clear that my trip was what I needed.
And I am, and forever will be - grateful.


Quote. Godly PEACE.

The peace of God does not come from the removal of difficult circumstances. 
The peace of God comes from the ability to handle difficult circumstances with
a settled sense of confidence in God. 
- Philip DeCourcy

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6, 7



I enjoyed every single moment of my vacation and hope I do not have to wait another eighteen years to experience the opportunity again. It was a privilege - and I was blessed!
But coming HOME after a wonderful time away is always a delight!
Thank you for such a generous gift, D. ❤ I truly, truly appreciate it!

I woke up this morning to find all three of these people in my bed!
When they opened their eyes and saw my face in daylight their own faces broke into huge smiles.
Reunited - and it feels GREAT!

I missed my guys!
These three kept hugging me when I got home.
Though we are all incredibly independent, able to be apart without pining to be together, we always appreciate our reunions. These faces make me very, very happy!

Happy Birthday, Caleb!


What a JOY it is to be your mom!
Since the day you were born you have made us laugh with your funny facial expressions and sense of humor. You have always been light-hearted and easy to please, which makes loving you a delight.

You are thoughtful - thinking of what would make others happy or feel wanted.
You are compassionate - quick to serve those ignored and forgotten by everyone else.
You are kind - willing to make people laugh and feel good.
You are affectionate - always ready with a hug and an "I love you."
You are creative - designing new Lego creations and inventing games to play.
You are sensitive - hurt by harsh words and unkind attitudes.
You are a good friend - encouraging, faithful, and desiring their company.

I am proud of you, Caleb.
You have to work harder than others to succeed, and though it frustrates you, you keep trying.
Never lose that character quality, son. The world does not care about your struggles - they just want you to do things the way they think things should be done. But the Lord created your mind to work differently, and He has a purpose for doing so. Seek HIS way first and fastest, and always remember that obedience to the Lord is the measure of success - not the response of others.
Walk in obedience every day, begging the Lord for the strength and grace to do so, and make His pleasure your greatest pursuit.

I love you, Caleb.
You are a sweet and loving son, and I am grateful you are mine!

Happy 14th Birthday!


Vacation Day 9 - Indiana - Birthday Party and Conversations!

Today I had the privilege of being a part of William's 1st Birthday!
We celebrated with the UP theme - William wearing suspenders like the old man, a sky backdrop for photos, a wooden house tied to balloons for table decor, and colorful paper goods and cupcakes.
The little man made a great impression on the guests and everyone enjoyed him!

I was the photographer's assistant, which basically meant screaming, hollering and making ridiculous noises to get William's attention so he would smile in all of the photos. And it worked! Good times!

 Partying is hard work for a little guy!
It was all I could do to keep him awake until we got home so he could settle in for a nice long nap. 
Daniel, Michelle and I were tired after a late night at the movies and rising early to prep for the party, so we came home, changed into sweats, and spent the afternoon/evening lounging around the house, talking, laughing, and enjoying the quiet rest. 
After dinner, we were craving ice cream so we went to the store with the intent of returning home to watch a movie while slurping our favorite flavors from a spoon. But it never happened because Daniel said, "I have a question that I forgot to ask earlier ..." which launched us into a four-hour conversation. The three of us have talked nonstop since I arrived, but this discussion was unique - and needed - and it was a perfect way to end our time together.

Tomorrow we will worship the Lord together at church, and then I will fly home to be reunited with my family. I cannot wait to see my people, but I will not lie ... I am going to miss Jenny, Kelsi, and Michelle. These past nine days have been wonderful, full of new experiences, and I am beyond thankful that they invited me into their worlds for a short time. ♥


Vacation Day 8 - Indiana - Walks, Shopping, Dinner and a Movie!

This morning Daniel went to work and Michelle and I took a nice long walk along the Ohio River!
The recent rains have flooded the area, so it was interesting to see the overflow.
It was COLD and sunny and windy ... perfect!

After meandering through River City, we witnessed the sunset on the Ohio River.

Michelle and I thought it would be fun to act like tourists and take photos of EVERYthing on our dinner/movie date. I will not make you suffer by including all of them here, but suffice it to say we laughed a lot and enjoyed every minute!
At first, Daniel thought it was the dumbest idea ever, but after photo #22 he joined in the merriment and was a cooperative and enthusiastic model. <big grin>







Thank you for a wonderful, relaxing, and refreshing day, Michelle!
And thank you for a fun and memorable date night, Daniel!


Vacation Day 7 - Indiana - Daniel, Michelle, and William!

I get to spend the last three days of my trip with my Michelle!
She and Kelsi made the sacrifice to drive almost two hours each way in order to transfer me from Tennessee to Indiana. Michelle and I started talking when I climbed into her car at 12:30 pm, Daniel joined us at 5:00 pm, and we all said good night at 12:30 am. 
This is the first time I have been able to talk to Daniel for more than a few minutes at a time since they were in a long distance dating relationship and have been in Indiana since they said, "I do!" and I must say - he is HILARIOUS. I have not laughed so hard in a long time!

We have a casual, relaxed weekend planned - and - William's 1st birthday party!

Tonight Michelle and I reminisced about our relationship. What started as discipleship five years ago became a friendship built on mutual respect, and one that we pray will last a lifetime.
She is not the same woman she was when I met her, and it is a joy to see her in her own home with her husband and son, serving the Lord, and filled with gratefulness and contentment.
How thankful I am for her, and how blessed I am that she calls me friend! ❤


Vacation Day 6 - Tennessee - Opryland Resort and the Grand Ole Opry!

Today is my last day in Tennessee.
Tomorrow I make my way to Indiana to enjoy yet another wonderful state in God Bless America.
This really has been a wonderful trip. Different places, unique adventures, beautiful parts of our country, and best of all - sisters in Christ whom I love dearly.
Dennis graciously and joyfully gave me this gift, and though I planned it and was excited about it, I had no idea how much I NEEDED it. Every day I feel more refreshed than the next, and I feel beyond blessed to have been given this opportunity to reconnect with precious friends.

We spent the afternoon in Nashville.
First stop: The Opryland Resort
Um, WOW. It is gigantic, gorgeous, fabulously designed, and the aesthetics are superb.
It was designed to look and feel like a Greenhouse and they succeeded! We walked through the gardens and up and down every staircase and walkway we found.
It would be a delight to spend an entire weekend in the hotel.

Second stop: The Grand Ole Opry

Due to the cost of the tour, we decided not to take the girls, so Kelsi took them to the Opry Mall while I spend an hour walking through the famous landmark.
Though quite unversed in the country music world, I was fascinated by the history and details of the place. The tour guide was so enthusiastic she made me wish I WAS a country music aficionado!

A few interesting facts:
The artists park their own cars outside the private entrance, including moving the orange cones that reserve their spots. (An excellent way to maintain humility.)
The boxes pictured above are the personal mailboxes of the Opry Members.
If you want to write to your favorite country artist you need only write their name and the Opry's address and the letter will be put right into their personal box!
2804 Opryland Dr, Nashville, TN 37214
Opry Members are invited by management, and, apparently, being inducted into The Grand Ole Opry is bigger than recording an album. It is a huge honor.
They receive a trophy, the bottom of which is made out of the wood from the original Opry house so that each member has a literal piece of country music history.
The artists are paid to perform, and ... they are all paid the same!
Whether you are the King of Country Music or are getting your first chance on stage, your paycheck is the same. (Again, maintaining humility. Remember who you are and where you came from.)
Artists are not allowed any alcohol before performing. Because it is a live show, the management wants to "get what they paid for" without any surprises. Seems wise!

Below are three of the eighteen dressing rooms.

They invited us to take pictures in front of this famous painting made pre-1960.
Since I was by myself I felt silly, but I looked at the lovely older southern woman taking the photos and said, "I am from Calfornia. I will probably never be here again. I should do this, shouldn't I?"
"I think so, honey," she replied in her southern drawl. So - I did it! (I still feel silly.)

Our last stop was inside the auditorium.
I was surprised by the intimacy of the space.
The stage is right on top of the front row and the room is round and cozy. Though it seats 4,400 guests, it feels like you are sitting in a gigantic family room singing with friends and family.

I am so glad Kelsi thought of this! I'm not sure I could have experienced anything more quintessentially Tennessee than walking the halls of the Grand Ole Opry! Next time I am in this lovely state I will go to an actual performance to be sure!

This was my view for the evening as I sat on Jim and Kelsi's back porch enjoying the sight and sound of rain. What a wonderful way to end my final day - surrounded by creation.
I am going to miss this!


Vacation Day 5 - Tennessee - Plantation and lunch!

 Today we enjoyed a delightful tour of an old Tennessee plantation - Belle Meade.
I have never been to a plantation so this was another new experience!
The family used their land as a Thoroughbred Farm,
and produced the famous horse that sired Man of War and Sea Biscuit.
The grounds are beautiful, the house is delightful, and the history of the family and the workers is quite interesting. The facts provided a catalyst for great conversation the rest of the day.
After the tour, we walked the grounds and poked through the gift shop.
It was a wonderful way to spend the day!

(Though you can barely see us, we are sitting in the rocking chairs on the porch ... 
as comfortably as if we own the place!)

We wanted to go out to lunch one more time (a rare treat for moms!) so we chose a fun, southern place called Biscuit Love. The name itself made me laugh. Southerners love their biscuits!
This terrific sign was the focal point of the restaurant, so after lunch, we waited for two customers sitting in front of it to leave so we could take a photo with the sign.
The waitress noticed us trying to set up the shot and offered to take the photo so we could both be in it. Yay! I asked her if we could stand on the bench and she said "Yes! But don't get hurt!"
Just as we posed for the camera, the owner/manager walked out of the kitchen, looked at us like we were a touch odd, and then called out, "You better post that on Instagram!"
We laughed, thanked him for his kindness, and went on our way.

It seems every restaurant in the south bakes biscuits. Fluffy, tasty, finger-lickin' good biscuits!
Biscuit Love makes their own version - BONUTS.
Fried biscuits covered in sugar and sitting atop fresh blueberries.
We had to try them ... we just had to. And we were not disappointed!

Faithful friends are TREASURES!
And having Kelsi as a friend is like finding a pot of gold!

My dear friend made the mistake of telling me she was a cheerleader in junior high/high school, 
and then said, "Don't hold it against me!" HAHA!
I told her I wouldn't, and then said, "BUT - now we have to do a cheer pose!"
She hopped on my back while her daughters caught it on film while we all laughed hysterically.
A fun memory to be sure!

We returned home to the kids, changed our clothes, piled everyone into the car, and went for a long walk at the park. The weather was gorgeous, the park was lush and green, and we walked and talked until we got all of our steps in. 
The rest of the evening was spent with Jim (her husband) talking about church, Christianity, doctrine, and serving people. We left each other feeling challenged, encouraged, and refreshed. YES!
Tomorrow is our final day together ... and we will make the most of it!


Vacation Day 4 - Tennessee - Sightseeing and Lunch!

I made it to Tennessee!
My alarm sounded at 3:30 this morning, I dragged myself to the shuttle bus, joined my new friends in the Reagan Airport, and boarded the plane at 6:15.
Since almost everyone on the flight had been booted or re-routed from a previous flight, we were all asleep about twelve minutes after take-off. After only three hours of sleep, that nap was both wanted and welcome!

The plane landed in Nashville at 8:40 am, and within minutes I saw my friend's van loop through the arrival line while we waved at each other with vigor, watched her hop out of the van, and hugged her as tightly as possible. Eight years is a long time to wait for a hug!

Before we hit the interstate we had already covered three different topics of conversation and laughed multiple times. It is SO refreshing to spend time with Kelsi!

She took me straight to the middle of town where we walked to the Capitol and then meandered the streets until we came to Broadway - the tourist section of Nashville.
We walked up and down the street, popping into whichever stores struck our fancy (including a Boot Barn that actually had size 12 women's boots!), and laughed at the crazy names of some of the shops. The Honky Tonk Central made me laugh the most, so she told me to take a photo with the sign.
We kept walking and talking and tried doing a John Crist impersonation - coming up with a Bible verse to respond to the name of each shop. We were laughing hysterically by the time we finished - the perfect way to begin or three days together!
(We attempted a selfie but failed dramatically. We will try again tomorrow!)

Kelsi decided we should go out to lunch since we had the rare privilege of being sans children for the afternoon, so we headed to the restaurant that everyone in the south is familiar with - 
The Cracker Barrel!
Though I am on a strict food allergy diet and have been vigilant about exercising and eating on this trip, when my friend said, "You HAVE to eat something southern! Nothing healthy, just comfort food!" - I obeyed. When in Rome, right? <huge grin>
 I knew I would pay for it later, but I didn't care. I ordered the homemade mac-n-cheese, complete with chicken, ham, bacon and a crusty baked top. DElicious!
And the biscuit? I was comforted by the first bite.

We spent the afternoon rocking on her backyard porch like two old women, talking and watching her children play, and then enjoyed dinner, conversation, and a lot more laughter for the rest of the evening before turning in for a night of much-needed sleep.

There is much more of Tennessee to explore, and a rainstorm is expected on Wednesday. Woohoo!
Let the adventure begin!


Not planned - but still okay.

When your 10 p.m. flight in Washington D.C. is canceled, you have two choices:
1. Complain and get angry.
2. Choose to find the GOOD wrapped up in the disappointment.

I had less than three minutes to make my decision, so when I walked up to the United Help Desk, I looked at the man and said, “I’m not mad, but I might cry. Will you please tell me what to do?”
He smiled, and in a very gentle voice replied, “I will take care of everything, ma’am.”
If I was allowed to hug him, it would have been a BEAR hug!

The upside of the canceled flight?
• I added 3,000 steps to my daily total after walking all over the airport looking for the taxi sent to retrieve me. Yay!
• I spent an hour with five jolly people who were also booted from our flight, including a man from Scotland who was impressed with my knowledge of Scottish culture thanks to the DeCourcy family!
• The airline put us up in a fancy hotel - my room is on the 11th floor - and I can see the Pentagon!
• Though our drive was in the dark of night, I saw the Lincoln and Washington Monument!
Another first on this trip!
• The airline put me on the first flight out, so I will be in Tennessee at 8:10 am. Woohoo!
• I get to sleep in a giant, comfy king sized bed instead of an airport chair.
Life is good!

Vacation Day 3 - North Carolina - Snake, Museum, Lunch, and Trees!

Even though we had already talked non-stop for 48 hours, Jenny and I stayed awake talking until 4 a.m. this morning! After not seeing each other for nine years, and not being able to talk often due to our schedules and the three-hour time difference, we had a lot of ground to cover. Though we crawled into our personal, comfy queen-sized beds well before midnight, once we relaxed in the quiet darkness we remembered all of the topics we had not covered, and let the words fly! At least three times we said, "We need to go to sleep!" but it didn't happen. And I am glad!

Regardless of our exhaustion, we forced ourselves out of bed so we could go for a morning walk around a beautiful lake outside of our hotel. It was a gorgeous morning - bright, sunny, blue skies with warm weather - and we thoroughly enjoyed the exercise.
And, I experienced something NEW!
I saw my first live snake in its natural habitat. (I do NOT like snakes. I appreciate them because God created them, but I have no desire to hang out with the scaly serpents.)
I happened to look down and thought I saw a large worm. Until it started slithering. 
I hopped out of the way and squeaked (not a full scream), "Snake!"
Jenny looked over and calmly replied, "It's little."
"Um, it's a SNAKE! Size matters not!" (I can't prove it, but I think she rolled her eyes at me.)
When we turned around to walk back to the hotel, we spotted two women ahead of us who were screaming and jumping around - over the same snake.
I looked at them and said, "I know!" One of the women looked at me and said, "I didn't care until it reared its head at me and I saw that it is a baby copperhead!"
I looked at Jenny and declared, "See! THAT is a normal response to a snake!"
We continued on our way and about 100 feet later she said, "I probably should have killed it."
"How would you have done THAT?"
"Stepped on its head and squashed it."
My only response was to stare at her - like she was inSANE.

We returned to the hotel, spent a leisurely two hours getting ready for the day, and as we lugged our gear to the car, thunderclouds rolled overhead and it started to RAIN! I was in seventh heaven. Rain is my favorite part of creation, and it was a thrill to end my time in North Carolina watching the droplets fall from the sky.

We spent a couple hours at a museum enjoying unique exhibits, including all of the famous people/inventions/athletes who are North Carolina natives. My favorite was the Wright Brothers exhibit, including replicas of their original planes. Such fun!

We wanted to go somewhere unique for lunch, so we chose this place!
I laughed when I started to read the menu and said, "Now I KNOW I am not in California!"
Some of my favorites:
Shoo Mercy Sweet Potato Cakes
Low Country Blackened Catfish
Country Style Gumbo YA-YA
Pimento & Fried Pickle Burger

The atmosphere was fun, the food was terrific, and the service friendly.
If you ever get a chance - pop in!

This TREE!
They dot the countryside and I was mesmerized by them my entire trip.
Just as we were about to make our way onto the interstate, I spotted this gorgeous one and cried out, "The tree! STOP!"
Jenny is a kind and gracious woman. She pulled over, parked the car, let me look at it close up and then took a photo of me surrounded by the blooms so I could always remember their beauty. 
(Thank you, Jen!)

My beloved grandmother LOVED trees and spent her entire life taking photos of them, with them, and in all the different seasons. When I was young I thought it was strange - who could love a tree?!? But as I grew I began to share her appreciation for the grandeur and majesty of these wonderful pieces of God's creation. I fully understand her now!


Now, as I sit in the airport waiting to board a plane bound for Tennessee, I think about our last days together and all that we shared with each other, and praise God for the gift of Jenny. What a blessing to be gifted with a friendship that has been cherished and enjoyed these past 28 years.
♥I love you, Jen!♥