31 July 2012

birth days

our favorite bookstore Sundog
our fourth child was born on the Mister's birthday {he was never a big fan of his own birthday so this makes it super sweet}.
this year we celebrate a big boy birthday for both my men. one is no longer able to show his age using one hand. another is no longer a 30 something. i am grateful.
happiest of birthdays, husband and son. may you both know how very much you are loved. 
xo, gf

30 July 2012

image bearers

mir·a·cle [mir-uh-kuhl]  
an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.
such an effect or event manifesting or considered as a work of God.
a wonder; marvel.
a wonderful or surpassing example of some quality: a miracle of modern acoustics.
i met my friend ruth when she and her husband eric joined our neighborhood group. they were newlyweds. a year later they were parents. 

ruth is the kind of woman who is generous with her time and gracious with her expectations. i will never forget when she offered to come care for my 4 boys when the Mister was already living in maryland and while i was trying to pack our family and find renters for our cottage on porter road. she came to serve me while she was a mother to a toddler and pregnant with her second child. her husband traveled for work which often left her alone to care for herself and her toddler. and yet she extended her hand to the poor {and in my case, the poor in spirit}. she has always been a beautiful example of goodness to me. even when we planted a garden together in my backyard, it was ruth who patiently came to help weed and water the tender shoots. 

about 17 weeks ago, i learned that ruth and eric were expecting their 3rd child, a child who the doctors identified as "incompatible with life". my friend ariana called to give me the news. she forwarded the many emails that were written by eric, ruth's husband. the eloquence of his authenicity were some of the most beautiful and heart wrenching words i have ever read. here is an excerpt from when they first found out about their baby:
We know that we are in for a long race: one that we are ill prepared for. Baby girl’s body will continue to grow, as will Ruth’s. She will continue to kick and move about. There will be signs of life that will occur, all the while we will be preparing to deliver her and say goodbye to her at the same time. The reality of this is going to be tough for Ruth as it continues to unfold. The last 24 hours have already shown us moments that we feel fine, and moments that seem as though the world has stopped turning. We don’t feel as though we have a choice in the matter, though.
and then a few days later, he wrote:
It’s been an amazing few days, filled with moments of deep sorrow and moments where we are so amazed at the privilege to be a part of all that God is doing.
and then there was this:
People all over the world get the same type of devastating news every day, so it’s not as if we are unique or special. The amazing part is that God chose two of the most normal, unimpressive people that we know of and has given us the privilege of partnering with him in unfolding a story about a baby girl with only half of a brain and no nose, and a God who numbers days, makes people out of dirt, and rides in to town on a donkey, unlike any other king has ever done. He has used us to display himself. He has pulled us in close, because he knows that if he doesn’t, we will rebel and fall off the deep end. We have peace that passes all understanding, even while in the midst of something that should otherwise crush us. It’s not as if we’ve already gone through the fire and are able to look back at how he sustained us. We are in it, and he is good.
"who do the people say i am?" asked jesus in mark8. 
My last correspondence was filled with a lot of hope and peace, but I think it was based on some preconceived notion of a certain miracle. I didn’t think about it at the time, but we had spent the last two or three weeks conjuring up images of ourselves, 3 years from now, caring for a severely disabled little girl. I think being away from medical professionals for a few weeks afforded us the opportunity to dream things that weren’t reality. Honestly, I believed very deeply that this was going to be the appointment where we found out that she was completely healthy. I don’t know where that hope came from, but it made our day of appointments that much more difficult.
"he chose the weak to humble the proud": 
In my head, I had assumed that Pearl’s life was going to be one of those scenarios where God uses the foolish and weak of the world to shame the wise, but that was not the case. One day, Pearl will transition out of this world and into the presence of the Christ whom she never had the chance to reject. As parents, our most simple hope is that our children will grow to lean on Christ, and they will know what it means to be loved by God. Pearl doesn’t have that choice, and in a way that is a gift. Her brain will probably never develop to the point where rejecting him will be an option for her. The first time she ever hears his name will probably be a face-to-face encounter, and she doesn’t have to wrestle through some 21st century, westernized caricature of Christ that so many of us see through a dirty glass.Yes, yes, and yes, but Pearl bears the image of the same God that Brennan and Abbey do. We do not need to hide image bearers from other image bearers. God knit Pearl together in Ruth’s womb exactly as he saw fit. He didn’t make a mistake. Things didn’t go wrong. He brought her form into being with the same intentionality that he has created everyone. So, what’s there to hide from? Again, in times of suffering, we pick up the tab for others. We push through the hard times, and we comfort those that are suffering. We weep with those that are weeping. We don’t just acknowledge that they are weeping.

and then something amazing happened. i would word use the word miraculous. pearl joy was born 3 weeks early. she was born weighing 4 pounds. she was born fighting for her life. she was born without a normal looking nose. she was born with a cleft lip. but she was born alive. and today my friend ruth and her husband eric are taking their baby who was once diagnosed as "incompatible with life", home. to live out her days. as long as the Lord sees fit.

pearl is a miracle. the doctors  did their due diligence when they suggested ruth induce labor at 20 weeks to end the inevitable. they were not cruel or insensitive, but just looking out for what they thought would "first do no harm". thankfully ruth and eric decided to follow what they knew was best for their child. and today she lives. pearl lives!

may we walk in the truth that we are all image bearers. image bearers of the creator. image bearers to remind one another that like pearl, HE LIVES! that is magnificent. that is miraculous. 

to read the entire journey, go here.

25 July 2012

car trouble

{girl friday, here. it was a slow day today. well, actually that is quite the opposite. it was a heck of a hectic day which is why i am cutting this post short and sweet. the brood of boys that are in my care spent their morning and afternoon learning latin declensions and writing poignant papers with their homeschool homies {go, alliteration} as we parents sat in our teacher training for the day {and by day i meant from 9-4}. excuse me while i collapse. we get to go back 2 more days. those latin sentences were killer, but i have never been more convinced that do-it-yourself-schooling is the trajectory for our family.}
if you were going to drive 2560 miles over the course of 2 weeks with 4 kids what would you expect to see in the back seat? kids who compete over who can balance a water bottle on his head longer? i didn't see that coming. kids who notice the subtle images in the dazzling clouds? it was majestic. kids who get out of their seat belts in order to wrestle with their littlest brother? well...all i could keep thinking was, "they didn't have seat belts when i was little and look how well i turned out." 

with their muscles pumping and their snack bags flowing, we kept ourselves amused with books on cd {the secret garden: summer reading+car time=multitasking}. the Mister finished reading aloud the Two Towers, so we were able to view a flick in the car as well. i love listening to a good movie {i drove 96.2 percent of the entire trip}. and there was that wonderful stroll down 70's music row in which i knew all the lyrics to a styx song. blank stares.
i still can't believe we drove all around the south east, visiting 8 states, stopping in on 4 families, managing to sandwich in a family vacation and made it back to maryland without a speeding ticket, any car trouble, no bloodshed {of the scuffle variety}, no problems with directions, little arguing {mostly between me and my Mister-did i mention i drove most of the way? yeah, there's a reason for that.}

gf who prefers to be behind the wheel 

24 July 2012

family feud

superbilly knighting cousin brian
i had a few more things to add to last week's post about our family reunion. there is so much to include when writing about such an extraordinary family. one of the most fabulous aspects to this family is how they quarrel. case in point, we were sitting around having a cousin club meeting pontificating on t-shirt designs and whether we should fly in the panoramic photographer from alaska like we did for the 40th year reunion when someone asked about cousin liz. "hey, charlie. where's beau {liz's husband}?" "o, he and liz are no longer married, but beau's still family. we'll get him to teach the kids to sign the star spangled banner."
and scene. 

here are a few of the photographs from the second reel of family reunion pics
harry not certain he's happy to see us.
o, wait he hasn't slept in 3 days.

thomas' cotton candy smile

betty, who is 82, riding the 300 ft zipline 

our fearless leader,
cousin club president t.sue

he missed his bubby
my aunt came for the first time

cousin chip made it a business trip
this was my mom's first year to come.
she's already planning to come next year!

gf {who is not currently feuding with anyone}

23 July 2012

picture perfect

forget the nikon, we shoot on an iphone
introducing the cousins to
napolean dynamite
while on vacation at the beach we watched every night {and morning and afternoon} as sweet families all dressed in matching colors {usually white}, hiked up the dunes with their pricey photographer to have their group photographs taken probably for their christmas cards. the mister and i sat on our back porch that over looked the backdrop to their picturesque background giggling at the prospect of cat-calling the kiddies whose parents had cajoled and begged {and some jumped up and down like fools} for that one perfect picture. add in several extended family members and well, "good luck, photog". 
giving his brother the finger{s}

one night we were out by the water when a precious family approached us and asked if i would snap a few shots of their family. the grandmother apologized, "we are in no way color coordinated." i replied, "you look more natural. who normally dresses alike in real life?" i snapped a few photographs of all 7 of them with an adorable wiggly baby who no one expected to stop to pose or smile, who was being held not by her father, but her uncle. the baby laughed, and i clicked off several still shots. real life shots of this real life family who came to the shore for an amazing sunset. and the result was a lovely rendering of their real life family.
blurry waving boy:he saw someone peeking out her window
i love a good snapshot {much to the amusement of 3 of my children and the curse of one}. it is a way of chronicling life which happens in a blur. photographs allow me to relive a moment. 
harry needs his own iphone app
i was once a mother who dressed her baby in white linen and expected perfection. but then something in me changed, and i realized that the imperfection is perfect. 
here are a few out takes from our {im}perfect family vacation. i hope you enjoy. xo gf
cousin jack mid dance move

dead red fish

don't eat tacos on a first date, son

20 July 2012

delightful detours: part 4

{this concludes my 4 part share of our BIG FAT SOUTHERN ADVENTURE. i sure hope it was worth your read. look for outtakes next week.}

we have been meaning to see a few of our favorite people in the world. meaning to, for like 3 years! we moved. they moved. and the miles seemed to stretch between us. even though we keep up through email, text and the ocasional phone chat, there is nothing like that face to face, neck hugging that you get when you make a visit- a real visit.
this past week we were en route to places around the south and had a few extra days to drive a little out of the way to see some of the people who we have known forever!
the carmichaels were in our wedding. we were in theirs. i introduced mr. speece to mrs. speece. and the wards are our wily epps cousins that i told you about here. we have been dying to get a glimpse of their amazing farm {and i do not use the word amazing lightly}.

so here's how it went down...

stop one: the carmichael manse

yeah, you counted right. that's 9 boys!
the mess hall, literally
who'd thought these two young girls would be mothers to 9 boys {and counting!!!}

stop 2: the speece school
headmistress melinda took us to pick figs

Stop 3: an undisclosed location in the mountains of north carolina

george holding "sunday dinner". yeah. 
you heard me.

our visits were sweet and short. too short. i hope we find ourselves in rural alabama and the gorgeous north carolina mountains sooner rather than later. thanks, sweet friends and cousins for your gracious hospitality. you made that long drive bearable. 
xo gf

19 July 2012

same time next year: an open letter to my father part 3

dear daddy,
thank you for sharing your place at the beach with us last week. we had such a fun time. the boys swam from sunrise to sundown, and they have the little brown bodies to prove it despite my best effort to keep them drenched in spf 50. i wish you could see the callouses on their hands from hanging from the rope swing. they would run over to show me the blisters and then run back to go at it again. 

the ocean was clear and beautiful. the temps never went above the high 80's. it was really a remarkable thing. how could it be cooler on the panhandle than in maryland? a gift for sure. 

we found the sand pails and used them to build grand castles. the boys' masks came in handy as they looked for fish and shells. we found many of both. i sat in my shaded chair with a book {wow!} in hand and gazed out to see my little boy-fish, head down in the water for hours. the simplest of delights. 

one day george took the boogie board you left and coasted out to get a better view of some fins he saw. the delight of the ebb tide distracted us until we looked up to see he had drifted way {WAY!!!} out from us. fortunately, he has your genes and was ecstatic to have such a great view of the dolphins {whew!}. who needs a dolphin cruise when you have a styrofoam board and an adventurous spirit {note to self: must teach caution in school next year}?

i read an entire book-that's a feat!

guess who's great? our grandpapa that's who!

we walked down to the pier. wow. let's just say, those fishermen {and women} are intense. they take their hobby{?} seriously. the boys learned a few new curse words that day. and when that lady and, ahem gentleman nearly got into a fist fight, well, that was just a little unnerving. all over a really big fish too.

we ate some amazing seafood. i cheated on maryland crab cakes with those from the gulf. i must say, i like maryland's better. o, i am so shrimped out. i cannot tell you. 

we missed our usual haunts, so we drove down to say hello to Sundog, the Modicas and the open air market Perspicacity. we had the best chips and salsa and margaritas at the taco stand {remember, we had had too much seafood!}. don't worry. your son-in-law drove me home. speaking of your amazing son-in-law, he took me to la vie est belle
to pick out my anniversary gift. what a guy!
our trip to the beach was splendid. thanks, daddy! i am just like you {when it comes to loving the water}. so why don't you build your grandsons a house on the water? and would you kindly pencil us in for the same time next year? 
xo yourfavoritedaughter gf