Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sunday Reflections (15) -

I found this song just this month, and I've been playing it over and over and over. When I find something that resounds so deeply in my heart, I keep reminding myself of it, because I know the Holy Spirit is using it to change my heart, or remind me of something I need.

And I could not need anything more than knowing in the deepest part of me that IT IS TRUE. There is so much wonderment at Christmas. Did He really come to Earth for us? Could He really love us so incredibly? Is it really true that because the Son of God came that night, we are forever heirs and children? What a truth! What a promise! God came down to save us, His broken, desperate, longing Israel, His beloved children. He came to be with us, Immanuel.

Take a listen. I know you will love it. And probably put it on repeat too. Know it is true, beloved. Know it with every breath you breath and in the core of your life. He came. He redeemed and forgave us. He loves us. He reigns forever. It is true. 

"And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus,
 for He will save His people from their sins." So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us." 
~ Matthew 1:21-23 ~

"In your heart you know it's true, though you hold no expectation. 
In the deepest part of you there's an open hesitation. 

But it's true! Kingdoms and Crowns, a God Who came down to find you. 
It's true! Angels on high sing through the night alleluia! 

You heard it told, you think it's odd. The whole thing fraught with complication. 
The play begins with the baby God, and all His blessed implications. 

But it's true! Kingdoms and Crowns, a God Who came down to find you. 
It's true! Angels on high sing through the night alleluia! 

Alleluia, Alleluia. 

But it's true! Kingdoms and Crowns, the God Who came down to find you. 
Oh it's true! Angels on high sing through the night alleluia!

In your heart you hope it's true. 
In the deepest part of you. 
It's true! It's true!"

~ by Sara Groves (featuring Toby Groves) ~ 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

By the Fire -

It was 44 degrees this morning, which is cold for us, so Momma put a log in the fireplace. About a half hour later, we looked in the living room, and Lucy Mae had dragged in her bed to lay in front of the fire. Typical Dachshund. haha. :) She sure enjoyed that after going outside and shivering!

By the Fire. 

Watching Momma eat something.

"Guess I'm not getting any...."

Cuddly, warm, snuggly little puppy. 

Love this one. She brings her paws up to her mouth like an otter. It's so adorable. 

"Ahhhh. Heat all over meee." This is how she lays on her back. With her coon draped over her belly. hahah. She got 3 squeaky woodland creatures for Christmas, and all we hear out of her these days is squeaking. It's pretty cute. She's a happy little doggie.

I couldn't decide if I liked it better in Color or B&W, so I did both. :)

I sang her part of the Davy Crockett song, and then it got stuck in my head. Oh my.

We are really enjoying Christmas vacation together as a family. Daddy has some time off, and we have breaks from school, and are just enjoying getting up in the morning and relaxing. :)

Of course I woke up this morning and couldn't go back to sleep because Becs and I are going to see Les Miserables in the theater today, and I was sooooo excited that sleep wouldn't come. haha. So I got up and watched some of the scenes from the 10th anniversary (which is my standard) and I got chills like I always do. Now that Darby, Molly and Shelby have seen it and they have all loved it, then that is alllllll I need. I'm stoked. And don't worry. I'm taking enough Kleenex to fortify us. hahaha.

Have a wonderful Thursday!
With love,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas 2012! -

Our family Christmas photo - 
Merry Christmas from the Fambrough Family!! Ed, Mary Ellen, Kimberly, Jean Marie & Lucy Mae. 

Christ came ... 
"Through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us;
to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace." ~ Luke 1:78-79

"The Son of God Came Down" 
"The Son of God came down and laid aside His crown, 
born without great renown, this Sovereign One.
All holiness and might, all glory shining bright 
have come to earth this night in Mary's son. 
O come, let us adore! 

Chorus - 
O Christ the Lord, our Hope and Savior
Son of God yet made like us.
O Christ the Lord, our King adored,
born a child, our Lord Jesus. 

Messiah born so small, asleep in cattle stall.
Come to redeem our fall, nailed to a tree.
This tiny helpless child through death would reconcile
the Holy God and vile, His grace so free. 
O come, let us adore!

Chorus - 
O Christ the Lord, our Hope and Savior
Son of God yet made like us.
O Christ the Lord, our King adored,
born a child, our Lord Jesus."

Words and music by Doug Plank
 2004 Sovereign Grace Worship

Monday, December 24, 2012

To Those Who Mourn -

Hello dear ones. 

I hope that this Eve of Christmas Day finds you with joyful hearts that beat with gratefulness and worship and awe as we celebrate the coming of Emmanuel, God with us. 

For many of us, this year has held unprecedented sorrow. Heartbreaking, shocking loss. It has been so hard, and as I have walked with you, and as you have walked with me, we have blessed each other. 

And even though all the hugs in the world can't give you back your beloved ones, know I'm sending a really big one your way. :) Let those tears fall, and let God draw near to comfort you as you miss those you love. Let yourself SEE into that dark manger scene, the trembling, holy night when the God of all comfort was born as a wee babe to redeem His people from their sins and give LIFE. 

Allow yourself moments to both grieve and rejoice - for they walk hand in hand in the Redeemed heart!!

And here are two little gifts from me to you, to you who mourn this Christmas.

This article by Albert Mohler just blew me away this morning. It is so powerful.
"And Them That Mourn": Celebrating Christmas in the Face of Grief and Death."

and a very special song written just for you by Steven Curtis Chapman. He says that he was wishing he could send each and every one of you (of us!) a Christmas card for those of us who mourn at Christmastime. He talks about it here: Behind the Song "Christmas Card" So you can watch that if you want to hear his heart behind this song. Knowing he sings this from a heart longing for Heaven, and joy in the Savior just makes it go straight to where it hurts the most in my heart.

Here is the lyric video they made for it. "Christmas Card" by SCC. (yes, lonely is spelled wrong)

So that is also my Christmas Card to you as well. That even though it still feels that we are in the valley of death, that we wait here in the Shadowlands ... the Light of Lights came and shone bright in the darkness of our grief, and He still comes, and He still speaks, and He still abides, and He still reigns. 

Glory, all glory be to Emmanuel! 
With many prayers and much love to every broken, grieving heart .... 
may Christmas resound more true and bright and joyful and magnificent than it ever has before, 
knowing that He came to overcome the grave, and save us forever to live with Him! 
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sunday Reflections (14) -

We sang this hymn this morning, and I remembered singing it at St.Andrews with the choirs resounding with many voices and the organ and brass and oh, how it took my breath away!! Here is a much simpler version by Red Mountain music that I like as well.

May we too be silent in awe, and bow in worship before the Light of Lights,
Who came from the realms of endless day, so that we too might live in the realms of endless day.
 Oh, what love He has for us! 

Merry Eve of Christmas Eve!!
With much love,
~ Jean Marie ~

Saturday, December 22, 2012

6 Christmas Houses -

Every year there are six Christmas Houses that live in porcelain beauty atop our fireplace mantle. They are Mother's beautiful and prized houses, and they are surrounded by "snow" and evergreens.

Here they are in order:

There is the cheery Pulbrook Inn (that I've always imagined is near the sea). You can imagine the cold stone and the cheery, huge fireplace inside, and the porch for dancing out under the stars.

The Lands End Boat House ... whose lights turned on and off for years until we replaced the bulb, and where everyone goes in the summer to take out canoes and little skiffs to go boating. It's where the Inn gets their lanterns for those stormy nights sometimes by the sea, and where sometimes they have some seafood to sell to the town. Sometimes the courting couples take a little rowboat out, and have picnics on the island just a little bit away and the ladies lay out quilts and sit with their parasols, and the men enjoy skipping stones, fishing for awhile and talking about baseball.

The Harness Making Shop houses 2 very happy Amish people in their wagon. I'm sure they go visiting at the Inn for a lovely dinner and go visiting around the town all the time. It's here where the door is always open to whoever needs some leather shined up, or horseshoes made, or bells for bobtails.

Then there is Lloyd's Chemist Shop, with it's bright beaming windows and all sorts of cheery teas and peppermint sticks and lemon drops and things to make you feel better inside, I'm sure. It stands on the quiet side of the street, with its beautiful wreaths on its double doors and a large chimney reaching up.

There is the Dairy Barn, which houses the cows from the cold, and probably a barn dance or two when the night is just right, and the happy Amish people are visiting and the Inn brings some pies to share.

And the Lovely House that hosts the barn dances and the Christmas parties with eggnog and schnapps, and where Judy Garland sings Christmas carols on the vinyl gramophone, and the Inn brings cheese balls to and fancy mustards and crackers and that spicy salami that everyone loves.

It's there that people drop in and stay awhile on the porch, where the light spills out onto the snowy street and loved ones dance together to their favorite songs, and inside the Grandmas cuddle the little ones, and pass around the babies to hold.

 It's there that the kids all play dress up in the upstairs and sneak cookies and punch and drop crumbs all over Auntie Agathie's carpets, but never fear because she's never scolded them ever before.

It's there that Christmas carols are sung when the night is winding down, and you can hear it all the way down to Lloyd's Chemist Shop, the sweet, lingering strands of timeless hymns, and the quiet piano playing along.

It's there that the horse carriages slow when they go by, because the cheery sounds of laughter and the homey smell of delightful wassail is filling the air, and you are pulled right into the crowd because everyone is family in this town.

After all, it is Christmastime. And everyone lives on the same street. In the same little town on the same strong Mantle.

Merry Christmas to all of you. :) Just three days until Christmas!!
With much love, and some fond Christmas dreaming!
~ Jean Marie ~

Thursday, December 20, 2012

5 days till Christmas! -

Hey y'all! 

I hope that today finds you well and healthy and enjoying the month of December. haha. I'm saying that because I've just recently (within the past 3 days), been recovering from a nasty winter cold, and am very much enjoying breathing again.

I liked writing this post so much that I decided to do a December re-cap with photos. Minus the Christmas Tree Saga and also the Christmas Photo Taking Debacle. But here is the rest of the month, almost. ;) Oh and also the epic Christmas Card Envelope Addressing Convention which looked like Santa's Elves took all the cards to Santa to our living room and dumped them on a table instead of Santa's workshop. If I find one marked "Santa, I was great this year.", I'll be sure to send it on to the North Pole.

In other news....did you know there is no president of Antarctica? Just little camps of explorers and little flags with their camps so no one gets lost in their little camp country. Oh, the things that come up in conversations are just .... irrelevantly wonderful. Right, Adie? Right?!!

Dec. 1st - as you know, my Christmas piano recital. Becs came, and we got a photo. :)

My bestie's oldest daughter (Miss M., who is 11) crocheted Lucy Mae a doggie sweater because she heard that she was cold. My bestie's daughters are AMAZING. They crochet things without patterns. Me? Not so much. Here's a photo of Lucy Mae trying not to look guilty after I scolded her for chewing on the bow that ties the neckline. hahahaha. Typical Dachshund.

Dec. 13 was the Ligonier Christmas Party, that our family has gone to for....years. 2 years ago, I met Darby and choked on a lot of food, and almost fell over from laughing so hysterically hard. Those memories are still so fresh in my mind. hahah. Let's just say it was my favorite Ligonier Christmas ever.

But this one was lovely too. :) I took several pages of notes of the sermon by R.C. Sr., and was just so blessed to be there. And as you can see, I couldn't help snapping more than one photo of the amazing Poinsetta Tree.

So brilliant and so vibrant.

Delaney....who I pretty much never get a picture of standing still. 

Yes. It is extremely tall. haha. Isn't it so lovely? 

Amanda S. and Kirsten Z. I finally got a picture of them on here - yay!! 

Delaney took one of me....I've lost my bobby pins, so my hair gets tied in a knot, and that's it. 

Hahaha. We finally match! Redheads for the win! She's so downright stinkin' wonderful. 

Me & Darbs. 

Dec. 16 was St. Andrew's Choirs and Sinfonia's Christmas Concert: Joyeux Noel. It was a Sunday, and I had been going all day long from one thing to the next, but after getting begged to go on Thursday, and hearing Lauren was going, I wanted to go. haha. So I went, and I'm so glad that I did. It was amazing.

This was the view of the sun over the wetlands. I was almost in tears. A few days before the anniversary of Mrs. Sproul going to Heaven, and the sun was spilling gold over the wetlands that held the flowers that were blooming profusely when Shannon went to be in Heaven. It's things like this that remind me that God really is here, dwelling with us, showing us that He is faithful to give mercies.

One of my dearest friends - Lauren. Love her.

And Joseph, looking extremely like Dapper Dan. 

The concert was about 2 hours long, and worth every second of it. They sang French carols and selections from Camille Saint Saens' "Oratorio de Noel", and it was just glorious. Lauren has some audio recordings of it, but I don't. You will just have to come next time to hear. :) My favorite was the choirs (and congregation joining in) singing "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel", which is my favorite Christmas hymn (and yes, I ended up crying), and "Un Flambeau, Jeanette Isabelle" sung by a lovely lady, Mimi Acosta. It was amazing. Did I already say that? There is nothing like a swelling organ, orchestra, and beautiful harmonies by a huge choir. Thank you, Arts of Saint Andrews for a lovely night!!

I'm sure where you live it is cold and snowy or sleeting and freezing, but here? Here in Florida it is 75 degrees during the day, with a lovely evening temperature of 65. However, I just looked at the weather for tomorrow, and it is supposed to drop to 60 during the day with a night temp of 35. That is living on the coast weather, y'all. hahahah.

Dec. 19 - So yesterday Becs and I took advantage of our college Christmas breaks and went trail walking at a park (aka: trails through woods). We had a lot of fun, mostly making fun of me tripping on every root and vine because I was going first and because I was staring at everything. Oh, and I was also the spider-web-breaker. Next time ... she's goin' first. We saw a rabbit and a black racer and a whole flock of robins. We walked about 2 miles, and sometimes you look around, and all you see is forest, and you can't hear any noise. I just love that. :)

And we found this huge, huge old oak tree. This is the trunk, and Becs isn't even close to the side of it. haha. We couldn't believe how big it was!! We got pictures with it. :)

The trunk. It looked like a Living Tree from LOTR, with a bunch of bumps for thrones.

And then we took Spider pictures for EmilyBrower. Emily - never say I don't do anything for you. hahaha hahhaa. We made sure to go under this one's giant web!

I looked it up, it is a Golden Silk Orbweaver (Nephila clavipes).

You can't see the web....but all those dots are (previous lunches?) on the web. heh. 

Yep. You're welcome, EmilyBrower. This is for telling me the other night about the roach/shirt story.

I walked right past this little guy, but Becs spotted him! I hate the brown lizards that have invaded FL, but I love these guys! He is a Green Anole. I don't let Lucy Mae kill these. 

A Cassia blossom.

So that sums up my December! I can't believe it is 5 days until Christmas. It has zoomed by!! What are you most looking forward to this Christmas? I'm most looking forward to: time with family, celebrating Christ's birth, and now.... cold weather! YAY!

Remember now, don't be shy....say hello, from wherever you are!!
Always with love,
~ Jean Marie ~

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Remember them when you pray -

1 year ago today, I had just returned to our dear friends house in Colorado. I had changed out of my Sunday clothes into comfy winter clothes, and the dogs had come in out of the snow, and I sat down to check my e-mails. It was the Sunday after our dearest friends buried their daughter & sister, B, and Mama and I were there to weep and comfort and be with them, and to say goodbye to B. We had sung Christmas carols and tears had been in our eyes, and now we were home on a Sunday afternoon. 

And I opened my e-mail inbox, and there was an e-mail from Lauren. From the time when I saw the title to the time I scanned the first line, my mind screamed "NO!" over and over and over. All my breath left me. I felt so stunned and sick and shocked. I didn't even read it all. I shut it off. 

"No, Lord, no."

I stumbled into the kitchen with the blood draining from my face, and my Mom immediately thought the worst, and taking me in her arms she asked what it was. I told her, my voice breaking in a million places as my heart shattered in a million pieces for my friends. She held me close, as my brain scrambled to make sense and filter through anything that would help me cope. 

But all I could think was that I had my Mama and Darby and Delaney were missing theirs. Mrs. Sproul had gone to Heaven that morning. On a Sunday morning, with the dawning hours. 

"Please Lord, no."

I spent the day in shock that I was going from one funeral before Christmas to another, as soon as I flew home. Our friends all knew, and I think we all just felt like we didn't know how to do this life anymore. I ached for all the Sprouls had lost, and how much they ached right then. All I wanted to do was hug them and try to take the pain away. Of course I knew I couldn't, but that didn't stop me from wanting it.

That evening, I found this heart already made in the snow, and it's been a very special memory ever since, that God's love for us is so deep, and that He sees and is near us in our sorrows. 

Mom and I flew home late Monday night. Tuesday I got up and took clothes packed for one funeral out and washed them and put them on to go stand in line and say goodbye again. They still held all the sorrow and all the tears and all the grief from a few days before, and that Tuesday evening, more sorrow was added in. More tears upon that blouse and sweater as I held them in my arms and my hands shook as I touched their faces and wept along with them. 

This year has held a stunning amount of sorrow for me, and they have walked with me in it. They have blessed me immeasurably in it. They have comforted and been quiet, and let me remember and cry. 
They have walked with me in my grief, and I have walked with them in theirs, in the loss of Mrs. Sproul and Shannon. 

And I'm asking you, from wherever you are, in whatever griefs you have as well, that you walk with them this week in their grief. Please join me in praying for them today, the 18th, and this week and this Christmas. It is their 2nd Christmas without Mrs. Sproul, and their 1st without Shannon. 

Dear Sprouls, I say it all the time, because it's the only thing I can say - we miss her for you all. 
I love you all so, so much. 
~ Jean Marie ~

"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." ~ Psalm 147:3  

Saturday, December 15, 2012

For Newtown -

We've all been shaken. Unless you live where there isn't a radio or a television or internet, you've heard about the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut that happened yesterday morning. 

My immediate reaction was gut-wrenching and heart-sinking. Because they were children. Children. How can you take a gun and kill a child? I just don't understand how you can do that. 

We've seen the pictures, and we can't forget their shocked faces and the images of their tears.
 I can't imagine, and I don't know what to say, and I don't understand. 

We try to find reasons and explanations and there aren't any in the people that we talk to. So please, my friends, don't allow yourselves to point fingers and say "If they hadn't been in school, this would never have happened." or "Guns are the reason this happened.", because you aren't God, and you don't know, so don't make up reasons that hurt others and start wars. Do not allow yourself to judge what is not the reason. Do not allow yourselves to think like that because you hinder the compassion and comfort you could offer. Evil happened, and Evil used a 20 year old young man to kill children. 

"Let's not offer pat, easy answers to the grieving parents and communities in Connecticut. We don't fully understand the mystery of iniquity. We don't know why God didn't stop this from happening. But we do know what this act is: it's satanic, and we should say so. 

Let's grieve for the innocent. Let's demand justice for the guilty. And let's rage against the Reptile behind it all." 
~ Russel D. Moore. 

This quote from Dr. Moore had me astounded, because we look at that young man and we see a killer. But Satan is the killer, and Satan is the one who used that young man. We should be praying for that young man's family as much as the ones who have lost their babies. 

So please. I'm asking you to join me on this. Don't allow yourselves to judge. Just weep with those who weep. And pray that the God who has already suffered more than they have will bring them comfort that surpasses their pain. 

Pray for the families who have lost children and loved ones. Pray for the churches who will minister. And please also pray for the CT 1st responders that worked the scene and the families. It is the death of children that is hardest on them. Keep them in your prayers as well. 

In light of that, here are some wonderful articles to read, to help those grieving. I know they are a little long, but please read them all the way through, you will be blessed as I was. 

A few days before this, I heard a song that went straight to my heart, and my heart said "YES.", because it was where I've been living for the past year. For the past few years. It's a beautiful song called "Who You Are" by JJ Heller, and I want you to take a listen. She sings and her husband Dave plays the guitar and sings with her. She talks about writing the song, and the volume is a little low, so you will probably need to turn it up. It is so raw, and I can't help crying when I listen to it. 

After the shooting, she decided to release this preview earlier to bless those grieving. She has offered this and the preview to her album for FREE download here - JJ Heller.

To the families in Newtown - I'm so, so sorry for your loss. It is great. We are praying for you. I don't know what God is doing. But God loves you with a deep, unfathomable love and He is near to you. Reach out, because He is there.

"Yes, You know what it is like to lose a child." ~ JJ Heller. 

Lord Jesus, please come quickly.
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Friday, December 14, 2012

By the Poinsetta Tree -

By the Poinsetta tree last night at the Ligonier Christmas Party. With Darby & Delaney. Love them so much
2 years of being best friends with these girls has been hysterically glorious. 

Photo credit: Mrs. Stiemann with Delaney's camera. haha.

And tonight - Daddy and I are going to see The Hobbit!! Are you going? Or have you already gone?
We are so excited. Y'all have a wonderful weekend!!
With love,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12.12.12 & Other Stories -

This post is a collection of short stories out of my life this past week. Enjoy! 

So today I woke up blissfully unaware that today was the laaaast daaaaay of the century that would have the numbering exactly the same. Hence - 12.12.12. I was skeptical (of my brain working) that it was true, until Molly reminded me that the next one would be January 1, 3001. Or 2101. Which, she said, she doubted we would be here for. In which case, I was like "YES. HEAVEN.", because pretty much everything leads to Heaven in my head. haha. 

But then I began to feel sad that it was going to be over, like "Oh, that's sad! I'll miss it!!" and then I was like "What am I saying!? I won't miss it! Life goes on!" HAHahaha. So silly. ;) But then I figured I would have a little tribute on the blog and that would be enough. 

Today Momma and I were at Park Avenue in Winter Park Christmas shopping, and we went into the delicious smelling Williams Sonoma to look at things. We were wandering around together when their aprons packages caught my eye. Look at it here to know what I'm talking about. The aprons were in these cute matching bags, and I was looking at them, and I am thinking that the person in the red jacket to my right (slightly behind me) is my Mother. So I start saying, "Oh look! The aprons are in a package, and they re-did them! How pretty they...." and then I turn, and it is NOT my Mother; it is a lady in a red sweater and she's looking at me like "Either you are really friendly or this is awkward.", and then so I don't just trail off the conversation and look stupid, I just continue on talking: "..... are so pretty! How NICE.". I had the strongest urge to burst out laughing in the mostly quiet store, but I suppressed it. HAHAHAhahaha. I knew I had to run home and tell Delaney S, but then I thought it was good enough to share on here too. :) 

When we were driving home today through the rain and the sunshine (simultaneously, we live in the sub-tropics, y'all), Mom and I saw a gorgeous double rainbow. Because of where the sun was, we saw it for about 15 minutes, and could see the whole thing!!! It was amazing, and just stunning. And because I was recently reading a lot of Genesis for my college paper, I was reminded of why I loved rainbows so much. Because not only did God give the rainbow to us as a reminder that He would never again destroy the world with a flood, but it also says that HE shall remember. The God that never needs to be reminded of anything says that HE shall remember what He has promised to US. Wow, right? 

"The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth." ~ Genesis 9:16 

There is a lot I could say about college. But that's another post on it's own. ;) A secret. muwahhaha. Anyways - I finished the paper I was working hours. Yes, I did a research paper in 22 hours. From Friday to Sunday. It usually takes me 2 weeks. And then I collapsed in exhaustion (almost literally). That Sunday night I went to bed at 7. SEVEN O' Clock at night. I wrote it on God preserving His people through the ages, and I cried several times while writing it because every single verse or quote that I read was exactly what I needed to hear. It was so amazing! It was a sweet gift for me, and I love how it turned out. Also - it was 1900 words over the lowest limit. Hahahaahaha!! I can never ever  write near the low limit. And I just got the grade back: A- ! Considering I was going to be happy with a B, I'm happy with an A- . :D So now I'm on Christmas break!! YAY! I'm so excited about that.

We did Christmas cards this year!! After not being able to do them for one reason or another for the past 4 years, we finally did them this year, and I just couldn't be more ecstatic about it. :) We got them from Mpix, and they are gorgeous. I hyperventilated over the paper to print them on for an hour, until Lauren helped me out (Heart-saver, that girl is), and we decided together which one I wanted. They look amazing, and we all just think they are the bees knees. 

Y'all won't get to see the picture until nearer Christmas, but it is coming. :) I took the pictures of us with my remote & tripod one Sunday evening, and you would not think it would be so hard to get only 4 adults and 1 dog to look in the same direction and smile and look normal at the same time, but let me tell you, Susie ......... IT IS. It makes me laugh hysterically because everyone always says "Kids are so hard to get to focus!".... try adding in 1 dog and our family, apparently. We got home with 250 photos, and we had 5 that passed. Let's just say it's 1,000 times easier when I'm behind the camera. 

But we found one we all liked. And the rest are good for laughs.
And Lucy Mae looked adorable in her red harness. See? :) 

I spent 6 hours yesterday addressing envelopes and enjoyed (almost) every minute of it. But oh, my back was aching last night!! It was fun though, Mom and I did it together! And we aren't even done with them all yet. haha. 

We have a Christmas tree. We had another one, and we gave it to the yard trash men. Because they are nice. Ok, that's not why...but that makes us sound like saints, so I'm going with that one. Believe me. Our Christmas tree saga is a long, hysterical story. That will be accompanied by picture proof. Dad keeps saying he wouldn't even have believed it could be such a great story. Hahahaha. 

I have recently discovered that on short posts that I don't need to write about the photos, that I can just pop the pictures in afterwards, and it saves me some time! Haha. I'm probably the last person to realize that. 

And my dearest friend, Audra, has started a blog! You can see it on the sidebar - 
"My Sock Monkey Life".... if you go to the "Why Sock Monkeys?" section, you can read about why she started the blog, and follow along with her. I'm so excited she is writing about life so we can share in it! Love you, Audra! 

Simply because this is the other photo from the Christmas photoshoot that I can show you. haha. I was scouting for locations, and thought this looked lovely. I'm a sucker for boot photos. Seriously.

I love Pinterest. Pretty much all I use it for is laughter, recipes, and photography ideas. And creative ideas that I'm sure I will mess up, because Craft Queen I am not. There is this pin that has me laughing every single time I look at it. In fact, when I first found it, I laughed so hard I was crying, and I was hysterical when I showed it to my family. I had to explain how funny it was about 14 times to my Mom, and she still doesn't understand how funny it is. Whatever. I think it's great. And it consistently makes me laugh, so that's the best thing. See it here. You have to read it aloud to get the real kick out of it. HAhahahahahaa. *slaps knee* Look at the price tag at the top. HAHAHAHAHAA. I even just pull the line out in conversation and start laughing at myself.

On Friday night, Daddy and I are going with a huge crowd of people to an IMAX theater to see The Hobbit. I'm beyond excited. I've watched every production video multiple times, and sit there grinning like an idiot through all of them. hahaha. I'm just soooo excited about it, and so is Daddy!

And then Les Miserables comes out this month too!! I rarely go to the movies, but these two are just so high on my list, that I'm super stoked!! Every time I watch the trailer for Les Mis, I start crying. hahaha. 

Okay. That's probably enough for tonight. HAhaha. But this was fun! I love just writing down little, simple things, and it's fun to look back on as well. Hope you enjoyed stopping by! You know you can leave a comment about anything, right? I always love hearing from you, whoever you are, and wherever you are. :)

Have a wonderful rest of the week! 13 days until Christmas!
With love,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

I have this friend -

I have this one friend. You know. The kind that while you are supposed to be nonchalantly sitting in the background, quietly talking like a are instead choking on your food and turning red and trying to look like you aren't in 8th grade again. (Hypothetically, of course) And your friend isn't any help because she's the one making you choke in the first place. And while people start staring, you repeat together "Be quiet, be quiet - BE QUIET!", which just makes you laugh harder. 

We allllll have that friend. We aallllll need that friend. That friend that sees the same awkward thing at the exact same time as you, and your expressions match perfectly, and you try not to be obvious about it. The one that tells you inside jokes that shouldn't even be funny anymore, but they just are. 

The one that dies laughing because you just tripped and hurt yourself, and they can't help you because they are doubled over trying to breathe. The one that takes a picture before they help you up. The one that scares the living daylights out of you by randomly yelling "Jellyfish!" when you are halfway through a wave, and then you realize she threw seaweed at your head. 

The one that my Sunday school kids know about because of Converse and Longboarding. The one that balances on tree branches with you, and never complains about taking random photos. 

The one that sings at the top of her lungs with you in the car and doesn't even care that you can't sing as well as she can. The one that wants to go road-tripping with you. The one that sometimes repeats things that you just said because she was going to say it first. Or because it was so hilarious it needed to be said twice.

Life would be boring without that friend. Life would not be near as hysterical-laughter-inducing. 

But you know who I'm talking about. Because you are probably friends with her too. ;) It's Becs.  

You might know her as Becca, or Bobby Jo, as she is sometimes referred to on here. ;) But I pretty much always call her Becs. And holy cow, how cute is she? These pictures in this post are from last January, when we went to the Scottish Festival here in FL, on seriously - THE coldest day of the Winter of '11-'12. It was SO cold. But we had a blast. And we became archers in about 2 minutes. And we got up and Irish step-danced on a hill to some amazing Celtic artists. And I cried at the bagpipes.

Ok. So now you know where the photos are from. I just felt they needed some explanations. ;)

She's the one that I send hysterical and sometimes ridiculous prints off of Pinterest too, and we laugh so hard, because it makes sense to us, even though it probably shouldn't. She's the one that doesn't care what I look like without makeup, and she's the one that can pick up any instrument and play it better than I can. (yes, that is annoying) She's the one who sat down and sight-read out of my Christmas book while my Sunday school students sat and stared. YES. That friend.

She's the one you want to send funny things to, because you know her reaction will be the best. She is the one that makes you laugh when you shouldn't, and also when you don't even want to.

She's tall and graceful and she's the one that shows you up every. single. time. you try to dance. You are the one looking like a total white girl that doesn't have hips, and she's the one that you can tell she danced for 13 years. Mmmmhmm. 

She's the one that spontaneously breaks out into Southern Baptist "Well!"'s, and "Mmmhmm!"'s, and "Aaaaaamen!"'s, because of that one time last year that we all went to that extremely happy and extremely Southern Baptist church that loved to sing on forever, and preach it like happy African Americans love to do. So she's that one that breaks out those pretend accents with me whenever we want. And that also applies to every other accent we think we can do, but we actually can't. 

She's the one that laughs when she knows I'm *this* close to losing my temper, and reminds me we are alive

She's that one you send things to in the middle of the night when you can't sleep and you are bored, and the one who you instantly want to tell news to, because they have to know. That friend you want to weigh in, and even when you don't, they do anyway, because you probably need a little balancing out. 

That friend that gets high on sugar with only about 10 sips of an Icee. hahhahaha. That friend you LOVE to take pictures of, and then they don't make it on the blog, but your friend forgives you, because she knows you love her anyway. (hint, cough, grad pics, cough) She's the one that looks gorgeous, and if she looks anything but that, it's either because we are nerds, or because you are doing something wrong with your camera. And then occasionally you win out - and she shrieks with you. ;)

That friend that likes to just hang out and be with you, and go on long drives through the Florida landscapes with you. The one that is alwaaaaays up for going to the beach, and loves your best friends (and their babies). That one that calls you up to invite you to her family get-together just so you feel wanted and welcome. (sniff! so sweet!) She's that girl that you can talk about nothing for hours with, and yet feel like you conquered half the world's problems because you agree on it. Haha. 

She's hyper and crazy and ecstatic, and is over the moon about things that are important to you. 

She's the one who sings her heart out, and whether her voice holds out or not, her soul does. We don't go to church together, but we have community together, and our families are bonded together. That is what the gospel does, and we looooove the Foster family. :) They are so sweet to us. 

Finding our clans on the Scottish map, mine is Mackintosh, and hers is Macdonald. :) We decided that even though they may have been warring clans, we certainly weren't going to be. haha. 

She's the friend that tells you to follow your dreams, and get out there and do it. She's the friend that tells you you CAN do it, when you think you aren't qualified or good enough. She's the friend that my dog LOVES to see come over, because she knows she is in for some snuggles. And she's also the friend that I know won't get offended by something I say. Which is awesome, because we all know that chatty people have that problem. But it's not a problem with Becs, she'll either let me know, or dish it right back out. Now that is rare, y'all!

She's sweet, caring, funny, and super smart, oh, and she loves Math. I don't love Math. At all.

She's the one who loves things like paddle boarding, surfing, long boarding and insane fair rides while I go swimming where there are gators (oops), and kayaking and climbing tall trees. And we share stories and we laugh because we somehow managed to survive. All praise to God on that one!!

She's the one who loves to sing Adele with me, and Mumford and Sons and the Civil Wars.

She's the one that I talk about what to wear to places, and everything related to The Hobbit. haha. She's the friend that wants to learn swing dancing as much as you do, and loves oldies music. She's the one that starts snapping her fingers and humming along with you in the store, and you know if you both start singing, people will start staring. hahaha. Camaraderie is a great thing. ;)

aaaaand she's the friend that doesn't mind standing still for a sunglasses shot. ;) 

Honestly, it makes Becs sound like she's never serious, which isn't true, but it's just that we are almost always happy and enjoying our time together, which means we are usually laughing and joking. haha. But there are also things about Becs that don't get talked about as much, and I'm not sure I can make it through this next section without crying. Because it's the not happy stuff that means a lot too. 

She's the friend you write late at night when you've listened to too much Adele and you don't understand what God is doing in life. And she's the one that writes back and says she's sorry even though there's nothing she did wrong. She's the one that doesn't mind when you cry on her shoulder or when you get really emotional over nothing. 

She's the one who listens to the ranting and knows it is because I'm hurting. She's the one who never pushes me to "get over" my grief, and she's the one who lets me be sad when I need to. She shares in my hurt and she is there with me in my grief. And she's the one that said she missed me when I checked out of life for 3 months after Avery died. 

She's the one who says "mmhmm" when I'm crying in the car at her house because I hurt too much, and she's the one that I know won't care if I call her when I'm sad and need some cheering up. :) She is quiet and she listens, and often that is all I need in a friendship. She doesn't claim to know what I'm going through, and she always tells me she will be praying for me, for us. 

I could learn a lot from being like her. She is so supportive and also protective. And she is kickin' honest. She won't let you be torn down by something that isn't necessary, and she won't let you swim around in pity either. But she understands that grief is hard, and she walks it with me. 

(Yes, I am in tears by now) 

She's the one I write as soon as I can when I hear bad news, so they will be praying. She knows she doesn't have answers, and that I don't either, so she just listens and says she loves me. She probably doesn't even know how much those simple things mean - but they mean so much when life hurts. 

She is beautiful on the inside and the outside, and I've never felt unloved or unimportant when I'm around her. She might be 5 years my junior, but it doesn't seem that way. 

We are genuinely best friends. More like really close cousins!! We share a lot of life, and it makes it so much better, because most of the joy in a moment is sharing it and enjoying it with someone else! It is the giving of a friendship that makes the receiving such a gift.

I have given, but I think I have received more.

Becs isn't perfect, and neither am I. I'm sure sometimes we annoy the heck out of each other, but decide not to care, because it's not important. Love and honesty and laughter go a lonnnng way in friendship. :)

Becs - I'm sure these lists could go on for a lot longer. To sum it up .... Thank you. Thank you for all you have given to this relationship, and put up with when I talked more about me than I asked about you. I love being best friends with you. I have been SO blessed. God gave me JOY when He gave me you as a best friend!

Happy 19th birthday to one of the sweetest and most encouraging people I know.

I pray for you often, and ask God's blessings and mercies to pour upon you like the Florida sunshine we live under. May you know more fully this year than ever that He loves you with a never-ending love, and that when you open yourself up to that kind of love; it changes everything. I pray JOY upon your heart, and I pray the Lord's guidance and hand to be evident and tangible in your dreams and life.

And I pray for many more years of friendship with you. :) 
I love you, bestie. Happy birthday. 
Love and hugs,
~ Jean Marie ~

"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. 
For if they fall, one will lift up his companion."
 ~ Ecclesiastes 4:9-10a ~  

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Make Something Beautiful -

It's Thursday afternoon, and I sit staring at the music, and behind me she encourages me to think of cold weather and delightful Christmas things, her loving voice talking of skaters on ice, and I feel hot tears swell. 

"Don't cry. Be strong. You know this." my brain says. "You are already emotional today. Just play."

It was supposed to be a breeze. I've been practicing so hard for 2 weeks, working as hard as I could to get this piece ready to play December 1st at our church. I had been confident. It wasn't perfect, but it was good. 

But things were wrong. I had the timing wrong in one section, and without knowing it, it had thrown the entire page off balance, and once she showed me, I knew I was in huge trouble. I practiced it right then, and all that work went out of the window as now my OCD perfection took over, and I stared every note down, making sure the timing was right before I played it. But instead of getting the timing right, I wasn't paying attention to the notes, and in one fell sweep, the piece fell apart in my mind. 

And once it fell apart in my mind, there was no putting it back together in that living room on that gorgeous piano.
Because it was broken. 

And so was I. 

Before it had been a little choppy, a few missed notes here and there, but mostly something I could pull off, and even enjoy making it sound it's best on Saturday night. But now notes I knew blindfolded were coming undone, and my heightened sense of watching the timing was causing all joy to flow out as technicality took over. What had happened was making the piece completely unrecognizable. Transitions fell apart, notes jumbled and flats that I could hit right every single time went unnoticed, and ripples turned into strikes.
I stopped and stared it down. Whipped my hair up on my head. 

"Be angry. Do whatever. You can play this in your sleep. Get over this." my brain was relentless. 

Fine. So was I. I will play these last 3 pages and get it over with. All the mistakes will be gone then, right? I find a new starting place, and start to play, and I struggle not to let those tears fall. 

My brain again: "Don't cry. You know once you start, you won't quit. We don't have time for tears right now."

My hands are shaking with suppressed emotion, and everything I've hoped for the piece comes falling down.
 It's ruined, and I know it. 

She is sitting behind me, so she can't possibly see the tears. She talks lightly about falling snow, as I finger a run that I can play perfectly. There is no way she could have known....

Last December I had prayed the whole trip - Please let it snow. Please come and make all things new. Please let me SEE a tangible, beautiful sign that You will make this new and make this beautiful. 

and the memory stings. It didn't snow until after we'd left. It fell the next morning.  

Another smooth twirl of the keys comes out as slipped chords, faltering and disjointed. I discuss whether I can play it incorrectly and enjoy it, or play it correctly and probably wreck the entire thing. Of course, as a piano teacher, she wants me to enjoy it AND to play it correctly. Bundled together with a neat little bow like everyone but me can do.
"Make something beautiful..." the phrase drifts through my head, a phrase that I pray often in the broken places, in the desolate places where God has promised to make lovely someday. I pray it when I seek to SEE and understand what He wants from me in this moment. What He will say. What I can do.

But now I'm tired, and I say so. I don't want to play it anymore. I'm sick of it. She doesn't let me off the hook, because she believes I can do it. She encourages me to keep playing. And I know that I can't do this Saturday night. I can't stop at all...I never do. I just keep going. 

I remind myself to breathe and relax. But every chord I hear resounds with the past mistakes, tells me of the ones to come, reminds me I've been playing it wrong, doing it wrong. I've been believing I could do it, but I can't. 

No matter how hard I try, I can't heal. No matter how hard I try, I can't mend. No matter how much I play or how much I embroider or how much I take glowing pictures, it won't bring them back.

I didn't have as much time to prepare as I thought I would. We were in Ohio for the funeral and I was away from a piano for a little over a week. Plans changed in an instant, and the piece was set aside. Now sitting there, staring something down that posed really no threat at all, was the realization that in 5 pages of piano music was the reminder of all that I had lost in the past year. The realization that last year I came home from my Christmas recital, and Barbara had gone to Heaven. And that the Spring recital, I went home and realized how bad it was in TN, and the very next day, Avery went to Heaven. 

I told myself I'd never play a recital again. Ever. What was I doing??! 
My broken heart plays to the end of my torn, sad, broken piece, with a quiet little B at the end. I laugh it off as I try to wipe the tears before she gets over here. "At least I made all the mistakes now, so I don't make any on Saturday, right?" It's our joke, one we make every time. I tell her I'll see her Saturday, and I slip off to the bathroom. I look at my face in the mirror and remind myself to breathe

In just one hour, the numbness of months of pain had slipped off, and suddenly everything was wrong. Everything that started the minute I realized I would choose between playing well and playing how I wanted it. Every dream that broke as I stood on that little hill and said goodbye to a little boy I loved more than life. Every tear that fell as pictures came to a halt in the face of my hidden, heartbroken sobs amid the snowy ground. Every trembling hand reaching out to touch wood where her body lay but her 93 year old spirit was not. Every time I held a sobbing friend or saw sadness in their eyes, and realized I couldn't fix the wound left by their beloved one going to Heaven. Every sleepless night and overwhelming flashback and every time no one knew where I was weeping my heart out on Sundays. 

As I walked down the driveway, in light of all that had just gone on, I knew the real reason why I sat there and cried. It wasn't just the frustration over getting it wrong, or realizing that it was probably because I was broken that I broke my piece, or that it couldn't be perfect like I wanted, or even that I couldn't play it like I could play it at home. 

I cried because I could not make something beautiful. 

Only He. Only He makes it beautiful, love. In His own time, He makes it perfect and beautiful. 

I'm writing this on Thursday night, and there is among this brokenness, a hope that He will make something beautiful on Saturday night. That He will lift my heart and allow me to play like I hear it in my mind. It is my prayer. I need something beautiful. I need it. I need more of Him.

Friday night found me pounding my heart out for 2 hours at the church, finally getting the piece back to where it was before it fell apart. I left feeling more ready. And then this morning I awoke with a searing headache that lasted the whole day, with one small break right before the recital and during, and then came back. Everything that I could take, I took. I took painkillers and put eucalyptus oil on my temple, and laid down on the floor with a pillow and several blankets and Lucy Mae to snuggle with.

and I cried. Because I was in so much pain. I laid there and I listened to Mom make the cookies for the recital, and I felt a sad sort of relief that I didn't have to do the exact same thing that I did 6 months ago. 6 months ago today, I was baking cookies and talking to Lucy Mae and taking pictures of the cookies, and praying my heart out for Avery. And today I missed praying for Avery.

I finally fell asleep, and awoke with my heart going into a full blown panic attack.

Let's just say it was a very confusing day health-wise, and a very painful one. Somewhere in the middle of the day I realized that God was reminding me of what is important. Last time my piano piece didn't matter because Avery was sick. This time it wasn't important because of the reminder of last time.

I had already realized what I needed more than perfection. I needed Him. I needed more of Him.

I kept praying "Lord, I don't need perfection, I just need JOY. Please give me JOY."

I sat down on that bench tonight in front of the sweet crowd, and I looked straight at my piece and knew I knew every note. From the first ripple of notes, I knew I could do it. I felt so much peace because I had already given it to Him. I had let it go. It was all for Him anyway.

My hands shook and I didn't care. I missed notes and I didn't care. Flats didn't make it - I didn't care.

What I cared about was that people were blessed. That the Lord was glorified that I had given this piece to Him, in all of its Christmas carol glory. That I had realized my Source of JOY was in Him.

and I wore white. My long white Easter dress, and I wore my heart necklace that says "His Beloved. Live Redeemed.". White in memory and in honor of Avery, who went to Heaven the day after my last recital; 6 months ago tomorrow.

My piece was not perfect. Not by a long shot. I'm sure people heard the missed notes, they saw my hands trembling, maybe they were a little sad for me that it wasn't perfect. Honesty in little hearts told me they heard mistakes, and I laughed ... because I did not mind those mistakes at all.

He is glorified in me. IN ME. The holy God who gives and takes away came to Earth, to live and die for me, to rise for me, to abide with me, to guide me, to live with me, to be glorified in the broken, torn, shattered, imperfect ME. He loves me in a way that I can never explain or understand. He sees me in all my imperfections and looks at me and He sees WHITE.
He sees REDEEMED. He sees BELOVED.

I look at me and I see imperfection. I look at Him and I see glory.

There were a lot of tears on Thursday. There were tears today. And tomorrow is Sunday, so there is likely to be even more tears! I wanted this piece to turn out well so badly. I've been praying for months. What I didn't realize was that God would use it so deeply to remind me that He loves me, that the places I call "Home" here are not as sweet as Heaven's Home, and that He is glorified in a broken me.

Now I remember what was going through my head when I played...."Have it all, Lord. Have it all. My life, my heart. I only want MORE. Only more of You.". Instead of wishing for a perfect piece, I found myself wishing I could give more in that moment to Him. That I could glorify Him better. That I could remind every hurting heart I know of that He loves them with a deep, abiding love. That Heaven is far better than we could dream. That these short Merry Christmas's will be nothing compared to the forever celebrations of Heaven!!

When I started playing these 5 pages of my favorite Christmas carol a few months ago, I found home on every page. It was, after all, about dear ones near and far coming together, being together again. It was what I hoped for, even though I knew it wouldn't ever be the same. I longed for one thing to be beautiful. I begged God to just "let me have this one beautiful thing go right.".

But it wasn't 5 pages of home that I saw tonight. It was 5 pages of the Home that is more beautiful in my sight this Christmas than even last Christmas. It is where He is that I long for. It is His Home that is made beautiful by the One Who gives it light. I look at Him, and I see HEAVEN. 

My lovely piece didn't go right. But the way God used it was worth every heart-broken tear, it was worth every realization, it was worth every bit of the pain .... because He reminded me of far greater things that will last far longer in my mind than playing beautifully on the night of Dec.1, 2012.

My greatest desire tonight was met - 
Jesus stooped down to my shattered heart, and He made something beautiful

It isn't snow, and it isn't presents and it isn't feeling well every day. It isn't beautiful weather, it isn't prayers for family and it isn't asking for marriage and children. It isn't even things I pray for with a broken heart that I don't understand!

It is HE that I long for. Only He.  

and that's what I'm praying for broken hearts this Christmas. That's what I'm praying for YOU -
That you would SEE the beauty of Heaven so much brighter and more glorious than you ever have before.
That you would KNOW that He loves you more than you could ever dream.
That you will REJOICE that He has called you Beloved and His Redeemed.
That you find your greatest COMFORT knowing that He has conquered the grave, and will soon crush death forever.
That you are FOREVER His child, and that He will never, ever let you go.
That we will LIVE always knowing that He is our loving Father, and we are His royal Bride.

That no matter how bitter the tears, how great the need, how wrenching the loss .... that He is more.

and we say "Thank you, Jesus. Amen."
With much, much love, straight from my rejoicing, broken heart to yours,
~ Jean Marie ~

"(1a)Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! (2)Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, 
but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall SEE Him as He is.
(3)And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure."
~ 1 John 3:1-3 ~