Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Princess Place Park Day -


I'm so blessed by my friends. If you have any suspicions.....just watch the happy video below. :) I think that often, but I was just hit with a wave of it. I'm so, so thankful for my wonderful friends. 
*even if some of you aren't in the video, I'm talking about you too* 

Momma, Daddy and I went up to Princess Place Preserve on April 13th for a park day that EmilyBrower set up for families to be able to catch up with each other and enjoy being together. Turned out, the Lord gave us the perfect park weather. It was breezy and cool and zero bugs. A huge deal in Florida. ;)

We had a wonderful time!! I took waaaay too many photos to post, so I threw them into a music video, with some of my very favorite music. Some Elizabeth Mitchell, Larry Pattis and my new favorite song - "On Top of the World" by Imagine Dragons. I love it. :) 

I also "made up" a new edit from a 60's edit that I use for fall, and I just love how it pops the purples and greens....you will see it in some of the pictures. I'm a huge fan of edits that "make it special" instead of "drown it in edit*. :) So if you want some FL sunshine, gorgeous smiles, and fun music - watch it and enjoy!

Much love to all,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Emily & G -

Last weekend, we spent a lovely park day up at Princess Place Preserve, and I had the chance to take a few pictures of Georgia (sitting up!) and Emily at the front of the livery barn there. :) It is one of my favorite pictures of the two of them to date. I mean - I put it in B&W, and spent 5 minutes staring at it. ;)

I love them both sooooo much. Georgia is just over 7 months now! Wow! 

Emily, you are an incredible mother. I love watching you love her.

I took about 200 photos, but this will have to tide you over until I get the rest done. :)
Have a wonderful weekend!! Don't forget - next weekend is the 2013 Barberville Spring Frolic!

Much love,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

You now have sorrow -

I found a quote this week and cried. 

I cried because I felt that this one person gave me all the freedom I needed, freedom I had been denying myself....to write this. Of course, I found it on a blog, and of course, it is the most honest it could be. 

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed." 
~ Ernest Hemingway ~ 

(Photos taken December 2012, on a very foggy winter morning)

You can understand how someone who loves words, reading, writing and words that combine beautifully would cry over that. And it's completely true. If I let myself, this blog would be nothing but writing my heart out to its fullest, full of stories and dreams and heartaches and joys. 

And some of it is. But most of it is not. Why is that? Because I hold myself back. 
I tell myself it is not important enough for others to read. I tell myself it is not interesting enough. 
I tell myself I'm not important enough to write it. I tell myself I'm not qualified. 
I tell myself I'm the only one. I tell myself not to step on toes or bump someone else's pain. 

So I push it all in, and shove it all down. You'd never read it on my face. You probably would not hear it in my voice. You might catch a wistful look as a moment passes by that I would have loved to share.

And I have told myself to just "not go there". You know that place. The ungrateful, hurting, rocky place.  

Most of you are probably wondering where on earth this whole thing is going. I can sum it up in a very few little words - I am my own worst enemy. I've been trying to hold in sorrow for weeks now, and in the past few days, it has hit the high mark. I don't understand. I'm disappointed. I'm broken. I'm unthankful. I'm wounded. I'm weary. I'm hurt. I want to run. I don't want to be here. I'm sad. I'm angry.

 And right now - I want to write. I want to bleed out, because I'm so weary of bleeding out inside. 

So loves - if you have some time, settle in on the couch, and lean in close to see my honest eyes, and know I'm pouring my heart out, and realize this is a sensitive time. Be patient with me. Mahalo from my heart

I never thought it would be this hard to trust God. 

Oh, how easy it is to trust Him when He's been so clearly good!! But how hard it is other times: 

When the doctors don't have answers. 

When slavery and abortion continue and you wonder why. 

When the nightmares aren't the dreams, but are the waking up.

When the Valley of the Shadow is all you seem to be walking through.

When the cancer comes back. 

When there is nothing the doctors can do. 

When God says "No.". 

When babies are sick, and when Mamas die of AIDS.

When God says "Wait.".

When life falls apart and your loved one goes to Heaven. 

When you are grieving and no one seeks you out to understand.  

When pain hits you so hard you can't breathe, can't think, go to sleep, do anything but be numb.

When friends all around you are losing their loved ones. 

When surgeries, chemo, radiation, medication trials and transplants aren't enough. 

When hymns become hard to sing through the tears and memories. 

When dreams you've always had will never be. 

When you didn't think you asked too much, and He still took away. 

When prayers seem to go to the bin for people with not enough faith. 

When everything you dreamed for your child stops when they leave here for another Home. 

When all your friends are pregnant, and your babies have left your womb for Heaven.

When God doesn't seem near. When God doesn't seem loving. When God is quiet. 

When you feel like loss and the loss of your dreams is all your fault. 

When you won't be able to dance with your Daddy on your wedding day. 

When you miss your Mama every single day and wish she was here. 

When memories so traumatic surface and you wonder how your heart still keeps beating. 

 When __________ you fill in the blank. 

I never ever thought it would be this hard. I never ever dreamed God would take away like He has. 
I never dreamed the unimaginable would become reality. And never that it would be our reality. 

Ask, and you shall receive, right? Did all my prayers go into the "not enough faith" box? :) It sure feels like that, doesn't it? I have a startling discovery to share with you that you already know. Ready? 

We are not Home yet. 

And not even are we not Home yet, but we have fallen into the thinking that because Jesus loves us, He won't give us afflictions or trials or that we won't have suffering, or that God won't take our loved ones away. 

Where on earth does it say that in the Bible? Go try to find it. I'll sit here and wait for a couple hours. But that's it. Because I know it's not there. I'll tell you what it does say. It says this: 

"Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; 
and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. 

A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; 
but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish,
or joy that a human being has been born into the world. 

Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, 
and your joy no one will take from you. 

And in that day you will ask Me nothing." 
~ John 16: 20-23a ~ 

We will ask Him nothing, loves. NOTHING. For now we will have sorrow, but one day - we will not. 

He may be silent for a little while, but He will not always be. He may say "No" for now, but one day we will SEE His face, and will only wonder how we could judge an answer so loving as that "No.". 

It has often been my prayer that even if God were to take my entire family away, plus my dog, leave me out on an island by myself, with no explanation or reason - that the Holy Spirit would move in me to say "Thy will o Lord, not my own.". I'm not sure why I couldn't back that up slightly, and try that in a little less terrible circumstances. ;) 

Sinful Pride thinks we could do better.
Humility knows we never could have hung on the cross and paid for our sins. 
Humility knows we have been given more than we ever could deserve. 
Humility knows He loves us better than we could ever love Him back, and more than we could dream.
Humility knows enough to say "I trust and believe in the Lord Most High." and "You are Enough.". 

More than life. More than health. More than family. More than friends. More than dreams. 
He has been, He is, and He will always be - Enough. 

"Therefore we do not lose heart. 
Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. 
For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal."
~ 2 Corinthians 4: 16 - 18 ~ 

 I love this quote from J.C. Ryle on Heaven - 

"The last night of weeping will soon be spent, the last wave of trouble will have rolled over us,
and then we shall have a peace that passeth all understanding; 
we shall be at Home forever with the Lord." ~ J.C. Ryle ~

We are not home yet, but we shall soon be. Take ahold of the Eternal Hope in Christ, and hold on. Give to the Lord all that you love, and all your dreams and leave them there in His capable hands. You will find no sweeter surrender than giving it all up, and letting it go. I know, because I do it. Often. :) 

Weep and mourn and grieve, and allow yourself the time to be angry, to cry, to be raw before God.
The Lord loves every part of your broken, hurting self, and longs for you to come close in your pain. 
He is not surprised by any turn of events, or anything that you would say, for He knows it already. 
Grief is real. The Lord has known your grief, has borne it, and only He can comfort you fully. 

"O weary soul with waiting spent, cease not to hope nor cries relent. 
Weep on for years; in Christ there are no wasted tears." ~ John Piper 

We can rest in Christ, because all He has promised will always be true and will come true. We can believe He is good, because we know underneath all the broken dreams - He is. We can trust that He loves us, because He says He does and leads us in mercy.We can be ungrateful only so long before our eyes stop somewhere at the bottom of the cross He died on to redeem us from destruction and bring us to Life. Mine always stop at the rocks that must have been lying in the dirt, the uprooted dirt the cross was thrust in. The Holy Lamb for the broken beloved. My ungratefulness stops there in the flood of tears of thankfulness and gratitude and repentance. "Lest I forget Thy love for me...lead me to Calvary."

Know that I'm writing this all for myself first, and for you all second. :) And know that you can always write me at my e-mail address on the side, and I would be privileged to pray for you. And know that when life does fall apart, God is still there to hold you and cradle you close to His heart of love.

We are not Home yet, but we will be SOON. 
He is Who He says He is. Be still and know that He is God.

With much love always,
~ Jean Marie ~

Monday, April 8, 2013

Dear Mrs. Stiemann -

Dearest Mrs. Stiemann - Happy Birthday!!! 

I stole Darby's Instagram photo from Dec. '12 because I know she'll still love me. haha. And because for some really crazy reason, I don't have a pic with Mrs. Stiemann. Next time I'll get one. :) 

I know, I know, your birthday was yesterday. We have to drag these things out, though. It's part of the code. ;) I was trying to think up something that would make you cry....hahahhaa, just kidding. I was trying to think up something that would be special for you, and I thought, what would it be for me...and other than a parachute filled with goodness that was kicked out of a chopper and landed in my backyard...I came up with this - A Name Chart Birthday Card. (yeah, I just made that up, I have no idea what it means either) Basically, reading the first letter all the way down will be your name. As in...Sheryl, because you threatened us to not call us by your other name. Which is adorable, btw. ;)

You are:

Super sweet. One of my first off the bat impressions of you. Which, by the way, I don't remember anything these days, so I'm not sure when I actually met you. I just know that either I was crying or laughing. Or both. You are so sweet, and are sweet to be around.

Hysterical. Definitely hysterical. Even if the conversation has nothing to do with me, I've laughed until I've cried and can't breathe. I mean, add a Stiemann to a Sproul and we will get kicked out of anything for laughing too loud and hard. You are sarcastic and honest and SO much fun. If anyone is even close to choking, you announce "Is she/he choking?! I know the Heimlich!! I've waited my whole liiiiife to use it. Are you choking? Are you sure you aren't?". Hahahaha. And you've introduced me a dozen times to Kirsten Z. - "Hey, do you know Kirsten?"..... "NOT AGAIN." HAHAHAHAA.

Encouraging. I've watched you encourage the Sprouls with all your heart and still have some left over from your family and friends to encourage me as well. I've never felt unloved or discouraged or let down in sharing with you. You meet people right where they are, and you lead us to the cross and pray for us and you remind us that He loves us the best.

Ready to serve. Facebook and Instagram and anyone with eyes can see how full your life is of serving. And you don't do that serving because the Sprouls are famous, and you want a crown later. You do it because you love them, and want with all your heart for them to be taken care of and okay. You care for them and give your whole heart and self to serving them, wherever God takes them, you trundle right along with. You have won my heart with the way I've seen you serve in humility.

Young at heart. This falls right in with hilariousness, and it also falls right into place with how quickly you can be friends with anyone, at any age. EmilyBrower is right, you are kind and "comfy to be with". You are approachable and down-to-earth and I instantly wanted to be friends with you. I love that we are friends, when we are separated by a few years in age difference. ;) 

Loving. Oh boy. I'm crying already. Everyone who has met you for 5 minutes knows this one is true. But it's not the kind of "Oh, I love you because you give me....." kind of love. It is the "Reilly is sick and down with the flu, and I'm taking care of him because I love him" kind of love. You have an incredible love for others, that I know is from the Father. You display it in your words, in your actions, in your serving heart, in your hugs, in the way you look at Mr. Ted, the way that you love your kids. You love deep and strong. You are love in action, and it is very easy to love you in return. :)

Special. Special like chocolate mixed with chocolate and more chocolate kind of special. ;) I've never met anyone like you. You can make me laugh hysterically hard, and then flip! goes the conversation and we are quiet for....3 seconds, and then right back into the laughter we go. You make everyone feel like THE most important person in that moment, and even though you hate shrimp, I still love you.

Tender. From the way you hold Donovan to the way you look at Mr. Ted and your kids to the way you write e-mails, you are tender to others. With every loss that came my way, you were right there with your prayers and hugs and the biggest thing - you understood me and didn't make my grief small. You displayed a tenderness to me when Avery died that still makes my heart glad. I know you are safe ground to talk to, because you know grief and you know it is a time to be tender.

Illustrative. Ok. This one makes me laugh. Because sometimes your phone autocorrect fails and sometimes you don't put in periods, so your sentences all run together. And sometimes you are re-telling a story, and it's even more hysterical hearing it for the 10th time. And sometimes the way you and Darby react to things just make all of life better. Spiders and snakes. HAHAHA. A story in detail from you will keep me entertained for quite a long time. ;) I love that about you.

Emotional. If anyone could cry harder at Les Mis than Darby and I, it would be you. In fact, you proclaimed the end of the world as we know it if Mr. Ted didn't cry at Les Mis. hah. And if I'm crying through this post, there's no way you are making it without tears. ;) It goes with being tender and loving so hard, and there has been many times when we've just shared some silence and cried together, when there was nothing left to say, and when life fell apart and didn't make sense anymore. You get teary over little things that are really the big things, and I perfectly understand. :)

Mischevious. hah. This is you introducing me to some very trusting girls: "Jean Marie is really shy. She is very, very shy. It's hard for her to talk to people.". HAH. What. Put you together with Darby or Delaney and it's like waiting for the fireworks to go off on the Fourth of July. I'm never quite sure where our conversations are going....and I really can't eat around you, I don't want to end up choking. Although....you'd have that taken care of. Heimlich and all. hahahaha.

Anticipating. Anticipating Heaven. Anticipating holiness. Anticipating reunions. Anticipating JOY. I know we both hold onto memories with a fierce grip, but also look forward to what the Lord will do in the coming days, and years, and look forward to SEEING Him one day when we leave this land for our Home. We know that this life is a short breath, and all will be made right some day.

Never too proud to laugh at yourself. Ok. One of my favorite FB moments was hearing that you were watching your kids jump in the freezing water in y'all's pool while you sat reading....in your heated snuggie....which was plugged in....by the pool. I mean, it's a whole recipe for disaster, but the hilarious thing was that when we all got a huge kick out of it, you laughed right along with us. And whenever someone is teasing you about something, you make just as big of a deal out of it as we do. So we all end up laughing together. I just love it. You are soooooo hilarious.

Near to the heart of God. You are His beloved, daughter of the Most High. I can see this grace flow from you, because you often remember how much we have all been redeemed from. When you say you will be praying, you do, and you check in on us to see if we are okay. Your heart for others and your love and all these special things I've just been talking about....God has loved you so much and made you this way to bless and encourage and uplift and be a GIFT to us all. Darby is right -You are a Titus 2 woman. You have embodied a servant's heart and a love for Christ and others. And in turn, you can understand how much we love you too. :)

I have been very, very blessed, friend. Thank you so much for all the ways in which you've blessed me.
 I'm praying God's clear guiding hand in your life, and the sweetest joys and riches and mercies poured upon you and your family this year and always.
I love you, Mrs. Stiemann. :)

~ Jean Marie ~
(Who is NOT from Texas, hahaha)

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Divine Love -

"Remember this, had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, 
divine Love would have put you there." ~ Charles Spurgeon

(Photo taken at Bok Tower Gardens, November 2012) 

May God keep reminding me of this truth until I can't forget it!!

With much love,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Dear Mrs. P. -

Dear Mrs. Patterson -

My very first memory of you and I together is when I got to go grocery shopping with you in Publix. For some reason, I remember a number of these trips, I suppose you just took me for an outing or something since we lived so close, I'm not really sure. Anyways, I had to be young, maybe 5 or 6? Or even younger? I remember there was enough room next to me in the child seat in the grocery cart to hold both me and your purse. Your purse which contained .... GUM. I would sit there and you would unwrap a piece of gum, and off we would go through Publix....me swinging my legs and chewing and chewing....until we got our free cookies from the bakery, then the gum would come out and the cookie - eating would commence. :) Those were happy times for little me. :)

And I remember making brownies with you in the kitchen, and one time you ordered in Kelseys, and sometimes I'd come dripping in from the pool to find fresh baked cookies. And Brownie of course, who would let me snuggle as much as I wanted in his glorious Collie coat. And I would beg to let Tippie go swimming with us in the pool....because what could be better than having a ferret share an inner tube?

Kimberly, Desiree (with Tippie over her shoulder), Adam, and I. 1995

Pretty much nothing, apparently.

Sometimes I would get bored playing dolls with Desiree and Kimberly, and would just roam the house. From playing jets and planes with Adam (poor, poor Adam) and then ending up in Barbara's room off the garage ... staring at her wall of photos of friends and life, and listening to her play little things on the guitar, and then scampering off to find you.

And I can often remember "helping" you be a secretary at the church (on Barna). Wow. I can't imagine how you ever got anything done, with me chattering away and sorting through papers. hahaha. I'd sit there and hide on some chair while you captured the skinks that got in and hid behind the desk.

I grew up loving you, and I've still grown up more.....loving you. I guess I'll always love you. ;) You are in my childhood memories, and I never understood why Mama cried so much when you all moved to Colorado. But now I understand. I can still remember us standing in a circle, holding hands, and Daddy praying for your move, and you and Mama sniffling and crying. I know, because I peeked.

I adored you then, and I adore you now.

And something really special happened over the years of me growing up - we became really good friends. Like - still sharing cookies kind of friends, but also - sharing life and hurts and joys with each other kind of friends. And it has been such a special thing. I've watched you encourage Kimberly, encourage my Mom, and uplift her and love her, after all, you are one of my Mama's best friends, and you have encouraged me probably more than you will ever know.

I've poured my heart out and shared so many things and you've never told me they were stupid. Of course, sometimes we did end up laughing about them, but I knew you understood and would be praying. And when life went to heck, you were there for us, and you prayed for me, and you prayed for all of us. We have shared life, you and I, and I'm so thankful that God has blessed me with you as a friend.

Sometimes a phone call from you is the best thing ever for Mom. She laughs so hard. :)

I love that the same music affects us. When I heard about Red Mountain, and shared it with you, you got it. It clicked. And we both cry about the same hymns. Same verses. We both long for Heaven with a passion that won't be let go. We love hard and don't say goodbyes easily, and we love hugs. :)

and we loooove our dogs. (and dog kisses!) 

It's hard to sum up any relationship, and I know I can't even wrap my mind around it all, but I want you to know - you are one of my favorite people. EVER. Your laugh is my favorite.

I've always known you to be JOYFUL. And not the annoying kind of joyful that says "Nothing is wrong! My life is wonderful!", but the kind of joyful that says "Life hurts so much, but my Lord loves me. I'm joyful because He is sovereign over all.". Now THAT kind of joy I can relate to.

I've never felt judged or let down or that I wasn't important. If there could be anyone more excited to greet someone at an airport than me, it would be you. And if there could be anyone more willing to break the "dessert comes after the meal" rule than you......I'm 24 and haven't found anyone yet. HAHAHAA.

You are hysterical and joyful and generous and mischievous and I still remember that sneak snowball attack back in '06 at Christmas. You are stubborn and gracious and say "No sighing allowed!" when something goes wrong. You are very in love with your husband, and love your kids and grandkids to the nines.

For years we wrote letters back and forth, from FL to CO. I still love to go back and re-read all of the letters from over the years. I still have every single one. :)

You can sew (except some things just don't get done: those darn curtains, hahaha) and you are amazing at making stained glass pieces. The huge window that hangs in our church is testament to that. I still remember seeing it laid out in pieces on the table in the kitchen.....oh, and shopping for the glass for it.

You get mad about things sometimes and it makes me laugh, and then you laugh, and then we can't stop laughing. Or something makes one of us sad, I start crying, you start crying....and then there goes that!!

Life is hard and God is good and we won't understand a lot for awhile. We have mourned and grieved and wept and yelled and prayed and begged. We have e-mailed and called and skyped (hahaha, Mom's dwarf Amaryllis plant) and instant messaged and been quiet when there isn't anything left to say.

I've washed dishes in the sink when there wasn't anything I could do, and you went outside and swung as high as you could one way, then back the other way, on the swingset. Back and forth and back and forth as tears went down my face, and probably went down yours, as you poured your heart out to the Almighty.

There are some things no words can even come close to touching. We have walked with you, as close as we possibly could, with you all in your deep grief, and you have walked with us in ours.

We are indebted, and we are so, so thankful. We just love you so incredibly much.

Mrs. Patterson, Chewy and Misha. December 2011. 

I love walks on the beach with you, and sharing my heart with you. I can't wait to see you next month, and pray for your continued healing from your recent spinal surgery.

You actually read my blog, and understand what I write, and tell me so, even when almost everyone else tells me I love too hard, or write too sad. You have comforted and prayed and loved me.

So from shopping in Publix, to Easter egg hunts, to brownies by the pool, to sledding in the snow, to wading in the creek at Vail, to looonnnng phone conversations, to running errands and laughing at Chewy, to sweet cards and to lifelong friendship - thank you for impacting my life in such a special way. I hope I can someday give back to you as much as you have blessed us with all these years. And I hope to someday love and trust God and His promises as much as you do.

I love you. Happy Birthday. :)

Love and huge hugs,
~ Jean Marie ~