Friday, July 26, 2013

A Letter to Lauren -

Dear Lauren....

Maybe you thought I forgot to blog about you today. Well I didn't. I just had a lot to do. But here I am now, and I've decided to write you a real (sort of) letter. I'm listening to Alison Krauss and now I'm in the perfect mood to spill over and talk to you. :)

You are an incredible friend. I'm not saying that because this is my blog or because it's your birthday, but because it is true. I'm constantly amazed by your patience and willingness to help me in whatever I'm needing help in. You show your servant's heart with every answered question and e-mail and research and HTML and all the things that make me hyperventilate.

God was blessing EmilyBrower and I (and so many others) when He thought of us as friends!!!

You are quick to share your heart with me, and whether that's about dogs or the way the air felt and smelled or a funny thing that happened (stealing signs, cough cough), or the way the Lord is leading you, you talk to me, and include me in your life. Long e-mails go back and forth and short ones too, and I love being connected and a part of your life. Your fascinating, no-olives-for-you, busy life. ;)

One of the things I love about you most is that when something is funny, you LAUGH with your whole heart, whole self. You stand there, with your nose scrunched up, or you bend over and slap the table and there can't be anyone who doesn't laugh because something is so. funny. apparently.

And sometimes things are just so funny, we laugh about it for years. Even if we have no idea what the connotation for it was in the first place. It is easy to laugh with you, and I love that. I love laughing with you.

At Catan Night, Feb. 2013

Another thing that has always stood out to me that is special about you, is that you love encouraging and being friends with girls of all ages. Sometimes when I'm just not sure if I want to get into 9 other relationships, I look at you, and think "Ah well. Why not. Lauren is." and go on over and meet someone new. (I know it's strange to think I'm not outgoing 100%, but it is true sometimes)

You are a patient teacher, and you always make me feel wanted! Especially at volleyball and events.
I know I'm welcome and I've always felt like family at your house and with you. I know you love me, and I am myself, knowing that. That is a special gift to show to people, and I hope I continue to emulate that!

Lauren & Shannon in March at Volleyball

You love to laugh about curly haired problems with the rest of us curly-haired people, and talk about what our sweet pups are doing, and love to discuss anything photography related. When I'm freaking out about something photography, right away, I just write you and EmilyBrower. I know one of you will have the answer. My own personal photography sounding board/answer forum. :D

You are real and open and sometimes just too lovely for your own good. Especially lately. hahaha.

Barberville Spring Frolic, April 2013

Seriously. Stop it. Go away. This is ridiculous!!

I remember the first time I met you, I met your whole family at I stood there beneath the palm tree and you all smiled back at me and didn't say a word, I thought "Oh no. They are quiet. Lord, I don't know what to do with quiet people.". Well. We got rid of that idea real fast. ;) hahaha.

We can talk up a storm, you and I, and never seem to run out of things to the way, doesn't this picture BUG YOU, because look. (down below) The picture frame is crooked. gaaaah. it's crooookedddd. no no no. *breathe*

What was I even saying? Oh yeah. I mean, we don't even need Starbucks (I mean, of course we need it), we just sit together and off we go. Or we are separated by states and just have to talk on the phone, and now. Hah. Cracks me up so much. But I love it. I love being your friend, and being, well...special.

I feel special when I'm with you. I hope you feel special with me too, because you so are.

You are special, kind, gentle, competitive, amazing at photography, generous, ready-to-laugh, eager to learn, much more brave than I am, a coffee lover, and most of all these and more - You love the Lord.

I mean really. I need a big stick to hit random men over the head with.

"No!! She is my best friend! Be better at life! Get it together and get on with life! Whack, whack!" 

aaaaaand I'm thinking I should stop blogging at night. This gets dangerous. (I'm sure there are perfectly fine men out there, hello to you all)

Although. If I give up the stick-whacking, you are going to have a whole long line of gentlemen ready to protect you. Those three on the left will do a great job. Actually, all the girls will pitch in too.

Because we love you, babe. 

Hey. If I get to be called Piglet, then we should call you Arwen. I am a geniusI mean, look at the resemblance. But this does mean that you don't get to marry Thorin Oakenshield. Oooooh. Mr. Thornton is mine! All mine! YAY.

Genius genius genius. 

This really is THE most random birthday letter ever.

Random like this photo of you eating dates at Barberville. But look how CUTE you are.

Ohmygracious, I don't think I've said Happy Birthday yet. Happy 25th birthday, Lauren!!!! 

I'm not sure what else to say that I haven't already said, but let me just run through:
....faithful, sweet, loving, generous, patient, fun, funny, lovely, mischievous....
my curly-haired, dark- eyed, dear bestie named Lauren

I am so, so blessed. Can't even tell you how much I'm blessed.

This C.H. Spurgeon quote describes friendship so perfectly -
"Friendship is one of the sweetest joys in life. 
Many might have failed beneath the bitterness of their trial had they not found a friend." 

I was immediately struck by how true that is, especially in light of these past years. We've been at funerals together, or you've prayed me through one, from states away, or written me back when all I need to hear is that someone is sorry for how my heart is breaking ... that means the world to me.

You've held me when I've broken down in tears for the 90th time, and don't try to fix it. You just hold me and let me cry and smile gently while I try to pull myself together. You let me be broken. You love me anyway. There is so much the Lord has led us through that has ached our souls for others.

I remember coming around the corner at Shannon's funeral, and just going straight for you and sobbing into your shoulder. It was too much, and there you were, my friend who could comfort me. Such a special, sad moment. So thank you for all the times you've comforted and listened and let me cry.

I remember all of them, and thank God in great joy for His love in giving me a friend like you.
I love you so incredibly much.

Wherever we are next year, the year after that, and 10 years ahead....
I hope I'm always friends with you. 

My prayer for you this year is that you will joyfully and clearly find His will in your life, and look more and more until the Day when you will see our God as He is, and who you are in the light of His love for you. We know that we are His beloved children, and that His will for us is more than we can dream!

"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.
And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure." 
~ 1 John 3:2-3 ~ 

Happy 25th birthday, Lauren....I can't wait to see you and spend time together next week!
With much love always,
~ Jean Marie ~

Five Minute Friday: Broken -

My bestie, Emily, joined me today on Five-Minute Friday! I'm so happy she did. This weekend is an emotional anniversary of the loss of a best friend of hers. If you stop by here, make sure you read her post too. BE Brower - Broken. It makes me ache and feel honored to have known Lane. If you feel so led, please keep his family & friends in your prayers as they go through this 1st year anniversary. Thank you.

With love always,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

From Lisa-Jo Baker, the Gypsy Mama"On Fridays around these parts we like to write. Not for comments or traffic or anyone else's agenda. But for fun, for practice, for joy at the sound of syllables, sentences and paragraphs all strung together by the voice of the speaker. We love to just write without worrying if it's just right or not. For five minutes flat."

Today's prompt: Broken. 

~ Go. ~ 

"Let's don't say goodbye, I hate the way it sounds. 
So if you don't mind, let's just say "for now", 
and I'll see you when I see you." 

It was a year ago tomorrow that I woke up and checked my e-mail and saw that Lane was gone. The world came apart and shattered once again, as it had been all summer. The memories recently shared on vivid re-play, thinking of his family, his friends....I wanted to lie down on the bathroom floor and never get up again. 

Because I knew what funerals were. I knew how the dirt would tear from the grass, and the horrible sound as the dirt would cover up again the one you loved. It would fill that hole in the ground, but never make it to your heart. Your heart stands still in the moment they leave, and nothing is ever right again. 

"Let's don't say goodbye, I hate the way it sounds....."

I know what broken feels like. I live it every single day. It isn't a calling, isn't a gift. 

It is life after the Fall, and it is loving hard and losing hard and not letting go easily. 
It is coming home and finding no dog to greet you, it is the missing person in every photo. 
It is the way you hug someone so hard you try to put their life back together, 
and it is the way your voice sounds when life is shattered and your love has gone away across the waters.

It is every day in these Shadowlands, and it is every night you weep into your pillow. 

It is His hands torn by nails and His brow bloody from thorns. 
It is sin, laid upon, pierced crimson, on a tree to a holy God. 

It is us, unworthy and bleeding and begging and desperate and stunned and crying. 
But God. Became Broken. For me. 

and now my life is no longer the same, in the best, the sweetest way. 

~ Stop ~ 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Belong -

I've wanted to do this for weeks now... but never joined up. Something kept telling me I should do it, but I never felt ready, even though I love writing. Until today. Today I felt ready. 

From Lisa-Jo Baker, the Gypsy Mama: "On Fridays around these parts we like to write. Not for comments or traffic or anyone else's agenda. But for fun, for practice, for joy at the sound of syllables, sentences and paragraphs all strung together by the voice of the speaker. We love to just write without worrying if it's just right or not. For five minutes flat."

The first time I read that, tears welled up in my eyes, and here I am, joining in. I'm excited! Here goes. 

Today's prompt: Belong. 

~ Go. ~ 

 It isn't just her. It's the way I feel from countless friends, the way they speak to my soul. 
The ways they listen when no one else has time, the way they love me when I'm angry. 
The ways they find to bless me when I'm at the end of my rope and want to smash something. 

They speak to who I am in Christ, not who I am now, not the mistakes I've made. I receive from them pure sweetness, the kind people write about in books and try to show in movies. Like the rain falling on a quiet summer night, their words are often balms to my soul. 

I don't know how I got here, and I don't know how on earth I have been so blessed. 

It amazes me God loves me so much to bring this sense into my world, my life, my heart. 
They are a small reality, I suppose, of how He feels about me. How He loves me so incredibly. How He draws me to Himself with every piece of life, whether I love it or not. He is there. 

There is always that little part of your heart that tells you not to over-share, because sometimes it comes back to bite you. And then all might be lost in the instant that they don't understand. 

Today I couldn't help it. I had to talk. Emotions were spilling over, and were running too high. 

Two rings and her voice comes on the line, washing over me like that beautiful summer rain. Light, loving, ready to listen, to take on life. Ready to be with me in whatever I have to say

And just like that, I laughed too. I snuggled down in my seat. 
Because I knew instantly that I belonged

~ Stop. ~

Today's post is dedicated to my dear friend, Tricia, who is always there for me, day or night. 
I love you, bestie. I am so incredibly blessed with your friendship. Thank you for often putting out the fires in my soul.
~ Jean Marie ~

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

My Birthday/July 4th Catchup -

Hey, y'all! 

So, it has been awhile. But I have a really good reason. I was on vacation. Actually, my whole family was! And even though I had the pictures uploaded to Photobucket, with the very good intention of blogging on the road....we could not find internet. And then when we did have internet....I was too busy. So I just had to let it go. :) We went to TN and to GA, and got in last night. 

But catching up on memories is always fun, so here we go - 

We had our family celebration of my birthday a day early (June 27th) , since on my birthday night Kimberly and I were going to be strapped to lawnmower engines and speeding around a track at 18mph with 25 of our close friends. hahahaha. So I had a blast making my birthday dinner with some help from Mom, and enjoying my birthday with my family. 

Presents on the sideboard! 

I had actually forgotten what half of my presents were. hahaha.

I made flan for my birthday dessert! It was so good, it was addicting. Oh my goodness. 

Tunes on the ipod. Old Country was playing....complete with me breaking out into the few line dancing steps I knew and bouncing around for good measure. (and you know. Pretending I had Emily's dancing moves)

A fresh corn, mango, tomato, pepper, onion, black bean salsa I chopped up. 

I had been craving Cuban food, so that's what we had for my birthday dinner! 
Shredded Pork Roast, Baked Plantains, Fresh Salsa, and Flan! YUMMM.

It was sooo good. 

Trust me. I'm a whole way lot cuter in black and white after being in the kitchen almost all day. haha. 

Lucy Mae thought it was high time she helped me unwrap presents. 

Two pairs of sunglasses that we got for 5 dollars, my new hipster Vera Bradley that matches my backpack, and my favorite chocolate - Lindt's Dark Chocolate with Coconut. 

And then of course, we ate lots and lots of flan. And I fed some to Libby and Paulina and neither one of them liked it. WHAT. hahahahaa. Silly little people. I felt so loved and blessed over my whole birthday week and loved being with so many fun and special people!! One of my favorite birthdays. :)

Then Independence Day, Daddy and I went and saw "our" Brev. County Manatees play the Daytona Beach Cubs at the Jackie Robinson Field, which is the Cubs' home field. It was right on the Atlantic Intercoastal canal and bridge and the sea breezes felt divine while the sun set and we watched baseball. 

There are few things I love more than a baseball game. Especially with my Daddy. And let me tell you - I've never been in a more vocal or patriotic crowd. Haha. I was surrounded by red-white-and blue clothes and American hearts and lots and lots of veterans. After the National Anthem, they asked all the veterans to stand up, and the man on my right stood up, and the man on my left stood up (it was Daddy) and then about 15 other gentlemen to Daddy's left stood up. And then our crowd set to whooping and cheering and clapping and whistling. And then I cried. In fact, every time a veteran stood up and walked somewhere, everyone broke out in cheers. It was enough to make one tear up, I tell you.

It was the perfect, gorgeous, unrealistic FL summer night. Gentle breezes blowing, no bugs, a beautiful sunset and baseball. Loved it all. 

The Manatees are in red, the Cubs in blue. 


The Cubs dugout and the patriotic crowd. 

Apparently Paulina was also at that game but didn't call me. LAME-O. hahahaha. I'm considering blowing this up and trying to figure out where on earth she is in this photo. 

So many happy Americans. Oh, and funny story. I saw a guy who looked like Campbell Sproul, and thought "Man. That looks like Campbell. But it probably isn't.", and since I don't have a great track record of hugging strangers (seriously), I stayed put. But then I get home and Campbell says "I was at that game!", and I slapped my head and was like "NOOO. I SAW YOU." hahahahhaa. ;) 

Oh, and the hawkers. The tangy scent of beer and the calling from the vendors - "Ice cold beer here! Beer here! Beer that is cold!", which brings chuckles from the stands and some teasing - "What kind of beer?" "Ice cold beer!" "Where?" "Right here!"... "Hey, where's that ice cold beer!". hahahaa. "Peanuts, get your peanuts here!"Those guys have great attitudes. :) 

It's a hit! 

"RUN, number 8, run!!!" 

"Everyone else! Run too!" (my commentary is riveting, I tell you)

I was dressed in red-white-blue, and quite happy about that. :) 

It only took me 15 minutes to realize I couldn't just cheer for the 'tees, so I cheered for both teams. Not only was I in Cub territory, but being in a vocal crowd is extremely exciting. I was all for cheering. ;) 


"Aaaaand there's the pitch!"

"GET 'IM."

"Get the ball! Get the ball! Get the ball!!" 

"C'mon! Hustle!!!"

Looking at the player profiles. 

Nothing more American than baseball on Independence Day. Daddy and I were in hog-heaven. 

We sat 7 rows up behind home plate, and on Daddy's left was a really friendly African American Vet, and he and Daddy had the best time talking and commiserating about the game and cheering and laughing about things and acting like long-lost-friends. :) It was fun to sit next to. 

"Now that's a hit! Go, Go, Go, Go!!!" 

Wooden plank floors and old metal seats. Yep. Baseball heaven. 

When I got home, I finally was able to get a good photo in good lighting. Hah. Isn't that the way it goes for the photographer. Everyone but yourself. I did my hair, braided it sideways and pinned it in back. 

The Cubs beat 3-1, but it was a great game, and Daddy and I had such a wonderful time together. It was really special for the two of us. You can actually see one of the home runs on the video below. Then there was a stunning fireworks show. And I might have cried some more. Ok, I did. I couldn't help it. And then Daddy and I went out to Steak 'n Shake for a late dinner, and then home! Nothing like burgers and milkshakes after a baseball game and fireworks. ;) 

I love fireworks, but man, setting them to music? Whole new ballgame. hahahaha. See what I did there? hahahaha. ok. but seriously. Playing Ray Charles sing "America the Beautiful" and watching fireworks at a baseball game? *tears*

Hope y'all's Independence Day was just as wonderful!!!
Much love,
~ Jean Marie ~

Thursday, July 4, 2013

America's 237th Birthday! -

Happy Independence Day, Americans!! Today is our 237th birthday! Huzzah!! 

This morning I was struck by just how much we've been blessed. We've been more free than most of the world our entire lives. It is so easy to take that for granted. I'm so thankful today for our freedom! 

"We dare not forget that we are the heirs of that first revolution." ~ John F. Kennedy

Our neighbor gave us some mini-flags, so Daddy put them in a beautiful row on our front lawn, plus we hung up our big flag. We have a very patriotic looking street. Flags waving and snapping proudly in the wind. It's enough to make one cry. Well at least that and listening to the National Anthem and every other patriotic song. haha. :)

Just one teeny-tiny little shout-out to all our British friends on their National Day of Shame. "Um. We win."

I took some photos, because I'm pretty sure there could never be too many photos of our beautiful flag.
Wherever you are today, I hope you have a wonderful Independence Day!!
~ Jean Marie ~

"Our hearts where they rocked our cradle, 
Our love where we spent our toil,
And our faith, and our hope, and our honor, 
We pledge to our native soil. 
God gave all men all earth to love,
but since our hearts are small, 
Ordained for each one spot should prove
Beloved over all."
~ Rudyard Kipling ~