Saturday, March 29, 2014

My Project 52 (13) -

Week 13

Gardenias in bloom all over Barberville. Such a heavenly scent. My very favorite. 

With love always,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Friday, March 28, 2014

A few little words -

This week was a super stressful week. I cried almost every single day (which is a lot for me). 

For a month and a half, most of my school and other photography has all been put on hold to get these old photos scanned for my church's 25th anniversary coming up in May. The deadline was this week, and I worked long days to get them done. At one point, I was scanning 9 hours straight and realized through lots of tears that my creative side was dying. Hahahha. Let's just say I am SO relieved to be done!!! 

So today when I realized I didn't have any photos to do, I actually got a post up on my photography website. I re-arranged my clothes closet, and put away my winter clothes. I re-filled the hummingbird feeder and actually stood outside and gazed at all the spring leaves on the trees. I put on some 40's music and baked some white chocolate, coconut and pecan cookies for tomorrow. 

And of course I wrote a million messages back and forth with Becs

She's been my saving grace this week. It was her Spring Break, which means we had more time to talk, and even one night we went walking the bridge, and then decided we needed Chinese food and went out to dinner, and rounded the night out by singing our hearts out to Avicii and Old Crow Medicine Show. It was so nice to be out doing things with someone who is so fun to be with. 

Whenever I need to vent or exclaim or just talk about things that popped into my head, I write her. And she writes back, because she totally gets me. It's what best friends do. I'm SO glad she is going with me tomorrow, which is ...... the Barberville Spring Frolic 2014!!!! 
So excited and ecstatic. It's gonna be wonderful to be with everyone, rain & shine!!! 

I shot these two pics of Becs at the Hope's Going Away Party in Dec. 
Becs is one of my all-time favorite models. Somehow she channels peace straight into my camera, and I love it. Plus, she's stunning

I love you, Becs. Jumping barriers with you is the best. Can't wait for tomorrow!!!
And Congratulations on the first day of your new job, working for Gold Tone!!! Ain't no thang like a banjo strang. 

With love always, 
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

My Project 52 (12) -

Week 12

The evening sun was spilling its Southern gold through the oaks and cedars and upon us all as Darby and Chris walked through rows of people who loved them so, to get to the end and....hug everyone for another five minutes before they hopped in their van and drove away as husband and wife. 

SO happy for them. It was a tearful, wonderful, glorious, honoring, lovely wedding and day. 

From LtoR: Mr. R.C. Sproul Jr. (wearing his full Scottish garb), Delaney (Maid of Honor!),
and talking is dear Mrs. Rocklein, (Miss Denise's Mom), with Chris's parents listening in rapt attention. 

With love always,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Smoochiekins -

So Smoochiekins & The Fiance' are getting married tomorrow. *cue all the stored up emotional tears* I'm so everlastingly happy for her. I mean, I've known about Chris for years. Even before Chris had a name....back when I sat next to Darby at Ligonier and she was texting "some guy" and I was reading sideways to find out his name. Not like I really did that or anything. Nope. So his name was Chris. And she was falling head over heels. Fast forward a few years, and it is tomorrowwwww. (gonna die of joy) 

I just can't even.....even

Last weekend was an amazing blur of hysterically wonderful memories with her and our friends. Or really - all her friends that pulled me in and never let me go, and I'll be forever thankful for all of them. 

So she's getting married. And my head is exploding because there is so much to say. So much. And there are sooo many pictures to share. But I'm going on 3 hrs. of sleep and I'm sunburned and exhausted and did I mention tomorrow is the wedding. So I'm making myself stop editing pictures and go with these. I reminded Darby pre-Ligonier that we desperately needed one of us, at Ligonier. After all, tradition is necessary in the South. (We'll pretend Ar-Kansas is the South too) So sweet Wissa took pictures of us and I'll forever treasure these. There is nothing like best friend pictures. 

Darby and I - there just isn't enough time to say all I want to say. I immediately loved her when I met her. I thought she'd be perfect. She wasn't. She was hysterical and laughed with her whole being and I learned I could never eat around her because I'd end up choking. Not even kidding. 

And the jokes. Oh, the jokes. Anything, and I do mean almost ANYTHING can be laughed at with the Sprouls. Someone trips? Hilarious. Someone misspoke? Even better. Someone lost it in the middle of a serious moment? Worth talking about for months. Seeing the same thing? Laughing for hours. Sharing a joke together? Gonna' quote it forever. Something is funny? We are falling on the floor and crying tears. 

They are quite simply - so very wonderful for me and to me. I love them deeply. 

I love her deeply. 

She came to my birthday party this year and because nothing says SPEED like a double speed kart (totally kidding, they back up the governor), we sailed around the track singing "O Sole Mio" at the top of our lungs just because we could. 

And conversations like this: 
Me: "I can't help it if I'm a deer magnet!!!" 
Darby: "Jean, it's because your car is dressed so immodestly." 


"TRAIN MOUSE!" "TWINS!" "SOOOOOOOOONNN." "Epitome!!" "Joke is on you, people!" 

and all sorts of hysterical conversations in which you really had to be there. ;) 

And before we get all weepy here (too late, thanks a lot, Mrs. Stiemann), I just want to say some things that I don't put into words enough. 

 Darby shows up when you are hurting. She cares incredibly much and prays for you and loves on you. 

Right after our dear family friend died, her Mama died. I came home from one funeral to another. I walked into that building and we wept together. I said no more cancer. 6 months later, my friend's little boy died at 16 months and I was beyond devastated. Darby was the person I'd write in the middle of a day I couldn't comprehend because I was so angry I just had to tell someone. And we both knew that in all that anger, it was raging at death. It wasn't at the Sovereign One we both love. 

She listened and listened and listened. She made time for me in my sadness, when it mattered. 

It's amazing how those moments caught here and there between life falling apart, when just one person says they understand, and you know they do, can mend you more than you thought possible.

I'm incredibly thankful and grateful for Darby. She is strong and honest. She is passionate, brave, true, and sympathetic. She loves deeply and lives joyfully. She squeezes the life out of you in a hug and will make you laugh when you think you are gonna cry forever.  Some people you are thankful for every moment you have with them. 

She is one. I've been incredibly blessed and I feel like I'm barely telling you anything. 

And the amazing thing is that in the middle of all the texting (all.the.texting.) and planning and courting between her and Chris, that here and there, she's made time for me. Little times to talk. Even more amazing? That in 5 years, God allowed us to become best friends. 

If you ask me if I'm overwhelmed, then yeah. I am. 

And she's marrying Chris a gorgeous the most beautiful church ever.
She's going to look absolutely breathtaking, and just thinking about it makes me start bawling. 

And I know she's going to be missing her Mama and Shannon. They all will. 

I also know that because of the Truth we live in daily, that we will all make it through our journeys and that tomorrow is so laden with metaphors and parables and analogies that I'll start crying if I name them all. But just one - as we enter the church to witness their marriage, her Mama and Shannon and my dear ones are daily living in the Holy of Holies, before the face of God, in radiance and joy. We are Earthly alive, they are fully alive in a way that we long for. As we go to the marriage feast, we long for the wedding feast of the Lamb, with all the saints and with all the tribes and redeemed He has loved. 

It utterly blows me away. I love weddings. I love stories. I love Darby & Chris' story. 

And I love this friend. This amazing friend who has taught me for 5 years what friendship can be, and what joy looks like in sorrow and how to walk this life without losing trust in the One Who leads us.  

Dearest Darby. Thank you for the last 5 know I mean it all. I'm so excited for you and Chris. I cannot wait to celebrate with you tomorrow. What an honor to attend your wedding and watch you marry your beloved. Happy Wedding Day, Smoochiekins & Chris!!! 

Hopefully, Ar-Kansas won't hold you too long. C'mon, Wissa. Get them to Wisconsin. 
May the South live long and true and may you always have a friend to hug you when you need it. 

I love you to the moon and back and all the stars in between.
With love always,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Oh and here are some photos to remind you of who we really are. ALL.THE.TIME. 

Like I said on Facebook: "We are an extremely non-dramatic, low excitement, very expressionless, introverted, quiet, non-sarcastic and boring group of people." Ligonier Natl. Conference 2014


So much laughter!!! 

I call this one: "Still Can't Believe We Didn't Drop Her." It's a wonder, people. 

Five Minute Friday: Joy -

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: JOY:

~ Go ~

Of course it's easy to write about the great moments of joy. The first time I held my friend's baby boy in my arms, the answered sight of many prayers and tears. His name was Avery. He lived a beautiful 16 months here and lives forever in Heaven. 

And there are multiple babies that I love and adore that grow and delight me in ways I can't even fathom or explain,
and babies that have grown to be 12. Twelve!! I love them all so incredibly. 

There are the moments of sheer "all is right with the world" when the light falls just perfectly across the lawn, through the Spanish moss dripping from the live oaks, or the waves coming in on the shore and falling asleep in the sun, or watching your parents hold hands and laugh together, or seeing old friends again, or knowing friends are getting married soon, or the promise of new lives to adore and love on.

Those are the knowing moments. Those are the moments that all has fallen in pleasant places in our lives. 
Photo taken - July 2013

And goodness, if I'm not feeling over-instrospective tonight. But I just finished a fiction book about cancer, and it's impossible to not be introspective now. Because of everyone to write about joy, surely I'd know something. And I've a million and one reasons and people to write about who pour joy into my life on a daily basis and how much I love them for it, and how much joy I know through them. 

But it's always the unpromised moments that you never believe will come that change you the most. 

I remember clearly the moment, but not the day, not the month, not the year. Of course there had been laughter before.
Laughter and silliness and general excitement over things. They fall into the lesser categories. 

But ask me on any given day, truthfully, how I feel about loss, and I'll tell you straight out,
if I can, (on a good day without bursting into tears) that I still feel NUMB

It was somewhere past 2012. Maybe in September. Maybe in August. Maybe in December? It was sudden and swift and fast and it shocked me like nothing else. After the realization, I immediately burst into tears and cried for long moments, because something I'd so desperately thought I'd never feel again, I suddenly felt that I not only could feel, but I could also KNOW again

A moment of JOY. 

~ Stop ~ 

I always want to be known as someone who fights for joy.
 Joy, after all, reminds me that He loves me. 
Joy, after all, reminds me I'm His forever. 
Joy, after all, reminds me that He has won; He has won me and He has won over all. 
Joy, after all, reminds me death is not the end, it is the beginning of life forever with Jesus.

He is, after all, the Source of True Joy. 

With love always,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Something tells me .... -

Something tells me.....this plate won't be holding a lot of dinner. 

I had the plate in my left hand, reached in the cabinet above to grab the seasoning salt for the poached eggs, and as I grabbed it, the glass salt shaker in front of it was tipped over, it fell onto the toaster, then onto the plate I was holding, smashing it into pieces, and then the shaker fell on the floor, cracked into three pieces and spilled salt all over the floor. 

And then Mom and I broke out laughing, because what else can you do?! 

I was like "Well I've heard tossing salt over your shoulder is a great idea, but I think this is a little too much!", as there was little white mounds all over my bare feet and the tile. Hahahaha! I still needed to get the eggs out of the water, and so as I reached for the spoon to get them, and put them on the plate, I looked back at my left hand, and this is what I saw. I was still gripping the shard of plate!! 
I burst out laughing again. Mom walked into the kitchen again "Mom, look! I don't think this plate is going to hold very much!!!" HAHAHAHAHA. We laughed so much. Dad was a little more bewildered, not realizing the days we had. ;) Oh well. It's just a salt shaker and a plate. 

At least the corned beef hash was just fine!!! Thank you, God, that no glass got in our dinner. 

I'm thankful that we were able to eat our dinner. And were able to laugh about it all. I love my family. 

With love always,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Patrick's Day 2014 -

Today I.....

ate corned beef twice
wore orange for being Irish Protestant
explained the entire story of St. Patrick to someone in Whole Foods who didn't know
listened to lots of Irish music

I'm only partially Irish, but I sure love it fully!
 It's been my dream to visit Ireland someday, as well as Scotland, of which also runs in my blood - strong and true! Someday. :)

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!! Erin Go Bragh! Ireland Forever!

With love always,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

My Project 52 (11) -

Week 11

Thursday to Saturday (today!) was the 2014 Ligonier National Conference here in Orlando, FL. Our sweet Brit friend Rachael (Sadie Beth - England Girl's best friend!) flew down to FL and we had a wonderful time adopting her into our family for the conference and my dear friend Wissa (Melissa Wolf) came down from WI with Anneke and Mrs. Seely and between all that joy plus St. A's friends and Lauren W. being here for Darby's wedding next weekend, we had a huge, wonderful, glorious, hysterical, precious, friend retreat, basically. :) 

There were lots and lots of memories made and lots and lots of photos taken, like this one!! 
My sweet Wissa and darling Rach. Love them and love everyone I'm so blessed to call friends. 

God is so unbelievably kind to me, and this weekend of teaching so reminded me of that. 

With love always,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

My Project 52 (10) -

Week 10 

Yesterday a cold front moved through, and it dropped from a nice 85 degrees to a windy 60. I'm pretty sure the wind chill brought it down to around 55 and in the shade, it was really cold. Of course, it just kept dropping that evening, until last night's high was 45. For those of us living in the South, it was just winter reminding us that some people live in snow and ice 364 days of the year and we never want to be one of those people. 

We love the South and ain't never movin' away

But of course we were out in the wind and outdoors for all day yesterday (and all day today), working our dear friends massive garage sale that we threw to raise money for their adoption fund. We had a blast, and somewhere in the middle of it all, I found myself with 2 hoodies on (the red is my NASA one) and my ski cap and I was still cold. That wind was somethin' else. We had such a blast together, though, and it was wonderful working for something (and someone) so important. We really saw a gracious community come to be, and also really sweet fellowship and giving hearts, and happy customers! 

All in all - worth all the work/sore muscles/bruises/long hours/sunburn/stress/sleep deprivation. 

With love always,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Willing -

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: Willing:

~ Go ~

It's 10 pm on a Friday night and my whole body is completely sore. Muscles I haven't used probably in ages have been stretched and well used today, and every time I move, I make noises like I'm 300 years old and someone forgot where the key was to my house and I'm locked out. Locked out of my own comfort zone. But I'm laughing at myself because the soreness doesn't matter. 

All week we've been preparing. Once, I heard tears in her voice because ... as she waved her hands in the air and her voice broke, she tried to convey what it meant when the church ladies showed up, more than expected, to help her get all these donated treasures sorted and priced for the garage sale this weekend. 

And yeah, we are weary. And yeah, garage sales have never seemed more crazy than right now. 

But with our smiles and greetings to the folks that fill her garage and sidewalks and street, our "How are you's?" and "May I help you's?" and "It's so lovely outside today...but kinda freezing too's" that we give to the folks, we are spreading community. They look at the apple cider jar of donations and they just shake their heads and say "It's all so wonderful. You are amazing. Thank you so much."

They are thanking her for loving. Thanking her for moving. Thanking her for being. 

And you can bet I'm sitting her with tears in my eyes, probably a break in my voice that would mirror hers when I realize this is all because she and her husband, the love of her life, had chosen to move as God moved them. Had chosen to love as He called them.
Had chosen to enfold even as it was uncertain.

Photo taken March 2013. Hunting Island Lighthouse, SC. Laurie looking out halfway up. 

The sore muscles and the countless boxes and hours of work, it was nothing. 

Nothing when I think about how a little baby half a world away who is nursed to health and held by so many different arms will someday travel the other half of the world to a house 12 minutes from mine that will be a home, and will know that he/she has been loved already, and will be loved so incredibly, so deeply, by a Mama and a Dadda and 4 sweet kids that are adopting him/her, and already calling him/her their own. 

This baby's world will be changed.  He/she will be known, wanted, incredibly loved. 

And all because a family named Jarvis was willing. Willing and wanting. 

It stuns me to think how much could change in our world if we too would just be willing to move even when it is uncertain or scary ground.
I know I feel more ready to take on the world, with my brave friends. 

~ Stop ~ 

With love always,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

SCC in concert -

Last week, I had the amazing opportunity to attend a Steven Curtis Chapman concert here in FL. The concert was just 1 hour from my house, and even though driving there was kind of scary (complete white-out on a 2 lane road with semi's and tons of rain for 20 minutes), I had such an amazing time. 

My dear friend, Laurie, was a volunteer to work the Show Hope table at the concert, and so I knew I would see her there, and her husband Jonathan, and their two eldest girls: Marjie & Caroline (long-standing members of my blog, haha). I rolled up in front of the huge church to see Laurie & Jonathan walking in, and felt the excitement roll with me. 

I've waited 5 years to see Steven Curtis Chapman in concert, and my goodness, it was worth the wait. 

So many tears, and so much joy. Prayers and raised hands and barely holding still for all my favorite music. 
Hearing SCC talk about his family, and Maria Sue and adoption and China and advocating for the fatherless. 
The concert ran overtime, for one reason or another....all I know is that I kept looking at the clock and he kept leading us in song. Song after song until we were 50 minutes in overtime. 

It was an amazing, worship-filled, God-praising, tears pouring down, grace spilling out, heart broken for the right reasons, joyous night. SCC is one of my heroes and his music has meant more to me than almost any other music. It has carried me through heartbreak, so so much heartbreak, and joy too. 

As you might remember, on Avery's anniversary of his homegoing last year, I donated money to Show Hope to fund orphans in Maria's Big House of Hope in China. I couldn't stop thinking about Avery that night. It was like......he was with me in the way that I remembered him when I thought about adoption. That he was making a difference, that we were making a difference through his memory. 

And that is just one of the many things that struck my heart in a big way that night. So special. 
Here are photos that I snapped, just so excited to see and be there and worship together. 

My ticket! SO worth it. I highly encourage you to look up tour dates and go. You won't regret it. 

It was almost like half a worship service/concert and the other half was a conference on adoption and talking about heartbreak and sorrow and life and God's faithfulness on the other. SCC is so real and raw and honest. That's why his music has so greatly impacted me. I admire him so much! 

The Glorious Unfolding Tour!! Listen to the whole CD, you will love it!! 

He sang so many old songs too, which I loved, because I knew them....and it wasn't just new CD promotion. 

The concert was amazing. I came away SO blessed and encouraged. 

Thank you, SCC!! 

And we all met David Trask, SCC's road manager! And he loved my boots. ;) 

Here's Laurie, Jonathan, Caroline, Marjie & David Trask! Love that family so much. 

It was a really special night, and one I won't soon forget. 

With love always,
~ Jean Marie ~