30 October 2015

My God and My All by Elizabeth Goudge

Every person has a story to tell. Some stories and lives provoke deep thought, some serve as a warning to others of behaviors to avoid, some illuminate the greater beauty around us, and some point us to a greater power. The remarkable story of Giovanni "Francesco" Bernadone, who went on to become known as Saint Francis of Assisi, is a fascinating account of a man who gave everything for the love of his Savior, Jesus Christ.

Elizabeth Goudge exquisitely recounts the tale of this 12th century man of God, from his days as a young man gallivanting around the streets of Assisi, to his first calling of God to touch and comfort lepers, to his flinging off of the worldly in his decision to live as Christ did, to starting his brotherhood with his devoted followers, the Order of the Friars Minor. St. Francis' life exemplified a life of prayer first, in all that he did. If a decision was to be made, he first would seek the Lord in prayer. His life took on the pattern "prayer, work, healing, and teaching," and this model he followed throughout his incredible life. The Lord had much work for him as Francis sought the Lord in all - nursing lepers, preaching and teaching the many who flocked to him for guidance and prayer.

This lovely work reads like a poetic novel instead of a traditional biography, and Gouldge brings the life and surroundings of Francis to life with her vivid descriptions. She brings the soul-stirring emotions and convictions of what Francis likely felt to the page as she follows the course God ordained for him. Goudge seasons her work with thought-provoking excerpts at the head of each chapter from the writings of St. Francis.

I recommend this inspiring book to believers in Christ and nonbelievers alike. St. Francis lead a life inspired by Christ to help those around him, especially the extremely poor, the sick, and the suffering. Many can learn by this amazing man's life and devotion of unwavering faith in Christ as he reached out to the humanity around him. I wanted to read this book to learn more about the man who so inspires the city of Santa Fe, New Mexico, near where I live, and whose cathedral I have visited numerous times. Truly his life exemplifies that of a devout follower of Christ who gave everything he had in order to lead a life like that of his beloved Savior.

Disclosure of Material Connection: The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Mountain in my Path

Life is a journey.

Often full of twists and turns, dips and valleys, hills to climb and rivers to forge, it changes often - at least, my life's journey seems to have a lot of those characteristics - nonetheless, I believe that every person is on a marked path through life.

I'm not going to get into all the theological implications of free will verses predestination, take that as you will.

As I said, I am on a path. I have chosen the path I walk upon, being a military spouse, and I did so willingly. I knew what I was getting into, as I have written in the probably distant past.

Though I have chosen the path before my feet, that does not mean that I am in control of the path and how it leads to a particular destination. I love the path that I have chosen, though it seems to offer more hardships than other paths.

And right now, there lies a mountain in the middle of my path. I first viewed this mountain as it rose up in the distance, appearing in the distant blue horizon, in May. Every day since then, my feet have carried me closer and closer to this looming behemoth obstacle.

I first saw this mountain as something doable and began preparing as if for a training mission to climb Everest. Gathering intelligence, preparing my mind, preparing logistically, preparing communications, preparing for the toughest time I will have faced so far in my three and some decades of living. And preparing for how I will lead my children through this arduous journey with me.

I scouted to see if an alternate path around the mountain existed as a feasibility. There is no such path. At least, that way is barred to me. So mountain climbing it is.

I accept this. Perhaps not gladly, but how can I deny the life I signed up for?

Now several months have passed and I am in the foothills of this huge mountain that lies before me, and I am on the verge of staring up into the very face of this formidable giant. The cold wind howls down on me and I grow uncertain. I cannot turn back. There is no way to go but up and over. So I continue on.

I know this mountain journey will probably be the hardest thing I will ever do in my life. I know there will be dark twists and turns, terrible storms, and desolate loneliness. However, I also know that there will be moments of intense beauty when the clouds clear and I get a glimpse of the view of the surrounding land from the top of a summit. And I know that I will eventually descend down the other side, even if it takes much longer than I anticipate.

And I know that my God will lead me every step of the way as long as I trust Him always as my guide and my source of strength, courage and hope. He will not let me falter, He will not let me tumble off a cliff to my doom, He will sustain me. I need only rely on Him and never take my eyes off Him.

And so the Lord says:
 "I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
    along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them
    and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;
    I will not forsake them."
Isaiah 42:16

22 October 2015


Onward with the Great Northwest Adventure Posts.

Sierra and I spent two nights in Moab so that we could get a fresh start to our day after we left and continued heading north.

However, to cap the day off after our adventures in Arches National Park, we had to decide on dinner. We considered cooling off in the pool first, but the kids were too tired, so we didn't push it. After a long day together, the kids also needed a bit of a break from each other. Sierra decided to have a quite, cool evening in the hotel, so I went out and got some fast food dinner for them and brought it back to the hotel before my kiddos and I headed out to find a tasty local restaurant to try.

I really enjoyed Moab. Surrounded by towering red rock cliffs and smooth stone, it's a very adventure-y town with open air Jeeps driving up and down the main street, lots of RV parks, motels, and cozy restaurants lining the main thoroughfare, beckoning passers-by in. After checking out a few places online before leaving the hotel, I decided to forget that and just drive around until I found something that called out to me.

It wasn't long before I spotted a restaurant with a wrap around veranda sporting colorful potted plants and misters cooling off patrons. I drove by twice and decided we needed to eat there.

The restaurant, whose name I apparently did not write down nor get a picture of, proved to be wonderful. We shared a berry fruit smoothie to cool off for an appetizer before settling in for a delicious meal. I had a chicken sandwich with roasted peppers and melted cheese and it was so good, especially after a long day hiking all day. I wish I had taken a picture of it!

I love stopping in at local eateries and trying something new and I hope that on this trip I exposed to the kids to that kind of thinking. Sierra and I tried as much as possible to stay away from chain restaurants, although sometimes that's inevitable with small children, and try new places. This restaurant was the first of those for me on this trip.

Sierra and I both loved Moab, and Arches. We are already making plans to go back and spend at least a week exploring this incredible area. Preferably in a RV.

21 October 2015

Arches National Park

Continuing with the Great Northwest Adventure Road Trip posts . . .

The second day of our journey dawned bright in Moab, Utah. After breakfast, we loaded up the van and drove the short way from our hotel in downtown Moab (where we shared a room for two nights), to Arches National Park.

Enormous. Immense. Colorful. Massive. Incredible. Hot. Dry. Wonderful. Adventure-filled. Majestic.

Just a few of the words I would choose to describe Arches National Park. The plan was originally to spend the morning in Arches and then drive over to nearby Canyonlands (otherwise known as Candy Land to some members of our group) National Park and spend the afternoon there. After realizing how massive each of these parks are, we decided instead to visit only Arches, the smaller, but still incredibly huge, national park of the two.

I have to say, we each have a National Parks Pass. You can purchase one of these passes at any National Park, but if you are military, then it's free. Yay for free National Parks!!

First, the visitor's center. Sierra and I each have a National Parks Passport that we bought on a previous adventure together. At each visitor's center, you can have your passport stamped with the stamp and date that goes with that park. First stamp of the trip!!

After the visitor's center, we wound our way up the side of a massive red rock formation, stopping for a bird's eye view of Moab and the land below, where I learned I am apparently still afraid of heights.

It doesn't look that high up, but that black dot on the road is a car. A car!
After we rounded the bend and came in sight of the first many enormous red rock formations, I immediately pulled the van over to take pictures. After I did this again two minutes later, Sierra offered to drive so I could snap away. I'm telling you, the things best friends do for you!

Our first stop was Balancing Rock. We took a short hike that looped around the rock, right as it started to sprinkle. William had quite a time, afraid that he would slip on the rocks. We made it around successfully though. Balancing Rock was a great introduction to the hikes in Arches.

The rainstorm that briefly moved through the park.
Next up, Window Rock. The skies had cleared up and after driving around a few times, we found a parking spot. June is peak season for the National Parks, in case you didn't know. Once out on the mile long trail, it was Butterfly's turn to act up. I think it was one of the few times I have lost my cool with the kids in public - she tried to push Little Man off the trail, a drop of about three feet onto rocks. She did make up for her deplorable behavior later with exceedingly good behavior and being a super big helper.

Window Rock is an absolutely incredible delicate arch. We didn't let the kids go all the way up under the arch since there was quite a drop on the other side. Sierra and I did take turns hiking up for the view and of course pictures.


Then it was back to the car to drive around a bit, stopping for a picnic lunch at a pull out on the side of the road. One of my favorite things about the trip was the teamwork camaraderie between the two of us. If one went for bread to start sandwiches, the other started potty breaks. One would get out the peanut butter and the other the jam. One would get the fruit, the other juice or water. We worked in tandem like a well oiled machine, with hardly a word spoken about who did what. It was amazing! And very different than taking a road trip with our husbands. Not to speak badly of them, just different.

After lunch, we hiked up to see the famous arch from a distance - another mile long hike. This is the hike Butterfly was super helpful. We got some really interest comments on this hike. The Europeans were fascinated with the kid-sized, colorful Camel-back backpacks, the Japanese gave reverent comments about how beautiful the children were and the Americans tried to figure out how we were related. We could see them looking and talk among their group before one would venture forward and ask, "Are you cousins? Or Sisters? Or sisters-in-law? Or . .. ?" Two women with five small children - I'm sure we were quite a sight!

Little Man was done with stopping for pictures at this point.
Afterward we made one more stop, but didn't hike anymore. We did a bit of driving around taking still more pictures and finally decided to call it a good, yet tiring, day in the late afternoon. The kids were super troopers and I think they really enjoyed themselves. Maybe one day they'll talk about that time their crazy moms made them do all that hiking in the red rocks. . .

20 October 2015

Four Corners National Monument

To continue writing about our massive road trip that we undertook in June and July with Sierra, today's post will be about Four Corner's National Monument. After leaving Bisti/de na Zin Wilderness, we loaded the van back up and made our way up to the Four Corner's National Monument.

We had a brief stop in Farmington, and we got a glimpse of the incredible Ship Rock after on our way out to Four Corners. Apparently this area of New Mexico had quite a bit of rain in the previous weeks - we couldn't believe how green the landscape was; many of the fields were dotted with yellow flowers waving In the early summer breeze under the lazily floating mid-afternoon clouds filling the azure sky.

We finally arrived at our destination: Four Corners National Monument. Four Corners is the one spot in the entire United States where you can be in four states at the same time. The kids were mostly excited about this prospect - the temperature was still quite hot and we had to wait in line for our turn to stand in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah all at the same time - or in the case of my family - one person in each state.

I thought it was worth it. I'm not sure the kids did. Perhaps when they're older it will make for nice bragging rights on the playground. Afterward, we also walked around and looked at the wares of different sellers in each state, forming a square around the monument.

19 October 2015

Bisti de na Zin Wilderness

Way back, way way, way, back, in mid summerish time, I began to write about our massive and amazing road trip with Sierra.

Well, back to that. For now.

Sierra and I loaded up the van with five car seats, at least ten backpacks, kids travel pillows, DVD's, lots of food, suitcases, blankets, lovies and two binders full of travel information including maps and historical information regarding our stops, and lastly five kiddos and set off on the wide open road of western New Mexico.

Our first stop: Bisti/de na Zin Wilderness, aka the Badlands of New Mexico. This incredible piece of scenery on BLM Land literally in the middle of no-where boasted a mesmerizing landscape virtually hidden among the arid plains of northwest New Mexico. Bisti/de na Zin is actually two separate, but adjoining areas of BLM land. We went to the Bisti area, since that was on our way to Farmington.

A visitor's center is non existent out here, so we made to sure to drop a GPS pin on the van with Sierra's phone, donned our hiking backpacks complete with water bladders filled, sun-screened up, plopped our sunhats on, made sure shoes were tied and hit the open, well, land. There are no marked trails, another reason to leave a GPS pin on your vehicle location, so we were very careful do only a small loop, so we didn't get lost.

We arrived at high noon, exactly, so the temperature had already risen quite high. Probably close to 100*.

This being our first hiking foray of the trip with the kids, Sierra and I were quite excited to actually start the adventure. The kids did wonderfully, climbing small buttes, listening to directions, and having a good time.

We mused if people thought we were leading a pre-school class out on a field trip.

We didn't stay long because of the heat and lack of shade, but our excursion was enough to whet our appetite for more adventure!

18 October 2015

Air Force Ball


For the first time in eight years (read: since before have been at Kirtland), Kirtland sponsored an Air Force Ball. The last time we attended an Air Force ball, I was pregnant with Butterfly and we were stationed at Tinker AFB.

The Air Force celebrated its' 68th birthday on 18 September 2015, and to celebrate, we whisked ourselves off to a night of celebrating - including delicious dining, dancing, a great program on the history of Airmen, and hanging out with friends. Oh yes, and we got to dress up. For a ball! Can you tell I was pretty excited to attend?? (The kids were equally excited that Mommy and Daddy got all dressed up - they kept asking if we were getting married again. Now they tell everyone that we went to a ball!!)

After trying on my other formal gowns (all two of them), and learning that they no longer fit (that happens after you have three children since the last time you attended a formal military event), I decided the day before the ball to go all out and get a new dress, jewelry and even gloves.

Turns out JCPenney has some pretty great deals! And Claire's sells gloves and fake diamonds - yay! And they were having a sale, so it was a pretty winning shopping day. On a side note - it is quite an adventure to go dress shopping with a 5 year old and a 4 year old. Thankfully that mannequin they knocked over didn't break (it was hiding behind some dresses along the wall, not being used). Adventures in mommying, right?

A wonderful friend of ours volunteered to watch the kiddos for us, and even offered to come over early to do my hair - she did a fabulous job!

The magical evening ended all too soon, as all magical evenings apparently do, but while it lasted, we really enjoyed ourselves. I felt like a queen on the arm on my strong, handsome man. The dress, which sparkled when the light hit in the dimly lit ball room, really helped with that. Needless we say, we had a blast!

Happy Birthday Air Force!

16 October 2015

Florida Trip

My Dad reached a mile stone in his life in August: retirement. To mark the occasion and celebrate with my Dad, we flew down to Tampa.

The children were exceedingly excited to fly on an airplane - the first plane ride that they will remember - and the first one ever for Flower. All of the children were very well behaved on the plane ride, much thanks, I think, to lots of briefings on expected behavior, prep-work, and the promise of Gold Dabloons, our current system of payment for rewards of good behavior. (Maybe I'll write more on soon.)

A hurricane was due to hit the coast of Florida - what's a trip to Florida without hurricanes?? - but thankfully the storm broke up and Florida only got rain. Lots and lots of rain. It rained every day we were there. I was in heaven! The kids weren't sure what to make of all that water falling from the sky - the woes of growing up in the desert.

The visit with my Dad was wonderful. My brother and his wife and son also live in the area, so we were able to spend a lot of time with them. Everyone had a great time! Dad, aka GrandDad, is a well loved, favorite person in the family with all his grandkids.

Since we didn't rent a car, we pretty much stuck around the house. Anytime we went somewhere, it took at least two cars to get us all there. Also, Flower came down with a nasty bug, complete with high fever and ear infection, and then had an allergic reaction to the antibiotic the urgent care prescribed for her, so that kept us pretty grounded as well. It took a full three or four days before she was feeling up to doing anything.

Dad's retirement ceremony was quite nice. The location for the ceremony was right on the water (inside), with a beautiful view of Tampa Bay. I got to meet a lot of Dad's co-workers that he's talked about for years, which was really neat. I'm so proud of Dad and all that he has accomplished in his career. Flower stayed home - actually Mike was at urgent care with her during the ceremony- so they sadly both missed the event. Butterfly, Little Man and my adorable nephew were very well behaved though.

Afterwards, for the remainder of our time, we played lots of Master Detective (like Clue, only bigger! and better!), the kids ran model trains with my Dad, and my sister in law and I got to hang out a lot, which was great. She's so awesome!

While we were visiting, we decided to do a huge joint birthday celebration since quite a few members of the family have birthdays around the same time. I made strawberry Napoleon's instead of cake since they are a favorite of my Dad's, at least since his last visit to Albuquerque when I made them for the first time.

I also got to see a long time friend of mine who used to be stationed at Kirtland and is now stationed at MacDill (or rather, her husband is). I love that when traveling most places, you can see friends again. Our last night, we all went over to their house for dinner and a movie, and we all had a great time.

Then the time came to head to the airport and board the plane to ferry us home. I'm sure we were quite a sight trying to get into the airport - we had three car seats, four backpacks (one of which had a cooler for refrigerated medicine), five suitcases, and a stroller. Thankfully the kids helped as much as they could and checking in, as well as security, wasn't a problem at all.  The kids were really good on both flights home as well. They even got to watch a free movie on board on the longer flight from Atlanta!