Iraq Journey

Young Ladies Christian Fellowship

Blissdom Conference ~ Nashville ~ February 4-6 2010

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Valetines, Schmalentines

February 12, 2010

Okay, I admit it. I’m a bit of a humbugger when it comes to the good ol’ Lovey Dovey Day. Actually, both John and I are, so, hey, it works well.

We were talking this morning about all of our Valentine’s Days together and realized that, lo and behold, we’ve only really and truly made V-Day plans ONCE in the six years we’ve been together.

Year numero uno, we were engaged. John gave me some red roses, some chocolate and an uber-soft little brown stuffed dog holding a red heart in his mouth. The dog actually smelled like chocolate. I still have him, only the red heart is gone thanks to my oldest son swinging it around for hours at a time and the uber-soft fur lost its appeal after my nieces decided to give the dog a bath in the toilet. Which may or may not have been filled with clean water. We will never know.

(I had to retype the word dog five times just now before I got it right. My fingers want to type “god” instead of “dog.” Guess you can tell what word I type often around here, huh? Helpful hint: it’s not dog.)

So that was Hearts and Flowers Day #1. Oh, and, unbeknownst to me, John had planned to take me to the one and only fancy (yet still family-owned) restaurant in our little town. But we ended up being invited over to the home of our very first “couple friends” for dinner, which of course we did instead because, hello? Being considered a real live couple by a real live MARRIED couple? Big deal when you’re only wearing the engagement ring.

I’m thinking it was a good thing, too, being that only a few months later, that nice little fancy restaurant was rumored to be closing its doors due to failure to meet the health code. Nothing says “Happy Valentine’s Day, future spouse!” like salmonella, right?

Red, Pink and White Day #2 found us married and realizing how seriously RIDICULOUS we thought the whole cards, dinner, date, etc. thing, so I did my best to make new-wife-spaghetti into something fancy by adding Italian sausage and mozzarella cheese and serving it in a heart-shaped Le Creuset dish. Fan-SAY. After dinner we made a split second decision to go see a movie, but ended up stuck in dead-standstill-the-highway’s-closed-ahead-but-there’s-nowhere-to-turn-around-for-miles TRAFFIC and missed the show. We made it in time for the 10:30pm show… but basically fell asleep. What amour.

Valentine’s Day #3 was the one and only time we actually made–and kept–our plans. We were out of town for a work trip of John’s and I was about a month away from having our first baby. I did my best to dress up and make myself pretty despite the burgeoning belly and we took advantage of being someplace other than the podunk Marine base on which we lived by livin’ it up that night. Nice dinner, gifts, cards, lots of chocolate and we even managed to make it to a movie. What we saw clearly made a lasting impression on my heart and life being that I can’t remember a single thing about it other than that it was animated (who said our taste had to be mature??) and had something to do with people (animals?) and Little Red Riding Hood (or was it the three little pigs?).

For the very life of me, I can’t remember a single, solitary thing about year #4. I know we were in the middle of moving, had just found out we were expecting Merritt, Troy was about to turn one, John got orders to a new duty station and was told he was going to Iraq in coming months. Can anyone say, um, maybe a bit stressed? We might have done something Valentine related that year, but I doubt it. I’m guessing it was more along the lines of, “Wait, what’s today again? Something about hearts and love and flowers? I dunno. Okay now where’s another moving box….?”

And then there was last year. But you all know about last year. It was the best. Which is actually quite surprising, being that it was also the year my very own Valentine was, you know, HALFWAY ACROSS THE GLOBE. Anyway. Moving right along.

Which, my dear sweet enduring people, brings us to this year. This year, which finds us back together again. (Cue sappy music.) This year, in which we just opted out of the whole gift and card thing altogether because (le tear) we don’t need a DAY to tell each other how much we love each other. This year, in which we have two rambunctious boys who crack us up all day and whom we really just prefer to have near us. This year, when we don’t feel like paying a babysitter to watch them while we brave the crowds just because we’re supposed to get out and DO something. This year, in which we are closer than ever to each other and to the true definition of love. This year, in which we simply have a normal, nice day as a family. This year, which found us standing in the kitchen together making a nice little meal and then drinking milk from our “fancy” goblets with dinner. This year, when romance in our relationship is more alive every day than it’s ever been on past Card and Chocolate Days.

This year, when our version of a romantic night is sitting on the couch side by side, eating homemade blueberry pie (see? I did SOMETHING sweet for my Valentine.) and… you know… being the total geeks we are and hanging out on our respective laptops.

(Sappy music recording screeches to a halt.)

I know, the mushiness of it is astounding.

I think I may well be the Scrooge of Valentine’s Day (or maybe not. What do you do? Love it or hate it?) but I’m here to tell you that real life romance is alive and well, my friends. Whether or not you made big plans or gave red and white gifts.

Alive and well.

Obviously reposted from Valentine’s Day 2009. Because once again, our uber-exciting Lovey Dovey plans include unpacking boxes. We are clearly still as humbuggish as ever.

Gaining Altitude

February 10, 2010

We heave when we walk down the street. We’re lightheaded after bounding up the stairs. It takes effort to unload groceries from the truck to the kitchen. Boxes are much heavier than they were two weeks ago.

There are a lot of changes when one moves from being, literally, at sea level to a mountain village sitting at 10, 200 feet elevation. The severe lack of oxygen is a force with which to be reckoned.

I knew I’d have to seriously adjust my baking when I moved here. An extra quarter cup flour here, a little more baking powder there. But who would have thought that I’d have problems with my contact lenses–with my very vision? Or that I’d be ready for a nap by the time my little people hit their pillows each afternoon, and I’d still be needing toothpicks for my eyelids by nine o’clock at night? I didn’t foresee the voracious appetite that would set me into munchie mode by mid-morning every day.

(When I come up here to visit, I typically sleep a zillion extra hours, eat like a horse AND I lose weight. Go figure.)

(But I’ll take it.)

All of this is in addition to the freezing temps and the snow that lasts… well… most of the year.

Going from the lowlands to the high places isn’t exactly easy.

But people do it. Because it’s worth it.


Our Mountains ~ Summer

Breathtaking. Awe-inspiring.

Worth it.

What are your lowlands? Complacency? Self-righteousness? Cold-heartedness? Judgement? Anger? Bitterness?

What are the forces that drive you upward? Disillusionment? Betrayal? Confession? Brokenness? Loss?

Who are the companions that steal your oxygen? Shock? Despair? Anguish? Confusion? Abandonment? An aching spirit? Physical pain?

And what, oh beautiful friend, are the rewards? Redemption. Newness. Clarity. Beauty. Dancing. Wholeness. Restoration. Forgiveness. Jesus.

Altitude isn’t without difficulty. It pulls the very breath from our chests, affects our vision and is beyond exhausting.

But the fragile beauty, achingly alluring, can render the burning lungs, stinging eyes, chilly fingers and even the icy patches unspeakably valuable.

Leave the lowlands. Follow Him to the peaks.


February 9, 2010

It wasn’t the venue. Though Opryland is vast and beautiful.

It wasn’t the sessions. Though the information was thought-provoking.

It wasn’t the sponsors. Though the swag was and is ah-may-zing.

It wasn’t the food. Though lunch at the Volare was palate enlightening.

It wasn’t the parties. Though the (in)Courage party left me without words–it was that beautiful.

It was the people.

The people were the magic of Blissdom.


Clockwise, beginning top left: with Hillary, who makes me laugh–with Annie, who let me crash on her couch(es) and for whom there are no words to describe–sweet, beautiful Lisa, with whom my heart is knit–with Lora Lynn and Aubrey, my other two Annie’s House roomies, who crack me up and who I wish I could be with rightthissecond–crazy picture with Christine, whom I met on the pre-conference plane to Nashville–Kimba and Lisa, preparing for their session, which they totally nailed–posing pretty with Emily, because, well, maybe we wanted it to look like a blue-speckled-background studio shot? Center: the masses watching Harry perform.

These are the only pictures I took with my own camera. I was too intent on talking with these women to remember to document the event.

There are at least thirty other people I wish I had caught on camera. There are hundreds of quick connections and a handful of depth-of-heart conversations I long to keep in forever record. There are moments and emotions I yearn to bottle and preserve.

Their stories, their laughter, their quietness. Their hearts aligning, face to face, with the powerful person I’ve known (or will know) through their written word.

A person is so much more than what fills the page when they press “publish.”

Truly, it wasn’t about the conference, unspeakably amazing though it was.

It was the people who took my breath away.

Have you ever met someone in a face to face encounter when you’d only ever known them through their written words? Was it what you expected it to be?

Oh, Harry!

Concerning Blissdom, I have one thing to say.

Or rather, to show.


harry, crooning for us

He hugged me.

I died.

The End.

Hello and welcome, incoming Blissdom buddies. What a pleasure to have you stop in. It was a beautiful weekend filled with much laughter and connecting of hearts, wasn’t it? I feel privileged to have experienced it.

But I’m going to talk about all that tomorrow once I’ve had time to cuddle my little ones for a day, kiss my beloved (no, not Harry) and hear their stories.

If you’re looking for some of the life stories I mentioned in our conversations, you might click on the Iraq Journey button in my sidebar to find the posts from my husband’s last deployment. The posts relating to the pain of my father’s affair and my parents’ subsequent divorce this past year begin in the January 2009 archives and meander through the remaining year. In between those two Big Ones you’ll discover there’s a whole lotta craziness in these here parts.

Let me know you stopped by… I look forward to spending more “time” with each of you blissful ladies!

Here Today, Blissin’ Tomorrow

February 5, 2010

Call me crazy.

It suits me fine.

Five days ago I was driving across the country on what has been the largest-scale move we’ve made yet—and that’s with moving five times in five and a half years of marriage.

I was in Colorado for two whirlwind days. We unloaded the moving truck. (When I say “we,” I mean “they,” because I had nothing more to do with it than to smile and nod and say “Thank you, thank you so much, you wonderful, beautiful people .”) We unpacked a box or two. We froze our batooties off in the single digit and negative temps. We dug around and found the snow boots. We dug around and never found the one box that says OPEN FIRST.

And now? I’m in Nashville. At the Blissdom conference.

I. Know.

My three guys have sent me off for a weekend filled with people who speak my language without batting an eye and give hugs like they’re free candy, while the three of them are back at home—new home, that is—making snow angels with the cousins and eating Grandma’s warm comfort food.

It’s all a bit surreal—I hopped on a plane in Denver and ran into two other Blissdom ladies on my flight. We had no problems chatting it up for the next couple hours, all while drooling over Rebecca’s baby. I’m staying with sweet and hilarious Annie, whom I saw for the first time on her doorstep but could almost swear we’ve met in another (pretend) life. I’m meeting up with older friends, newer friends, bloggie buddies and soon-to-be buddies, and a whole lotta people I recognize and try to get up the nerve to meet. (Oh, blog-ebrity, how thou amusest me!) I’m going out of my comfort zone as a blog conference newbie and slipping back into it when I see people I know.

Call me crazy. Because this is crazy awesome.