Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ode To Fall: East Coast Style

Friends, Countrymen....lend me your ears.

That intro sounds very important, but I can assure you this post is not. It's not at all related to military chaplains, or my family, or anything remotely worthy of this blog. It's about a season we all know and love. A season full of leaves, crisp mornings, pumpkin spice latte's, and football (your welcome Josh, I only added that for you) after all, this is your blog (wink). We are well aware of the fact that my attention span is too short to watch an entire game...unless it's USC, and they are playing well).

Annie, why are you writing about fall? Well, I am done with summer. Sorry summer, we just broke up....do you want your lotion and glasses back? Summer, I love you and I always will...what, with your gorgeous sunrises, fun water activities, and grilling goodness. But, here's the deal, you're way too humid. You make my eye balls sweat and not in a good way. Is there a good way for eye balls to sweat? I hate sweaty balls. So, I'm over you (for now) and I'm moving on to a bigger and better season...fall.

Ode to fall:

1. Not a big deal, but this is the Blue Ridge Parkway in VA, pretty sure I drove down this road a hundred times while in college. For you west coasters, this is what a real fall looks like:)

2. Riding Boots
Is it weird that I don't ride horses but like riding boots? Friends, boots = fall. In fact I'll bust these puppies out as soon as it gets in the 60's. Since boys read this blog (I'm sorry for this girlie post), I must put a caution out....boys should NEVER wear riding boots ok? It looks weird...see below.

When I put on my boots, you might see me perched on some random stairs like this closing my eyes and pretending to smell something awesome. What is this woman doing here? She really loves her right leg too? I guess that's what happens when you wear boots? Then there's this guy below....He looks like he's confused about what he's wearing. He has a murse (man-purse), AND he's wearing boots, any man would be confused. Oh wait, I just noticed the leggings...and the turtle neck....poor thing.

Even Bella loves fall fashion...

3. Pumpkin Spice Lattes
Need I even describe the goodness of such liquid?

4. College Football (like I said, this one's for Josh) :) Speaking of fall, for Halloween, Bella was a USC cheerleader. Her daddy was deployed and we thought this would help remind of his favorite team (and his favorite girl, Bella).

There you have it, it's official...I've put the word out so I'm hoping fall will come knocking quite soon:)

Ta-ta for now.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Up Hill Battle


I want to be frank with you. Autism is hard. There it's out.

The amount of tantruming and just full blown scream sessions that I've experienced in the last week are too numerous and tiring to recall. I've got bruises on my body from trying to restrain my sweet child from harming herself while head banging in frustration. Yes, she's experienced a minor regression as a result of removing her pacifier (combined with our recent trip to NY).

Regression. I hate that word with a passion. Parents of children with autism are well aware of the implications of such a word. It happens with our children often and it's not something we can control. I can only slightly compare it to cancer...and the way it comes back after remission sometimes (obviously autism is not deadly but you get what I mean). Bella experiences regression when we travel, or when one of us leaves, or if we change something drastically (pacifier)...the list goes on. I wish I could protect her from it but I can't. Life changes. In a perfect world I could keep her in a bubble...like the movie Groundhog Day....then it would be easier;) **She has kept almost all of her words, it's mostly regression in behavior.

These are just words though. It is our life and it is challenging some days to the point of tears and bruises.

Some days I look at Bella and wish she could see how much I love her and desire for her to succeed. I really do love her so much that I could explode. Her eye contact with me is getting longer and more meaningful... and for that I am thankful. The other day I squeezed her face and said, "Do you know how much Mommy loves you?"---I felt like she understood. Then I kissed her face...her precious face. God knows how much I love her and I believe Bella does too!

I saw a mom in Target the other day with a 16 year old boy who had some type of disability. He was moaning, had a helmet on to protect his head, and his mom had him tied to her arm by his shirt because he was roaming around aimlessly. I immediately was struck with equal amounts of respect and pitty, frustration and love, mercy and grace. That mom is a hero to me and all she had to do was smile. To maintain positivity despite a life that is a constant up hill battle. She loves her son more than any gawking bystander could fathom. When I looked into her eyes I felt her struggles to the core of my being. I wanted to run and hug her and tell her she is amazing and it will be ok.... but she had enough to worry about... adding some blonde crazy into the mix would, I'm sure, not help:)

God is stretching Josh and I. He is teaching us reliance on him. I have been praying for God to work in Bella's mind and her heart....I always pray this and I ask you to do the same if you have a moment. Pray for progress--not regression friends. I BELIEVE Bella has the potential to break through the bounds of autism. I BELIEVE God is sufficient and good and full of mercy. I believe He loves her more than I ever could. And I love her endlessly.

This song below is at the end of one of Bella's favorite movies.... When she hears it, she stops and walks to the screen and stands motionless for the entire song...smiling. The words are so ridiculously true...God made her so beautiful. He is proud of her and so am I!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

New York City!

Eight years goes by in a flash, in an instant. Eight years ago I married the love of my life and started the lifelong intertwining of our paths. God is so good to us in that he created us uniquely different yet, crafted little similarities to incline us closer to one another. He understood our desires, our hopes, and our dreams and was faithful in his unfailing patience with us while we struggled through life up to the point when our eyes first met. I am thankful for my husband.

Josh has never liked big cities so when he surprised me with an anniversary trip to NY to see Wicked on Broadway my heart was abounding with love for him. When I say surprised, I mean I begged him daily to tell me what was up his sleeve! I pulled out all of my resources to persuade him into sharing his secret and I conquered him. It's my power as a wife. These poor men have no chance when we beg like little girls;)

Here's a glimpse of the precariously silly and blissfully romantic fun we had;)

DAY 1-
We packed up our car, kissed our precious child Bella goodbye (leaving her in amazing hands with Nanny & Poppa Earls...we can never thank you enough) and headed north. The drive was gorgeous and we were excited. We arrived in NY and checked into our hotel that was literally one block from Times Square (nice job Mr. Earls)! The very first thing we did was get pizza. I was salivating like a dog at the vision of the large slices of thin crusted goodness... I should have been embarrassed as I downed the pizza before Josh had a few bites of his... I wasn't and I'd do it again, cheese and all. We grabbed Starbucks and headed to central park. This park was bigger and more beautiful than any movie could do it justice. It was stirring with children, roller bladers, models in bikini's (which made me look short and frumpy), homeless men, and business people....just a busy blend of culture and beauty. I was in love. We took a bunch of pictures and saw all sorts of familiar spots we'd seen in movies. We exited the park in front of The Plaza Hotel (as seen in Home Alone 2)...and yes, I did yell KEVIN! to Josh's embarrassment. We headed into FAO Schwarz to see the impressive toy collection. Of course, the first thing we found was the Harry Potter section and just had to put on various Hogwarts sorting hats ...like any two 14 year old tweens would do. Straight up nerds. Then it was off to shop. So many stores, so little time....so little money. Some of the names like Chanel, Tiffany's, Prada.... were right in front of me. I cannot believe people have the money to buy things from these stores....I'm pretty sure when I walked in they didn't acknowledge me (due to the Forever21 shirt I was wearing and my home done pedicure with flip-flops). It was dinner time so we searched for Serendipity, the restaurant seen in the movie Serendipity. It was small and really funky inside and located in a quaint part of town . The food was scrumptious and eclectic. The frozen hot chocolate was to DIE FOR! I'm glad we went out of our way to go there...

We were on our way back to the hotel when we actually experienced a bit of our own serendipity... We were on a random block crossing the street when Josh looked over and saw a familiar set of dreads. Yep, one of his college buddies (who was in our wedding) was walking on the other side of the street with his wife. Josh chased him down and we ended up hanging out with them the rest of the evening. They are a lovely couple and we cannot believe out of the millions of people in the state of NY, we were on the same street at the same time. :) Ok, it was time for bed.... for reals, my feet were bleeding, I actually HAD to by new shoes from Urban Outfitters due to the blood :)

We slept in (which was hilarious because we still were up before 8am--old farts). We grabbed some Starbucks (yes I have a problem) and headed to the place I've wanted to go for 10 years....ground zero. I'm going to write a post dedicated to seeing this because it was so moving inside my heart. In a nutshell, it is life changing seeing the spot. It makes you ache inside and wish time could be reversed for the souls lost on Sept. 11th. I will never forget my time there and the feelings I felt at that moment. After visiting ground zero, we grabbed lunch at a cafe and headed to SoHo. What a funky and fun place it was...tons of shopping and cute cafe's. I went to see the store DASH (the Kardashian's store) and had to wait in line to get in.... silly reality TV fans (oh wait, that's me....deep sigh of embarrassment). Josh gave me the BIGGEST eye roll of all time when I waited in line for that store. After SoHo we headed back to get cleaned up for our big night:) We had dinner at One if by Land, Two if by Sea (check it out). It was one of our favorite dinners EVER! It was not cheap but, well worth it for the experience and the four course meal of literal bliss. It was also terribly romatical;) We hitched cab and headed to the theater to see Wicked. I've seen a ton of Broadway and this was BY FAR my favorite. If you ever get the chance, please do yourself a favor and see it! This day was packed full so we were pooped. Off to bed.

We really only had a few hours to do stuff because we needed to get home in time for Josh's parents to make the trek back to CA. We grabbed breakfast with Josh's friend Ethan and his sweet wife and saw their cute studio apartment. Wow, places in NY are not large but they serve their purpose well....city life is worth the lack of space I think:)

Some of my favorite pics...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My Futile Heart

Ephesians 4:17-21

"This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard him and have been taught in him, just as truth is in Jesus"

I am often stricken by the futility of life. The little things that are so meaningless.

These futilities are trifle things that bog us down and keep us in chains to this earth. I mean, have you ever gone through a day, or a week, or a month...or maybe even a YEAR without praising God (or even thinking of Him for that matter) for the things he does in your life? Have you stopped and pondered that God could literally stop your heart from its constant rhythm? Yes, friends you would cease to be on this earth and return to dust and life would move forward without you! It's not all about us and our "things" friends. I know we have jobs, and children, and bills, and "status quo" to keep up with but really.... they return to dust too!

I get frustrated at myself for forgetting the how mighty God is. My creator moves mountains ... He spoke Mt. Everest into existence ... He creates the cool breeze that calms our souls at dusk ... the ocean and its mighty waves....He molds the baby in its mothers womb and holds it with his gentle hands ... He carries loved ones home to be with Him in heaven and rejoices in their company with His angels. People, God is not futile....his love is deep and wide.

The fact is, He does care about the small stuff, but that's because He loves His creation and all of it's intricacies. If we continue to allow our hearts to be filled with the "things" of this life, we will leave no space for God's wonders. We take away His power and replace it with our weak and unstable desires. We desire things that are not real. To become people that (our society says) are beautiful and popular. These people that society has manufactured do not desire to be refined. They crumble at the struggles of life and have no firm foundation to stand on when trouble creeps in.

Let God in. Let him rule your heart and help you process life through His eyes. He has offered you a life free from the bondage and chains of sin. All He asks is that you accept Him and the work of His Son on the cross. He payed it all, even for those futile sins.

Here's some more insight on our futile hearts based off of Ephesians 4:17-21. This was written by John Piper and I believe it explains why we are so numb to the beauty and power of Christ in our lives sometimes.

Six Levels of Evil in the Heart (sound bad huh)?!

1. Hardness

First, the deepest problem is hardness (v. 18 at the end): "due to their hardness of heart." My deepest problem in life is that apart from the free and sovereign grace of God my heart is hardened against God. I am like a stone toward all that is spiritual. It does not move me, attract me, delight me. This is a far deeper problem than ignorance. It is the cause of ignorance, and the guilt of ignorance.

Do you see this in the last two phrases of verse 18? "The ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart." The hardness is deeper than ignorance. And therefore my ignorance of spiritual things is not innocent. It is evil. It is blameworthy, because it comes not from lack of truth or evidence, but from a deep hardness in my heart against God. That is the first and deepest problem that the surgeon shows me about myself and why my life is so futile.

2. Darkness

Second, there is in me a deep darkness that swallows up my understanding, and keeps me from seeing the glory of the gospel or the excellency of Christ (v. 18 at the very beginning): "they are darkened in their understanding." Notice 5:8: "Once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of the light." Before the Lord shined in my heart, I was darkness (2 Corinthians 4:4–6). There was no light in me. And Jesus said in John 3:20 that I would not come to the light because I hated the light. And this is true whether I am a college professor or an illiterate native.

3. Deep Ignorance

Third, the result of this darkness is a deep ignorance of reality (v. 18): "alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them." I say it is a DEEP ignorance, for there is a superficial knowledge in the darkened mind of man. Apart from spiritual light I can know ten thousand things, but I can't know the true meaning of anything—not one thing. Because to know the meaning of a thing is to know why it exists. But Colossians 1:16 says, "All things were created through Christ and for Christ." So until I know in my heart that every molecule in this universe exists for the sake of Jesus Christ, I don't know the final meaning of anything. I misunderstand everything, until the darkness of my mind is taken away.

4. Licentiousness

Fourth, the hardness and darkness and ignorance of my heart results in licentiousness. Verse 19: "They have become callous [which is the same as 'hard'] and have given themselves up to licentiousness." The sense of the passage seems to be that when a person is ignorant of the true meaning of things, and the true values of life as God sees them, that person will make his goal in life something other than God. It may be the gratification of his body in sex or drink or drugs or food. Or it may be the gratification of his ego with more refined intellectual and cultural pursuits. Anything but God, and everything apart from God. The heart that is hard and dark and ignorant of God will also be a licentious and covetous heart.

5. Uncleanness

Fifth, inevitably the hardness and darkness and ignorance and licentiousness spill over into practices of uncleanness. Notice how verse 19 ends: "greedy to practice every kind of uncleanness." Literally, their covetousness drives them to pursue practices that in God's eyes are impure.

So we have finally reached the level of outward behavior, or what verse 17 calls "walking" or "living"—"don't walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds." In other words, Escape from futility! Live a different way. Walk a different path.

But now that we have read the surgeon's report in verses 17, 18, and 19, we know that the disease is massive. The cancer of hardness and darkness and ignorance and licentiousness has spread everywhere. And we will never be healed, we will never escape from futility by means of a psychological quick fix or a superficial, up-beat seminar on how to change our attitude. That's man's way, not God's way.

6. Alienated from the Life of God

God has a way. But that leads to the sixth level of evil in my disease that I haven't mentioned yet. Verse 18 says I am "alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in me, due to my hardness of heart." Hardness and darkness and ignorance and licentiousness and the practice of uncleanness cut me off from the one thing that could save me—the "life of God," and leave me dead (2:1, 5).

Lets repair our hearts today:)