Beach Trip!

A couple of weeks ago, we took a family [road trip] vacation to Gulf Shores, and had such a blast!

On our way there, we made one very important this-is-much-more-than-just-a-bathroom-break stop because we just HAD to:IMG_6106

Yeah, it was about as weird and funny as I expected it would be…

This was James and Betty’s first time to see the beach, so naturally they were ecstatic the whole time. After being landlocked in the car all day, we ran straight to the sands at sunset so they could get their first taste of those waves.IMG_6251

After trying hard not to get all of their clothes wet, we laughed and watched them fully submerge because who can stand staying dry in such perfect waters?

Sidenote: no matter how many times you emphasize the ocean is salty, nothing quite prepares you for that first mouthful. Whether 27 or 12. 

It was glorious. I’m a beach person myself, so personally I was thrilled we had such a hit on our hands. I’ll just be crossing my fingers for many more beach trips to come! IMG_6163

This picture was a hit on instagram; the girl is talented! She’s also surprised at how impressed we are about it, because until just over a year ago, this was a normal means of carrying things.

Everything about the beach brings me joy: the distinct sound of waves hitting the sand over and over again, the salty ocean air, the miles on miles of perfectly straight horizon, and looking down to see my toes under the water. James loved finding fish, catching baby jellyfish (no one got stung), and he even stepped on a sting ray in hiding at one point.IMG_6178IMG_6180

((do you think she liked it?))

We rode waves and built sandcastles as long as it was daylight, stopping only to eat. It was tons of uninterrupted family time (all six of us in one place!) right before we each enter back into the super busy seasons. It was perfect! Here’s to many more sunny days & salty waves.IMG_6269IMG_6273IMG_6270IMG_6278xo

Parade Life

How was your 4th of July? A friend told me this weekend (he was born & raised overseas) how weird he thinks it is we refer to a holiday simply as a date on the calendar. To which I replied intelligently, “Mexico does the same thing!”

Right.

Regardless, what a fun holiday we have! Quintessential summer. I was looking forward to celebrating with fireworks and family, cookouts and swimming, and you know, all the normal stuff.

About a week and a half ago, Dad reminded me of a project his co-workers had been constructing, and (typical Chelsea) I rolled my eyes. {One of these days I’ll learn it’s never a good idea to mock people’s hobbies. Unless it’s video games. Sorry. That’s on you.}

Anyway, Dad’s boss decided a few months ago he would buy an old school bus and refurbish it into a parade-worthy ship.

Money + ideas can have some pretty impressive results, kids.

In spare afternoons, using old wood cleared from job sites, the guys toiled away and built A SHIP. {no joke!}20140707-221327-80007907.jpg

They entered the ship- with a patriotic Boston Tea Party theme- into the Arlington parade, well known I’m told as the largest 4th of July parade in Texas.

Full disclosure:: I wasn’t planning to participate. It just, sounded so… well I guess I should say I just couldn’t see its full potential. And, I hadn’t seen the ship in all of its glory yet! I showed a few “in-progress” pictures to my co-workers, and they all but forced me to say yes. So I was in!20140707-221336-80016697.jpg

As I waved atop the ship in my colonial “peasant dress” I saw jaws drop across the crowd and spontaneous applause. It’s a strange experience waving at people from a parade float, for the record. This was my first run. But yes- you read that correctly- the whole family (minus camp counselor Caitlin)- dressed up as best we could and represented our nation’s history very patriotically! We had so much fun!20140707-221334-80014901.jpg20140707-223622-81382500.jpg20140707-223623-81383481.jpg

These are just the funniest most ridiculous pictures ever.. I still can’t get over it!

Dad was dressed in traditional British dress, so he and a few others dressed similarly walked alongside the ship, while the rest of us rode and waved proudly. We were dressed as colonial women and Indians of course. I loved seeing the kids catch on before many adults in the crowd- “Hey! We just learned this in school! It’s the Boston Tea Party!”

Awesome.

Also? The ship won (I assume by a landslide) the Peoples’ Choice Award for favorite float.20140707-223623-81383707.jpg

Coming to a parade near you?! If it does, it will not disappoint. Dream big, friends… {and obviously, always say yes to being in a parade.}

 

Holiday Weekend

I love the idea of a 3-day weekend. The very name redefines “weekend,” giving it an extra day to travel, eat, and sneak in some quality time with those nearest and dearest.20140526-142252-51772495.jpg

This weekend, in celebration of those brave men and women who have stood up to fight for our country, I have felt especially grateful. I’ve lately been reading The Locust Effect by IJM president Gary Haugen, and whoa has it rattled me. (I’m sure I’ll write a blog post once I finish it.. In the meantime, I highly recommend it!) This nation, with all of its flaws is at the very least free, and my goodness what an un-free gift that has been!

Thankful.

As we celebrate with that extra day to breathe deeply this weekend, the outdoors was exactly needed. Met with giant crawfish boils under great Texan skies, kite-flying, and catching up with old friends, this was a weekend living up to the hype. There was a tent wedding reception, joining two families of a daughter and son who were delightfully ecstatic to be wed at last, and within hidden blooming gardens the night was perfect.20140526-141952-51592947.jpg

The long days left time for reading and resting and remembering. Days for sipping coffee outside and marveling How He Loves Us deeper than we could know. The days were for ending a prayer with “we love you and trust you, and may my life reflect that every.single.moment.” 

Cheers to you, Summer. We’re officially ready for you.

Visiting Jen in Thailand!

It finally happened. I finally got to go visit Jen, who has been in Thailand over 2 years now!

This has been a dream trip in the making ever since she first mentioned she was off to training, but making the jump from dreaming to reality is sometimes more difficult. Somehow I managed to swing two weeks off work, and in exchange fell in love with a place halfway across the world.

IMG_4427We spent the first few days at the beach… and certainly it was the most beautiful place I have ever been! I kept saying I felt like we found the world’s hidden treasure. Fabulous.IMG_4381IMG_4444Also? Everywhere we went was practically empty. This added to my “hidden treasure” theory.IMG_4474I mean, are you kidding me??

When we weren’t island hopping to the clearest blue water ever, we spent the rest of our time on our “home beach” or riding an elephant.IMG_4522IMG_4556Yep! We did it!! For some reason, riding an elephant has been on my bucket list for years. Jen laughed at how giddy I was the whole time!IMG_4576Best. Day. Ever.

After our dream trip, we came back to Bangkok, where Jen lives. Bangkok is a city of 12 million people, and probably the largest city I’ve ever visited.IMG_4693People everywhere, and pink taxis! It took us a full day back in BKK to escape to fresher air and mountain views. We stayed at a house Jen’s church uses for retreats, up near a national park with wild elephants and wild tigers in it. (We didn’t see any, but they were there!)IMG_4789I loved this part of the trip, because we got to spend several days with some of Jen’s closest friends in Thailand. The quality time together made it even more fun. Jen’s mom’s visit even overlapped my own, which was awesome!

Everyone was able to make a 3-day trip happen, because it was during Songkran, Thailand’s biggest holiday of the year, and everyone gets 4 days off work. April is the hottest month of the year in Thailand, so to celebrate Thai New Year, the country has a nation-wide water fight for four full days. It was the funniest thing I have ever seen! As we drove around, kids would be waiting on the sides of the road with buckets full of water ready to douse each car (or pedestrian) in their path. Later we had our own celebration. You know, so we could get a full cultural experience and everything.IMG_4959IMG_4996We were COMPLETELY soaked. I’m fairly convinced we ought to incorporate this holiday in the USA too. Next April 13-15, let’s be ready friends!

The last couple days we spent in Bangkok, seeing a few sights around the city. Thailand is a Buddhist nation, so we visited the temple at the Grand Palace. Everything was sparkly and enticing. Also heartbreaking.IMG_5132IMG_5069IMG_5138

Seeing an active buddhist temple was hard to watch. I see idolatry all the time in the States, but it was much harsher here, watching hundreds of people bow to a little golden statue.

In other news, I also took more pictures of flowers on this trip than possibly ever. Flowers literally grow on every tree in Thailand, plus Jen took me to an amazing flower market at night around the corner from Chinatown. Flowers, like most things in Thailand, were ridiculously cheap, so I loaded up on them at every opportunity. How can a girl pass on orchids??IMG_4824IMG_4817IMG_5171We also visited Jen’s favorite park, in the heart of the city, and I found the most giant lily pads in the world! Surely. Exploring the park via rented hot pink Hello Kitty bikes (not pictured, but also not kidding), I kept exclaiming around every corner at the beauty of everything.IMG_5269IMG_5236IMG_5259While not on bikes, we beat the heat while walking with umbrellas. Raising the question… why don’t we do this in Texas??IMG_5264Sadly, the trip had to end eventually. I was in denial about leaving most of the time, but before we left we made sure to  dress up in some Thai traditional wear.. and laughed the whole time about it.IMG_5113I hated to leave, but was so thankful for my new friends who took me to the airport, and helped me say goodbye to Jen. Saying goodbye to her was really hard, but I will admit it was easier this time around knowing more fully what her life is like. Now I’ll actually understand the stories, and that made the whole trip worth it!IMG_5304IMG_5319Until next time, Thailand. Miss you and Jen already.IMG_4320

Olympic Prepping

Those who know me begin to humor me well around this time of year. It’s OLYMPIC SEASON!!!

I.can’t.wait.

I’ve already started to stop skipping the commercials when I see those Olympic rings (even the ones not NBC-sponsored, like those tear-jerker P&G ones, about the moms –>> scroll to the bottom to view), and gluing myself to any Today show athlete special… I just love love love the whole thing.

So, let’s start at the beginning:: Location. Sochi has been all over the news lately, and the news hasn’t been good. Sochi, Russia. On the edge of the Black Sea, and in one of the world’s most dangerous neighborhoods.Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 11.52.42 AM

I loved seeing this slideshow of Sochi’s indigenous people:SochiAdorable! I’m looking forward to more of the history pieces they show during the slower events.

Speaking of “slower events,” let’s talk curling. Honestly, curling? A sport? Apparently it makes more sense in countries like Norway, because everyone’s talking about these uniforms:AP NORWAY'S OLYMPIC CRAZY PANTS S OLY CUR USAHilarious! Read the full article here.

While we’re on the fashion topic, Ralph Lauren unveiled the USA outfits for the Opening Ceremonies, and, let’s just say they’re causing a stir.USA(source)

The NY Times wrote a great article about the “grandma patchwork sweaters” Twitter is loving. One editor said they would be like “wearing Times Square on your body.” Like them or not, U-S-A! Read the full article here.

Another story to watch: Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones is on the US Women’s bobsled team, and I think that is amazing. Also, Jamaica has another bobsled team this year, and Cool Runnings should be a mandatory re-watch before February 6. bobsledUS Women’s bobsled team, and full story here.

Kenya is also making their first international skiing debut, with athlete Philip Boit! “It was a bit challenging at first because I had never experienced cold weather like that in my life,” he told reporters in this BBC article.Kenya(source)

Ohhhh I am excited! Olympic years are the BEST. And I can’t wait to see James’s face when he watches ski jumping for the first time… Yes.

PS- here’s the sweetest commercial I mentioned above:

Best Finds | 2013

My favorite part about the internet? Discoveries. Sharing new finds with the exact person who will love them.2013((source))

Maybe these will be for you, or maybe they won’t. Either way, here are my favorite finds from the year::

  • The blog I couldn’t stop reading: Gloriously Ruined. Seriously, I spent hours reading through the archives and stayed up way too late rejoicing in a life ruined for greater Kingdom plans.
  • Prettiest, most fantastic “magazine” I have ever laid eyes on: Darling. Incredible mission statement for women, and it looks fabulous on a coffee table. Win-win.
  • Easier-said-than-done challenge for 2014: The Empty Shelf from Jon Acuff. Are you in?
  • A refreshing perspective for women, especially for a January: Five Lies About Your Body from Jen Wilkin
  • Fun weekly podcast for long runs or long road trips: from Relevant Magazine
  • The loveliest printables always (Naptime Diaries)
  • Saddest, most perfect ending to a beloved comedy sitcom: The Office (one that absolutely should have been spent with the college besties… Sometimes nostalgia is the best medicine)
  • Not new, but drool-worthy everything: Madewell.
  • The Evolution of the Swimsuit and awesomeness: Rey Swimwear. Because, it doesn’t have to be itsy-bitsy after all.
  • Finally understanding biblical stewardship and budgeting. RESOURCE OF THE YEAR: You Need A Budget. (And if you’re in Dallas: Moneywise)
  • A Bible-reading plan for anyone, written by lots of people in my church, published by my church, and brilliant. Join us?
  • My very favorite Christmas present: the Sseko tote. Beautiful. Made by women, for women, across the world.
  • The page-turning books you won’t be able to put down: Divergent. (And listen. I’m going to tell you the last book might be a disappointment, but you should read it anyway. Yep.)

The worst discovery of 2013? Downton Abbey season 3. All of it.

And yet, I’ll be cautiously optimistic enough to watch season 4 (starting Sunday!)

So, here’s to new finds in 2014- an Olympic year!! It’s going to be good.

Of Change and 2013

“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different…” -C.S. Lewis

The year began much the same as the last two, on the coast of Peru with a team of Pine Cove staff, soaking up the last of a beloved three-year partnership with the CCI team. It’s incredibly strange not to be returning this week, though more teams are headed out to South America and Latin America this Friday! (Follow along here)IMG_2586IMG_3256And what’s camp without a spirit stick?!IMG_2637

One day, this will be real. One day!

IMG_3280Within a few short days of our return from Peru, I boxed up all of everything (oh how I despise moving), and left beautiful backyard views, a favorite job, and dear roommates. IMG_3326IMG_3321

Tears were shed, but onto all things new… And so began the year.

New job.

New city.

New house.

New roommates.

New community.

New schedule. (i.e. weekends! Summer!)

In the midst of new, we managed a best friend reunion (emphasis on best)FamWeddings were celebrated, including a much-loved former roommate…
Kim Wedding
Another wedding was celebrated too- which may have well been the reunion of the year! When 400+ people are invited and boxed pizza is served, how could it not be? wedding

There were sunflowers and new friends, too- all the makings of a thankful heart.sunflowerfriends2

Mom and I continued our tradition of running a half marathon (this is the best race I’ve run yet), and most importantly continued our post-run tradition:post-run

Yet far and away the story of the year was the newness of new siblings! Last year at this time we were praying as they celebrated Christmas in a faraway land, one I had never seen but had often dreamed about. With great hope and anticipation I set off to go and see the land from which James and Betty were born and raised. It is a place unmatched in my memory, for forever.IMG_3577IMG_3570IMG_3415We loved our time in Uganda, but my heart about burst when we brought them home to our family, for forever. The rest of course, is all joy.IMG_3795IMG_3807

A year of joy, courage, grace, freedom, and hope. One word would be impossibly too small to sum up such a year. Drastic changes over time, yet much of the same day by day.

It was a year of reading and learning, coming to the same truthful conclusion over and over again: God’s Word has the ultimate authority, and people are of innate value. This book and this book explained it out the most clearly to my mind, and I can only pray and aspire for my life to spell out the same way.

Here’s to 2014: May we have the courage to embrace grace as it is given.
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