Wednesday, June 25, 2014

that time I rode on a train...

Through an interesting turn of events, my family ended up not being able to drive down to South Carolina to pick me I rode the train. I was a little....apprehensive at the prospect, but intrigued by the adventure, and therefore felt rather strange as the day of my departure approached. 

We ate supper at five, and left shortly after that to do a Whole Foods run in Greenville before dropping me off. The boys also went to explore the recently-opened Cabela's (outdoor gear and sports  - hunting, fishing, hiking, etc.) which was just around the corner. 

Somehow, in our timing, none of thought of the fact that the station itself doesn't even open till 9:30pm (remember this, all of y'all who might be getting on an Amtrak in Greenville in future!). So, in short, we were an hour early.

The doors were locked. Oh, well. As we stood there, Emily had a flashback to when she and her brother went to NYC by train years ago (same station, same departure time) and they also got there early and had to wait. History repeats itself! *grin*

We tossed up ideas on what to do in the hour we had to kill - Mike suggested asking for a tour of the engine...all of us children vetoed that immediately, not really being in the mood for a homeschool field trip *chuckle* Other options were suggested, nothing passed, so we just ended up taking pictures and talking and watching animated train videos on Mike's phone. In other words, we made memories :)

Finally the doors were unlocked, we prayed and said goodbye, the boys got my bags brought in, Carrie and Harmony and I shuffled things around so all my luggage was under the weight limit (traveling by train + train limits + three months of school stuff = not easy to pack right) and just like that, I was by myself - missing them greatly already, and wondering what in the world the next few hours held for me. Oh, did I mention my 10:58pm train was delayed till 12:15am? It was rather long night. *chuckle*

After what seemed like a whole day in itself, the train finally arrived, and we were off. The ride itself was quite the experience - I'd been getting texts from my parents and older brother and sister while at the station saying they were all up and praying for me. Dad sent me Psalm 91, which I read as a text message as if it was straight from my Heavenly Father...did wonders to calm my soul! Evidently, my siblings and mother were praying that I would be safe, and my wonderful Dad (if you know him, this will make perfect sense) was praying someone would sit down next to me. Yup.

And guess what happened?


Someone did.

But it was such a God-thing that I wasn't annoyed or freaked out. It was a precious lady, a free-lance author on her way from LA to North Carolina to visit her train. We talked for hours, and the more I learned her story, the more my heart sang at how God had brought her here. I kept falling asleep from time to time as we traveled, but she said she couldn't sleep well on trains. Once, when I was awake, she asked, "How do you fall asleep so easily?" "I don't know, but I've come to see it as a blessing and a gift, since I can sleep almost anywhere." "Well, if you figure it out, you could sell your trick and make a lot of money." It was quiet for a minute, then she said, "Actually, I think I know what it is." "Really?" "You have peace." "You're right. It hasn't always been that way, but I've learned that when Jesus says, 'Do not worry about tomorrow'....He actually meant it. So I don't worry about anything." She smiled, a little sadly, and said, "I wish I had the faith you have." Turns out, she's a believer (we both had our Bibles out at one point), but really struggling with grasping a hold on the promises - those beautiful, glorious promises that are all "yes" and "amen!".

Annoyingly so, in the middle of the night, my sleep kept me from saying goodbye to her - when I woke up, she had already gotten off the train. Through the window of the train, I saw her and her sister walking away and I prayed, "Lord, keep pursuing her!" I know her name, but that's it. She has the His Little Feet website and I told to come see us if we're near her. Lord willing, I'll see her again, but if not, I know God has her covered and He'll bring someone else into her life to encourage and bless her again.

I woke up when it was light outside and looked out my window to see a vaguely familiar sight. I sat there, staring at the college campus passing by me and thought, "If I didn't know better, I'd think this was Liberty...." And lo and behold, it was! Never have I been so glad to see that school - home was just around the corner! Not exaggerating, I was super excited and grinning ear to ear, and probably would've hugged the person next to me if there'd been anyone there. *hugs to LU for being awesome* Anyway. We stopped at the Lynchburg station, and I tried to stay awake all the way to Charlottesville, but you know when your eye lids feel so heavy and you can barely keep just one of them open? Yeah, that was me. I woke up again about fifteen minutes from town, and watched the gloriously familiar sights of my home town fly by, and before I knew it I was on the platform, scanning the group at the station and seeing my big sister and brother waving and waiting for me. Dad and Joshua came a few minutes later, and I was on my way home!

Side note: while at the station, and then during the middle of the night, this old Raffi song kept coming into my head. You know, that "all bound for Morning Town, many miles away" song? Precious childhood memories, and I always wondered what it would be like to travel on that train from Nighttime till Morning Town...and I kinda did. Dreams do come true!

In summary: I traveled solo for eight hours via Amtrak. It was interesting. God is good and faithful. It's not high on my list of favorite ways to travel, but it's no longer the Great Unknown. Maybe next time I can travel with someone else...I don't do the whole By Myself thing super great. But overall, it was an Adventure and I'm a different person because of it.

Just because, I looked up that it is. :)

Morningtown Ride 
by Raffi
Train whistle blowing, makes a sleepy noise,
Underneath their blankets, go all the girls and boys.
Heading from the station, out along the bay,
All bound for Morningtown, many miles away.

Sarah's at the engine, Tony rings the bell,
John swings a lantern, to show that all is well.
Rock-n-roll and riding, out along the bay, (<--- forever and ever my favorite line of this song!)
All bound for Morningtown, many miles away.

Maybe it is raining, where our train will ride,
But all the little travelers, are snug and warm inside.
Somewhere there is sunshine, somewhere there is day,
Somewhere there is Morningtown, many miles away.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

five reasons to write birthday cards

I was writing a birthday card yesterday while I was at the pool, watching my siblings splash around with friends or working hard in practice all morning. As I thought and prayed and laughed over what I was writing, I asked myself,

"Liza, why do you write birthday cards?"

I've been thinking about it for the past twenty-four hours or so, and I've come up with five honest reasons why I write birthday cards - and why you should too. So now, when you get a birthday card from me, you'll know why. 

1. I Love Birthdays. Especially mine. (I'm being honest here :-D) And although I know not everyone shares my extreme love for birthdays, I enjoy spreading the love and making someone feel special on theirs. 

2. Everyone Loves Mail. This is a simple fact of life. I don't know anyone who doesn't like getting mail. And I'm not talking about bills, or letters from colleges, or those colored bigger-than-a-postcard-but-they-don't-have-an-envelope glossy advertisements from department stores. I'm talking about honest-to-goodness, Love-Stamp-in-the-corner, handwritten address snail mail. Who doesn't love getting a note or a letter in the mail? 

3. It Shows I Care. In a world of instant gratification, emails and texts, it's easy to dash off a message to someone that sounds the same as the fifty-five other messages your "friend" is going to get on Facebook on their birthday and feel like you cared. For real? That's effort? Granted, if you've forgotten about someone's birthday, or they live out of the country, or another legitimate excuse for not sending a card, technology is great. But there is so much spoken by a simple handwritten note received in the mail - even if it says the *Exact Same Thing* as the FB message or text you would've sent. Think about it - I really must care if I took the time to sit down, write this out, and stick it in the mail. I'll be honest - sometimes I do send emails to wish people a happy birthday, but when that situation arises, I spend time to make the message more than just a generic "Happy Birthday, dear friend! You're the best ever, and I'm so glad we're friends, Love Liza." and write what I *would* write in a letter if I were to send one. I guess what I'm saying is - TAKE THE TIME TO MAKE IT SPECIAL. Whatever medium you use. Make them smile and think, "Aw, they really were thinking of me!" 

4. It's a Memory. Be honest - how many times have you gone back to email or Facebook and re-read your birthday messages over and over again? Maybe once or twice, if it was from someone special. But what if it was a creative, fun card on your desk or in your drawer that you stumbled across every now and then? It's more than a card or good wishes, it's a memory - brings to mind getting it in the mail, and what you were doing when you received it, and maybe even where you were and what you were seeing, smelling and hearing at the time. I've saved so many birthday letters I've received over the years, and going through them is like *experiencing* a unique scrapbook of my life, as the cards often reflect what I was into at the time and who I was hanging out with. It's not just a letter - it's a memory.

Sir, more than kisses, letters mingle souls; for, thus friends absent speak.  
~ John Donne

5. It's Just Downright FUN! Granted, I'm a little artsy and love personalized stuff, so I'd much rather have the joy of sitting down with a blank card and envelope, my bag of markers and box of Crayola crayons by my side and go to town. Maybe you're not that way. But I get such a kick out of making each card I send something straight from my heart. Sometimes it's flashy and fancy, sometimes it's just a fun font I use or the way I address the envelope, but it's always just a bit different than any other card I've sent, obviously, and a little extension of me.

There. Those are five reasons to write birthday cards. And now that I think of it, this really applies to sending letters too. So keep these in mind next time you look at the calendar and see your friend's birthday is next week and you think, "Maybe I'll send a card." When that thought crosses your mind, DO IT! Sit down right then, and write out the card. Better send it early than forget later! And you'll find, it's more fun the more you do - and there's a real pleasure that comes knowing your friend will have something with their name in their mailbox in a few days. 

Also, this is an extension of being Jesus to others. It's thinking of others ahead of yourself, putting aside your time to serve them and bless them in a small way. You'll never know how impactful a simple note can be to a person. God knows what they need, and He might just be asking you to be the mode by which He encourages them. You won't regret it! Point them to Jesus - you can't go wrong.
"A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly
and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother." - Proverbs 18:24

Sunday, June 22, 2014

harmony's kitties

Harmony's cat, Liberty, had her kittens not long before we arrived - it was fascinating to watch them develop over the next couple weeks. By the time I left, they were staggering around on wobbly legs, ready to think outside the box (literally - or the chair, in this case) and explore the barn and beyond! *grin* Sitting with them, letting them climb up our shirts and dig their little claws into our arm trying to get a grip and not fall, feeling Libby's rough tongue on our fingers as she licked the kittens while we held them...don't you just love the little things that animals do that make us smile?

"It is impossible to keep a straight face in the presence of one or more kittens." 
Cynthia E. Varnado

"Cats are rather delicate creatures and they are subject to a good many ailments, but I never heard of one who suffered from insomnia."
~ Joseph Wood Krutch

"Kittens are born with their eyes shut. They open them in about six days, take a look around, then close them again for the better part of their lives."
 ~ Stephen Baker

"You will always be lucky if you know how to make friends with strange cats."
 ~ Proverb

Friday, June 13, 2014

when you don't really know what to say.

It's been a sweet, final full day here. Carter led Carrie, Harmony, Emma and I on an "expotitian" (to quote our beloved Pooh Bear) in the deep dark woods this morning, and then we had a picnic outside in the sunshine. Tonight's the last night of Backyard Bible School (Travis, Carrie, Tiffany, Joel and I have been working as group leaders there all week), and tomorrow I'll be preparing to leave in the evening. Two weeks has gone by fast!

But today I also got one of those phone calls. The ones you know are going to be hard before you even pick up the phone. This time, it was a call (which I missed) and voicemail, and I had to call back....which I did, with my heart in the pit of my stomach, with no idea what to expect.

What do you say? What do you say when you lose a friend?

What do you say when you lose a member of your close-knit-its-like-family theatre troupe?

What do you say?

I don't know yet. But I do know Who is still on the Throne. I know what to do, I know where to turn. Even through my tears, my aching heart, my little world that feels like a snow globe that's just been turned over, I know my feet still stand on Rock. I know Jesus is here. He was there last night when the troupe gathered to pray instead of rehearse. He's there in the hospital with the grieving fiancé (recovering from her injuries from the accident) and her family (also part of our troupe). He's with us, and He's not going anywhere.

I don't really understand any of this. I can't even grasp it, since I'm not home yet. This is just the beginning of the hard part.

But I do know that Truth stays the same. And I'm clinging to this verse:

"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Romans 8:37-39

Monday, June 9, 2014

come away {with Jesus}

This past weekend, we hosted a simulcast of Leslie's annual Set Apart Girl conference here in South Carolina. It was a truly precious time of fellowship, encouragement, and seeking Jesus together. It was long and late every night (since everything is in MST, two hours behind us), but we truly saw God's grace given to us in greater measure. It was a sweet weekend - I'm excited to see what all will come out of it and how God will use the truth spoken to make us more like Himself in the days and weeks to come.

One of the boys commented, "When it said 'tea party' on the schedule, I thought y'all were just having tea or something." *grin*

guess who gave a concert? definitely a highlight :)

God really did a work in me this weekend as well, although not directly related to the conference. Saturday night, as I was praying through Psalm 119, this verse stood out, clear day, from the pages: "I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me." The correction of the Lord can be painful at times, but I'm oh, so very thankful that He has opened my heart to discern when something is standing between Himself and me. And He is oh, so faithful to restore me to that closeness after repentance, and give me even greater peace and joy in Him than I ever felt possible.

My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away, for behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree ripens its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away..." - Song of Solomon 2:10-13

Thursday, June 5, 2014

{summer days in the South - 6.5.14}

this week:
- graduation weekend at Ellerslie. Bittersweet, but so exciting as we all branch out and follow Jesus in our various hometowns or wherever we're headed.
- our flying adventure from Denver to Greenville with two different stops along the way, but never leaving our plane. We sort of camped out in the back rows and made friends with the flight attendants and stretched our legs in the aisles while they unloaded and boarded new passengers. It was a long time, but we didn't seem to be the worse for it.
- I am now officially back in the South, and OH, how LOVELY it is! Hot and humid, eighty to ninety degrees everyday, *trees*, deep front porches, home-like accents, and the feeling of home. It's good to be back!
- whiffle ball game, end of the school year party for Landon and Harmony, and a rather energetic game of ball tag our second evening back :)

- going over to Joel's to drop off something they left over here, and ending up visiting with Christi and the children for over two hours and seeing their new house and enjoying the warm weather on the porch.
- late night, post-church coffee excursion for free coffee at Main Street Coffee Company (happy 5th anniversary!) We got there at five-till closing, and stayed not too long - but it was still fun, the whole posse of us seven or so young adults :)
- finding out (while sitting on the sofa before supper, randomly checking email) more officially what I'm doing next year...stay tuned!!!!
- pool party with Christi's little people to give her some time to get stuff done around the house :)

- I thought we were nearly done with the "are you related?" question with the Gingeriches, but this past week, I was asked twice (once by a graduation attendee and once by a flight attendant) if I was sister to two different members of their family. Both times, after we said "no", the person responded, "Y'all look like twins!" Well, well, well.
- Maddie turned 18 yesterday! I wasn't there, but what a milestone. The Morales girls are growing up! It's hard to believe that we're still the same little girls from years ago, just with new stories and new experiences and more maturity. Time truly goes by in a blink! Love you, Maddie! <3

- preparing for the Set Apart Girl conference! It's starts tomorrow and runs till Sunday. Super excited to see how God's going to use it. We're simulcasting it from the Gingeriches church....if you're within driving distance of Abbeville, y'all should come! (seriously, if you want to, email me)

- last, but certainly not least, we had chocolate milk today. Life is good, folks.

"Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth....Yours is the day, yours also the night; you have established the heavenly lights and the sun. You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth; you have made summer and winter." - Psalm 74

Monday, June 2, 2014

showers of blessing.

Hey Kima, Zuala, Vena, Dami, Chhuani, Eni and David!

It's Auntie Liza. I don't even know where to begin, but I wanted to somehow commemorate what an incredible year it has been. I've prayed for you for so long, loved you for so long, and I'm really sad that I have to say goodbye to you today. You've got one more month here, and I pray it'll be the best you've had so far. I wish I could spend it with you, but God's got another plan for me, and I trust Him to work it for His glory.

Eni, you said yesterday that I'd probably forget you someday - and I told you that's impossible. Even when I'm an old lady, and you said I'd look at that picture I have framed of y'all on my desk and say, "who *are* those people?", I'll still remember the preciousness of this year and of each one of your faces. Plus, you made me a rubber-band bracelet! How can I forget you if I'm wearing that all the time?! Even if they will be out of fashion by the time I'm an old lady anyway.

God has big, incredible plans for each one of your lives. I, for one, can't wait to see what He does with you back home. You will always, *always* be in your Auntie Liza's heart and prayers and I'll carry the memories and your hugs and smiles with me wherever I go!

This weekend has been so fun - I never thought I'd get to spend so much time with y'all amidst all the graduation craziness, but Jesus is so good! Thank you for letting me do practically everything with y'all - even if it was hot all day and some of y'all don't like summer (you know who you are :P).

You are precious to me, and I love you with all my heart.

With all the love I have in Jesus,
Auntie Liza.