Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What a legacy!

We have been so blessed to have both sets of grandparents here for 2 days. I did not let the moment pass us without some pictures!

Our parents have left the most beautiful, gentle, real, life-changing, message for me and Mark, and for our children... and our children's children. What a legacy!

Happy Week,

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry, Merry Christmas!

                                           Christmas Past

It's 6am on Christmas Eve and my internal Valerie clock went off. I debated over rolling over and sleeping til I heard the children and the in-laws waking, OR roll out of bed, put on a pot of coffee, turn on soft christmas music, turn on the tree, and soak in the silence... you now know which one won! ;)

i never made it to that christmas letter i talked about here. my brother wrote such an excellent one here that he satisfied any need for me to write one. and i also feel like i write a christmas letter every day on this blog. no need for me to recap all the sweet, silly, sad, stinking-hilarious (a jessica mall/flynn term) events of 2010.

however, there is one theme that has been noticeable absent in my blog.. i touched on it here.. but would like to briefly talk about it some more.

if i had one verse to wrap up 2010 it would be the following
Isaiah 61:1

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
Because the LORD has anointed me        
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;

two words stand out.. liberty and freedom. 2010, has been about being set free from bondage. both mark and i would tell you that 2010 has been by far our most difficult year individually, and as a married couple. with those fierce difficulties there has also come such an abundant overflow of unity and blessing.

for me personally, God was so gracious to bring me to a place of being completely undone so that He might heal some deep wounds in my life and reveal Himself in such an intimate, powerful, way. He took tight chains of fear that held me captive for so long, and through a series of mysterious and beautiful events; and through a series of using wonderfully truthful and gentle fellow sojourners.... He chose not to remove the fear, but even better; He taught me where to go with that fear, and how to combat that fear, so that i might have victory!! that i might proclaim liberty... that i might be free...

there are not enough hours or pages on this blog for me to describe it... but it was a LONG 3 1/2 year process of refining. oh, i am not nearly done.. but i am more free, and living with more victory than ever before. and He gets all the glory. He receives ALL adoration for not leaving me alone, for not letting me go, for not giving up on my stubborn soul... but pursuing me with a promise of hope, pursuing me with a promise of peace, and pursuing me with a promise of FREEDOM!!! i am celebrating that freedom with a new intensity this Christmas!

dear friends, i pray that you have a merry, merry, christmas.  thank you for journeying with us on this blog. i look forward to all the things that 2011 have in store for us.

with much love,

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Savior's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O'er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friends.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Living In the Storm Part 4, I miss the way it was.

I am grieving. The kind of grief that startles you in the middle of the night and won't let you go. The kind of grief that makes you want to crawl back into bed and sleep all day long. They say the cycles of grief are just exactly that, cycles. You leave one only to enter another. I am in the cycle of anger. Selfishly, I am angry at all the people out there with able-bodied mothers who are busily preparing Christmas festivities so that things could be the way they were. And really, the anger is simply masking my deep sadness. I really have no desire to begrudge you and your healthy mom.  :)

It was about 4 years ago that we realized that things would never be the way they were. Us kids found ourselves more on the adult side of Christmas than ever before. It was hard. It is hard. It wasn't necessarily this fun transition of the monarchy fading out and generation 2 taking over. It was like, "ok, it's not getting done, pull up your boot straps and make it happen."  Fix the meals, decorate the house, organize the gifts, and try in every way to make the processes easier.

Today, I am 1100 miles from my family. I am cleaning toilets and crying into them. Today, I am making Rice Krispy treats and beating them into their mold instead of gently forming them. Grief does that to you. And I have no desire to shove my feelings aside and pretend that everything is ok, it's not.

If you have an able-bodied Mom who is busy preparing Christmas festivities, hug her, thank her, appreciate what she is doing, then file it all away in a protected place in your heart.

Sorry for my pity party today. I bet you thought you were coming here for some holiday cheer...

I will only wallow here a moment.

I have much to be celebrating! My sweet in-laws arrive today, my parents come Tuesday, my kids and husband are going to LOVE their Christmas gifts, and I have been giving a great promise that someday all things will be made new.

Until then, I miss her.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Christmas from the Halls!!

“I’m dreaming tonight of a place I love, even more than I usually do….”

Greetings from the Halls!

Forgive us for taking a “season” or two off from Christmas letter writing.   Life surely has a way of catching you off guard, especially when it’s time to sit and write the annual letter.  However, WE ARE BACK!   This year, I, (Zach) have the distinct honor of being Mom’s “ghost writer.”  I was the lucky one to receive the message of “you need to write the letter!!!”   Hopefully, everyone heard my mother’s voice in that quote, because it was just as you heard.   I tell myself that Mom picked me because I construct words the best in the family, but I won’t say that… well maybe just to Andrew.

 We have a lot to cover, so hang on…we’re going oldest to youngest because it always feels right to me, and I have that power now in writing the letter. :)

Jonathan.  My word for Johnny is …FAITHFUL.   Jonathan is living and working in Overland Park, KS.    He is still faithfully working for the Blue Valley School District, and man do they have a jewel in my brother.   I have never seen anyone work more diligently and make a hallway floor shine like that.  He is very active at Westbrooke Church, and faithfully helps Mom and Dad around the house these days. We siblings are so thankful for our brother who is at home carefully “watching over the flocks by night.” He continues to teach us what the heart of Jesus really looks like with his unconditional love towards each of us, and his attitude to help and serve everyone he comes in touch with.   

Joanna.  My word for her is TOWER.   Joanna and Matt Regier are continuing to live in Lenexa, KS.  Megan, now 4, is growing up quickly as she started Preschool this fall and loves it!   Give her a call and she will tell you ALL about it, and perhaps a story or two about an adventure she and Dora took recently.  It’s a trip….literally.   Lizzie, now 2, is quickly getting everything she could ask for from her uncles’ and aunts’, due to that awesome curly blonde hair.   With the cuddly curious attitude she contains, she will melt your heart when you see her.   She’s a gift to us all.   Matt, with many less curls and hair in general,  continues to work for a newer local software engineer company in the Johnson County area.  As a great Father, and devoted husband,  Matt is a rock to that strong TOWER I told you about earlier.    Oh, the little Jo Jo.   A tower of strength; a tower of heart; a tower of hope and a tower of steadfastness.   Joanna is staying at home, growing and corralling the girls full time.   She is also helping and volunteering with the MOPS program at her church, and coordinating multiple events there.   I’m impressed with how active she and the girls stay.   I constantly say…”you’re where?” when we talk on the phone.   They find themselves at the zoo, at the local art fair, at the indoor gym, swimming, pumpkin patch; Target, etc…  I know for a fact that she is talking to Sara half of this time as well.   What would they have done before unlimited calling plans?   Joanna never ceases in strength.  She always knows what to do and she is always there when she is needed most.   She is the TOWER and pillar of strength that the Lord has brought her up to be, and she just makes everything ok.  Way to go oldest sister, type A-ish, nurse, and this family’s stronghold.

Andrew.  My word for Andrew is BALANCE.  Andrew and Liisa are living in Beverly, Massachusetts, just north of Boston. Liisa, number two of the dear outlaws, is probably the smartest of all us combined times 2.    Liisa makes me want to be cooler.  You know that feeling when you say, “man, how does she do that?”   That’s what I love about her.   She genuinely cares about you, and how you are doing.   Liisa and Andrew own a Chiropractic practice in their area happily named Hall Family Chiropractic(   They love their patients, and serve several hundreds of them weekly.  Andrew has always done things well.  He continues to love his wife well, and be an amazing Doctor of Chiropractic, and BALANCE the rest of us out.   When things seem dark, and when frenzy is the only action being taken, Andrew leads. I sure love my very own Mr. Clean. 

My word for myself is BEST- CHILD… wait I mean MOTION.   I moved to Southern California in late 2008 to work for Forest Home Camp and Conference Center.   After 2 wonderful years there, learning from the best, and continuing to build my resume’ in Christian Camping, this October I returned to my “roots.”   Hitting the road once again for French Camp Academy, and Camp of the Rising Son in French Camp, Mississippi.   I work there as the Guest Services Coordinator for the Academy itself, and as the Assistant Camp Director for the camp in the summer. French Camp Academy is a Christ centered school home for youth who cannot stay at home for some reason or another, and it’s goal is to restore the student’s childhood by providing a safe Godly environment.   I love this place.   It’s been such a blessing the past few years to work full time in ministry for the Lord, in the field in which I truly love.  

My word for Sara is MULTIPLY.  Mark and Sara Littlejohn are currently living in King George, Virginia, just south of Washington D.C.   Mark has been working for U.S. Department of Defense, as a civilian mechanical engineer since the Spring of 2008.  Mark, the third of the outlaws, is the original.   Mark lights every room he enters, and has never met a stranger.   I am always amazed at how he balances my sister,  parenting, and can be so much darn fun.  We love our Mark.   He and Sara are flanked by Katie, 7; Julia, 5; Lucy, 3; and Anderson, almost 2.   I call that a gaggle.    Katie is smarter than all of us, like Liisa, and her favorite color is pink.   Julia could hurt me physically and compassionately nurse me back to health in less than 5 minutes.   Her favorite color is more of an off-pink.    Lucy makes me laugh out loud with her astute awareness of right and wrong.   On a recent visit I was scolded with “Uncle Zachie, that is very rude….you should not say that.”   You’re right Lucy.  Her favorite color is both black and white, but not gray. J   Anderson.  Poor , poor, only boy Anderson.   This kid rocks.  He is so fun and really cares about food, his mama, and playing.   He is truly a gift from the Lord to all of us and of course BLUE is his color, until his sisters decide differently for him.    Sara’s word as I said is MULTIPLY.  She has not only done very well in multiplying children, but she makes everything much more valuable.  Sara is also at home full time with the kids, however, she gets to add “teacher” to her resume’ as she home schools Katie and Jules.   Sara not only teaches multiples, but makes multiples of friends, meals, gifts, blog entries, calls to each of us,  piano lessons, Wal-Mart runs, VBS songs, laundry loads, trips to see family…etc…    Sara loves in bunches.   She’s quick with the text message to brighten your day, and an email to keep you up to date on the kids and Mark.   She multiplies the Joy of the Lord around her, so that you cannot but help feel and be a part of who she is, and the King she serves.   Her “product” is invaluable.   *I need big props for getting my math terms correct and appropriately used*

If we had a family pet, we would insert them here.   However Mom and Dad shipped Ebby the cat off years ago, and we’re still bitter.   Ebby, we love you and miss your arrogance.   R.I.P. wherever you are.

Now the big dogs… Now the grand masters…  Now the Kahunas...  good ole’ Clint and Valerie.

My word for the two of them is ADVENTURE.  

Firstly, we want to thank everyone for your love and support for what has been a long few years around this household.   Your outreach and servant hood is so greatly appreciated, noticed, and much needed.   Yes, we acknowledge that Mom has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and a plethora of other things.   We acknowledge that this is not fun, and it is hard for our parents and our family.   We know that we don’t know what the Lord holds for us in the future as we enter and move through this particular storm….but this we do know:   The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in him.” Lamentations 3:22-24

An Adventure we’re on these days, but one that we’re promised will end well.   Amen?

Dad stepped down as Senior Pastor of Westbrooke Church this past June. He moved into a position of Director of Pastoral Care which has allowed him to spend a lot more time at home and also shepherding the people he has spent so much time with.     What a beautiful display of gratitude the church showed my parents for their years of service.   It truly was a sweet time for my parents to close a chapter in their lives in which the Lord has allowed them to serve so faithfully.  

Now don’t you worry, the C & V have P L E N T Y to do to keep them busy.   They typically start their mornings at the local Panera with their peer group of friends,  where Clint is a local celebrity.   Mom is still busy diligently making sure we all are doing what we’re supposed to be doing.   Big surprise, eh?  Between telling us to come home to visit, and keeping up with the grandchildren gaggle, that woman doesn’t miss a step.  

I could write endlessly about the parents.   But you know them.  You know what and who they are, or you wouldn’t be receiving this letter.   They are the best people I know, and true reflections of the Jesus they love.   My parents are the people who are always in motion.  They are the balanced, faithful tower of God’s  love that multiplies everywhere they go.   

This Christmas, the Halls miss and love you.     

During this season we hope that you are reminded to take hold of the sure promise that our God is good, all the time, even when it’s bad, and even when its good…God is good!

Merry Christmas.

All our love,
Clint, Val, Jonathan, Joanna and Matt, Megan, Lizzy, Andrew and Liisa, Zach, Sara and Mark, Katie, Julia, Lucy and Anderson

Sunday, December 19, 2010

peel the crayons, mix the paint, and eat the playdough...

people ask us all the time... "how do you do it?"  typically, they are referring to parenting our stair stepped (7,5,3, and almost 2 year old) children.

and my answer is pretty easy; peel the crayons, mix the paint, and eat the play dough. some of you are already going OCD on me and are trying to clean up the little crayon wrappers via the cyberspace world.. ;) hear me out. for me, there are too many processes, routines, and choices for me to daily oversee, to allow myself to get lost or overwhelmed with things that are icing on the cake.  each process, routine, and  decision removes just a little bit of energy from me all day long. so over my whopping 7 1/2 (ish) years of parenting i have learned to invest my energy in those specific instances that are most important to me. for me; peeling crayons, mixing paint, and eating play dough are very low on my list. if they sold crayons without paper i would SO buy them. today during church i found myself peeling the crayons for julia... when the kids pull out the play dough i go in the other room until they are done, and then we clean it all up together... otherwise, i sit there and pick up the play dough behind them and sweep 15 times before they are done playing ;)  also, clothes. when i ask my 3 girls to go get dressed for the day that's what i mean. so if my kids wear crazy, unique, colorful, outfits that don't match i am not inclined to make them change. again, for me, it's not a battle i am willing to invest emotional or physical energy. i know there are things that are important to me that aren't important to other mothers. we have talked before how i am a sleep nazi. everyone is in their bed 12 hours at night and 90 minutes during the day. therefore, b/c i am so serious about this issue, i have invested LOTS of hours of training, battling, and energy. it's worth it to me. for others it's not an issue for them... and i respect that.

the bottom line? minor in the minor's, major on the major's.

my mom did a SUPER job at this! and i am convinced her very relaxed personality enabled our home to be a safe, warm, and comfortable place for not only family, but for anyone!

be encouraged. we are ALL different. we all have different gifts, personalities, preferences, birth orders, etc...  in the midst of all the differences and preferences don't miss out on your kids, and don't miss out on all the other mom's that are different than you! some of my dearest, bestest friends don't let their kids peel the crayons, mix the paint, or eat play dough... that's why they come to aunt sara's!

happy investing!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

if i only had a peep. (one from the archive)

easter is not easter without a peep.  while i think they are quite gross, easter is not complete without a peep at least making an appearance in a Fry (my mother's maiden name) home.  you might as well kiss your family genes goodbye if you pass by the peep section at wal-mart and don't pick up a few :)  thankfully, the peeps came to me this year in the mail (thanks Grandma and Grandy!)

while easter is the celebration of the risen Lord, satan prowls around homes on easter morning simply looking to destroy the celebration!

Example 1:
easter is incomplete without a few break downs in morning as we are getting in our "easter best".  the children can absolutely adore their outfits a short 12 hours before the clock strikes "easter!"  but for some reason (the devil himself) easter morning everyone is put-off by their hideous outfits and they want to wear jeans and t-shirts instead.  the clothes battle is one i refuse to fight.  b/c i don't think it's a moral issue, rather a preference of mine that my children look the way i think they should look.  pretty selfish at the core. so when the melt-downs began i automatically laid down and said, "whatever you want to wear, i am not having this argument!" to my surprise, everyone did end up returning to their easter best before we left for church, even mark! ;)

Example 2:
i also learned a few years ago that the devil himself waits in my camera on easter morning. us moms are somehow inclined to take a quick photo before we run out the door b/c everyone looks so cute... BAD IDEA!!! that camera comes out and it all goes to you know where... tears, frowns, "i want a chocolate egg!", more tears, etc..etc. i know you are laughing moms b/c you guys tried this yesterday morning and you were late to church as a result!!! ;0 this is why there are no pictures of the littlejohn crew dressed in their easter clothes.  haven't you seen enough pictures of my kids?!

but even after the melt downs, the lack of pictures, a late start to the church place, the message of the sweet resurrection was not lost. during the sermon, julia drew a picture for me. 

 isn't it great? the best part for me was the huge smile of Jesus' face as He left the tomb.  that is exactly what the scripture tells us about Easter...Hebrews 12:2b "who for the JOY set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God the Father." that word JOY gives me the goose bumps. obviously the cross was not where the joy was found, but rather the JOY was the redemption of our souls.  "it is finished!" was the joy... the reconciliation of our heart to His was the JOY!!

hallelujah, what a savior!!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Piano Recital

 i have been teaching piano for about 18 months now. i have nine of the best students! all 3 of my girls are taking. lucy, is taking very informally. i typically don't like to start teaching until kids can read... but lucy gets her feelings hurt when i teach katie and julia, and not her.

(sorry the files are not all together! don't forget to come back to see how all 3 of them performed!)

we had our christmas recital on tuesday night. lucy can't read music.. so typically she just plays a couple of notes on the piano and we call it good. she decided that she wanted to play in the christmas recital because everyone else was... i said, 'lucy, what are you going to play?" and she said, "2-3-2-3" (those are finger placements on the piano) i thought there was no harm in giving her a turn at the recital.... click here for the outcome.

katie was next. katie practiced every time she passed the piano. she did a fabulous job also! click here to watch.

and julia. oh, julia. the sunday before the tuesday the recital was scheduled, julia had a melt down about how she hated her song, etc..etc.. so i said, "well, pick a new one and if you can't play it by tuesday you won't play at all!" julia is motivated by competition. she practiced without whining... and surprised even me.... click here to see for yourself.

i love music. it is a huge source of therapy for me. i hope my kids grow up with the same love and appreciation for it!


professional nose blower....

Anderson might just be a professional nose blower.  Click here to see what i am talking about. if that career doesn't pan out for him he can be a professional cutie pie! ;)

happy friday!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

the love of a sister!

i love sister's. i should know, i have the best sister in the whole wide world!

sister's are good for dancing with...

laughing with....

being silly with...

and simply being together....

the gift of a sister is the eternal gift of friendship, familiarity, fearless devotion, and F.U.N.!!!

i love sister's!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

the love of a brother..

brother's are grand!

i should know. i have 3 of them.

they are good for laughing at....

and they are good for finishing off whatever is left at the table ;)

brother's are good for loving on, and for getting love from.

i love brother's!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Marriage Part 3, Behavior Modification

one of my FAVORITE concepts from the marriage conference was the following: a lot of marriage counseling today is focused on behavior modification. counselors move couples from one behavior modification cage to the next. no one ever purposefully exposing the core issues of the heart. behaviors can change for only so long before the over spill of our heart reveals itself again.

for instance, a wife says to her husband, "all of our marriage problems are your fault. if you would only love me the way that i need to be loved it would be a lot easier to respect you." a counselor then suggests that she give her husband some ideas of how that might look to her... she gives her husband a list:

1. bring me flowers.
2. help with the house work and the kids more.
3. plan a date.
4. cuddle with me more.

her husband is automatically placed in a cage. if he can successfully navigate the list then maybe, just maybe, his marriage will work. so for days, weeks, months, etc... he tries really hard.... his wife is very pleased with his efforts and all seems to be smooth sailing. they both rave about their counselor and the great strides they have made in their marriage.... and then, one day he comes home from work exhausted, and falls asleep on the couch while his wife is preparing dinner, and she loses it. "You never help with the house work, you are so lazy and unthoughtful...etc.."  and the cycle of good behavior ends, and husband and wife are back at square one. she is blaming him for all that is lacking in their marriage.... when really, this is a lot more about HER then it is about him. for instance, maybe this wife has deep daddy issues. she came into the marriage feeling very unloved and insecure. and for a short time her husband met a need. she has spent her whole life trying to gain the approval of others so that her love cup would be filled up. so when her love cup is not consistently being filled by her husband, she responds with anger because she is hurting. the counselor didn't take the time to get to the core issues of her insatiable need to be loved. rather, he spent time trying to modify the behavior of the husband to satisfy the wife. how much better than would it be if the counselor took the time to address those heart issue of the wife, so that a long term solution could be found?

don't hear what i am not saying... wives need to feel loved by their husbands. AND should communicate the things that make them feel loved. husbands need to do things that communicate love to their wives... but as we discussed in part two... no one human being has the ability to meet all the needs of their spouse. your marriage is doomed from the beginning if this is your goal.

but if we are willing to evaluate our own heart in the midst of an argument with our spouse, our eyes might be opened and the problem might be solved more effectively and permanently. what specific areas trigger deep conflict and pain in your marriage? identify them, and then take time to figure out what the CORE issue is... in other words, what's the REAL problem. the REAL problem is probably NOT that your husband leaves his shoes in the middle of the floor when he comes home from work.... it might be that you feel that he doesn't appreciate your hard work in taking care of your home, and his actions strip away any appreciation you might feel. he does not affirm your place in the home and does not lend a helping hand... so even IF he did put his shoes away everyday for a week... it does NOT eliminate your need for him to affirm you and help.. so this issue will find another way to be exposed... maybe he does not clear his plate one night after dinner... and WHAM, the argument begins again. at this point, the husband feels that he can DO nothing right, and ultimately stops trying. do you see the cycle that spins out of control when we only address behavior modification?

now, think about how this exact concept applies to EVERY relationship in our lives. specifically child rearing. if we only desire to modify our children's behavior so that we look good and they look good... we have done them SUCH disservice.. we never address their heart... and the core issues... consequently, bad behavior continues to find alternative outlets, and we parents are left feeling like failures. mainly, because all the while we have been trying to modify the behavior and NOT address the heart.

and, for all of us the same heart issue exists. we all are longing, striving, painfully working, to fill a need so desperate, that we spend a life time searching for it in our spouse, in our families, in our careers, in our children, in our status, in our homes, in our education, in our friends, and even in religious banter and canter that leads to a dead end.

it's not WHAT we need... it's WHO we need. and His name is Jesus, Abba, Emmanuel... He came as a babe 2,000 years ago.. and He, HE has the ability to satisfy EVERY need and EVERY desire that swims in your soul. i don't say that because it's some pretty promise or mantra that i have learned to spew all over you... but i can confidently shout it from the mountain tops everyday. HE is everything to me. He is the very source of my strength and the very source of my life. Without Him I am nothing. My best efforts, my best works, my best love lists are garbage without Him. Without Him, no marriage can satisfy even an inkling of what we desire. Without Him, the abundant life that we have been promised, never comes to fruition.

But with Him, we can plunge into such mysterious levels of joy and peace, that are unexplainable and undeniable.

Don't miss Him!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

C.A.M.P!!! (one from the archive)

Original date: June 14th, 2010
Nearly 20 years ago I went to Camp NEKAMO.  My mom signed up to be a counselor for another age group, knowing I would not go unless I knew she would be there. Camp changed that nine year old girl forever.

A few short years later, it was time for me to spread my wings and fly to Camp of the Rising Son, in French Camp Mississippi. Assistant Counselor was my title. And the only reason I was going so far from home for so long was because my brother, Zach, was with me.  Camp changed that brother and sister forever.

One year later, at the mature age of 17, I returned to Camp, met a boy named Mark, and camp changed that boy and that girl forever.

Hand in hand, Mark and I started our own marriage together at Twin Lakes Camp and Conference Center. For three years, Mark served as Guest Services Assistant Director, and I was Program Director. Our first baby was born to us while we were there. The birth of that little girl, at camp, changed that married couple’s life forever.

The people we love deeply from our years of camp ministry are irreplaceable.  Your connection never dies no matter the distance or time.  You’re bonded together with something impenetrable. And camp people are undeniably the most fun people walking the face of this planet, just ask us. Camp changes people forever.

Today, June 14th, our eldest walked away from me with her back pack jammed packed, camp flowing in her very own blood, courageous, bold, and camp changed that Mama’s heart for forever.


a little bit of constipation...

i never promised that my blog would be the most eloquent.

i never promised that my blog would always be filled with proper etiquette.

but i did promised that it would be about real life.

last week we had quite the comedy of errors around here. within 48 hours we had five separate instances of brokenness. two different cars had to be fixed, one computer needed to be fixed, one DVD player needed to be fixed, and we had a broke bank account.. (not literally, although, this time of year it feels broke. but rather, the bank account had incorrect information in it...causing a domino effect of brokenness) at one point in the 48 hours we thought that someone had broken into our bank account, that we had an irreparable van, and that we had lost ALL information on our computer. talk about a gut check... thankfully, everything has been put back into working order and we are moving on.

because the computer has been down for a week, i have been really constipated in my writing. it's that time of year to start writing my christmas letter. christmas letters are really important to me. last year i didn't write one.. the first time in our marriage that i didn't write one... for good reason, i think. but i was ready to pour myself into that letter this week. and had ZERO opportunity. SO, everything has been bottled up inside my head with no place to go. some of it so scrambled up now that i can't remember what exactly i was going to write about.  writing has become such an outlet for me that it helps me structure my day. several days this week i felt crazed, partly because of the mad brokenness... and partly because i couldn't write. this week helped me realize how much i love and NEED to write. even though the break wasn't wanted, it caused reflection..  and that was good for me.

so here is to a stool softener... and possibly a diarrhea effect on my posts this week.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010


We are having computer issues.
Hope to get it fixed soon so I can be up and blogging soon!!
I refuse to type on an iPhone.

Friday, December 3, 2010

a house full of friends.

when the navy gave us our marching orders from starkville, ms to king george va, my most consistent prayer was that God would grant my kids with sweet friends. i think the influence of friends is as almost as big of an influence as a mom and dad. God has placed us in a church body, and a community that is overflowing with sweet kids whom have made such great companions and friends.

four of those kiddos have taken up residence in our house while their parents (dave and chris, mentioned several times in this blog) are on an anniversary trip.

joe 13, katie 10, kellie 9, and tim 7 have been such great helpers and entertainment.... ;) no one is lacking for a friend to play with, no one lacking for a helper during school, and no one is lacking for noise around here.

it's been wild... but it's been fun.

 we have had hot coca and elf night.... BIG SUCCESS!

we have attempted rest hour.... BIG FAILURE!

and we have all tried to find a quiet place to hear ourselves think... even the cupboards.

"but there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother." prov. 18:24b

happy friday!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

to believe or not to believe

we do not believe in santa claus. mainly because mark is selfish and does not want some fictional character to receive all the glory for his hard work! ;) but we do not have issues if you and yours believe in santa.... really, we don't.

we have tried to teach our kids to be sensitive to others who do believe, and we instruct them to not ruin the secret.

katie is by far my most sensitive and intuitive child. she can read people and situations better than most adults i know.   she honestly desires to do what is right ALL the time.  so last year she was really concerned about what to tell other kids about her beliefs in santa. she didn't want to lie to them b/c she knows that ALL lying in wrong... but she also did not want to hurt someone. so, the following story took place last year :

when katie was 3, she was determined that she wanted to have NOTHING to do with a creepy guy who climbed down her chimney at night without her realizing, and then proceed to sneak around her house while she slept..  nuh-uh! not for this three year old. so santa really died before he even became alive in the littlejohn house. katie has friends who DO believe in santa claus, and we are totally fine with that! 

however, today she said, "mom, what am i suppose to tell kids who ask me, "katie, what did you ask santa for?"

"well, hmmm..." i said.  instead of just telling her what i thought she should say, i tried to encourage problem solving and said, "well, what do YOU think you should say?"  she sat quietly for a few minutes... she even began a coloring project.  all the while, i knew her big brain was processing. 

after some time she piped up and said,
"mom, when kids ask me what i asked santa for, i am going to tell them that santa put me on the naughty list...!!!"

merry christmas!


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"Cutest Thing This Side of the Mason-Dixon Line"

the title of my post is just another one of those staple statements people say in the deep south. honestly, i'd have to google exactly where the mason-dixon line is. ah-ha... here it is.
ok, now that we have had our geography lesson we can move on.

so, like i was saying....cute. i figured out how to download the pictures from my phone into my account, and have found some of the cutest pictures this side of the mason-dixon! i hope you enjoy them.

make sure you stay tuned. as of today, mark and i have officially become parents of eight until saturday. oh, yeah we are nuts, and oh, yeah there will be some good stories to tell!

til then, stay cute!