November 29, 2012

The Book of a Lifetime

As I mentioned before, we recently visited Northwest Arkansas and had a wonderful time. The main reason for our visit was that friends of my grandfather planned a banquet celebrating my grandfather's birthday, my grandparents' marriage, and their ministry to countless of lives over the years. It was also a fundraiser for my grandfather's ministry, Ventures for Christ. It was an incredible evening of celebration, and around 500 people attended! We were so blessed to hear testimonies from incredible men and women, including Mike Huckabee, Robert Lewis, Dennis Rainey, and others.

We started the evening by my mom lighting Sabbath candles. A Rabbi that my grandfather strongly influenced led the prayers in Hebrew and it was so beautiful. Our family loves and honors that the roots of our faith began with Judaism, and we think the traditions are so special. It was really neat, because the Rabbi said at the end of the prayer that we look forward not for the first coming of the Messiah, but we dwell in the anticipation of the SECOND coming of the Messiah (because we believe as Christians that Jesus was and is the promised Messiah, as prophesied in Scripture). I always love when Jewish tradition is combined with our Christian faith.

The man of the night. :)

My mom gave a beautiful tribute to my grandparents. Even my Dad got a little teary-eyed. :)

Two of my sibs....

My brother tends to influence others to do things they might not normally posing for the picture below:

I loved where I sat at the table, because I got to watch my grandparents' reactions to everything that was being said.

My brother saying hello to Baby. And he's really not as creepy as he appears in this picture.

The Fam:

Poppy opening an amazing gift from my cousin Hayden. It was so awesome and well-done!

As I was sitting listening to the countless things people were saying that night, my mind immediately went to the movie Mr. Holland's Opus. It's an incredible movie, where the main character, Mr. Holland, has a dream of composing a beautiful opus. But instead, "life" happens and he ends up teaching high school music for around 30 years. He pours his soul into his students and gives his all to making music real and exciting and relevant to these kids, but at the end of the movie the district decides to cut the music program.

As he's dwelling on what the last 30 years have meant, he experiences a crisis of feeling like it's all been for nothing. Among many personal obstacles and hardships, and combined with the strain of teaching, Mr. Holland never got to compose that opus that he was always writing in his head.

On his last day of packing up his classroom, his son leads him to the auditorium, where thunderous applause erupts. The room is filled with past students and lives that Mr. Holland has touched. One student that he particularly influenced ended up as the governor, and she addressed the crowd:

"MrHolland had a profound influence on my life, on a lot of lives that I know. And yet I get the feeling that he considers a great part of his own life misspent. Rumor had it he was always working on this symphony of his. And this was going to make him famous, rich, probably both. But MrHolland isn't rich and he isn't famous, at least not outside of our little town. So it might be easy for him to think himself a failure. And he would be wrong, because I think that he's achieved a success far beyond riches and fame.  Look around you. There is not a life in this room that you have not touched, and each one of us is a better person because of you. We are your symphony, MrHolland. We are the melodies and the notes of your opus. And we are the music of your life."

As I was sitting at my own grandfather's banquet (something he never expected in a million years, to say the very least), this scene resonated with me in a profound way. My grandfather has been saying for most of his adult life that he wants to write a book, or a book has been in process. I know I've heard him reference it my entire life. Almost all of the speakers that night mentioned "H.D.'s book" in a candid way, and we all laughed because we've all been waiting for YEARS for this book! 

As I looked around the room, the governor's speech came to my mind. Instead of music, I thought, every single person in this room is my grandfather's book. WE are his book. Countless lives, discussions, lessons, conversations, and "moments" that have happened between each one of us and my grandfather. . .he's done so much more than put a pen to paper and have it bound into a book. Lives have been changed for eternity because Poppy always prioritizes people over anything personally important to him. He adores people.  Like Mr. Holland and music, my grandfather desires more than anything else for JESUS to become real and exciting in their lives, and he wants them to come alive in Him. His heart has influenced thousands, from heads of state to a waitress in a diner. I'm so thankful that just a small, SMALL percentage (yes, I think 500 people is a small percentage!) of the lives he's touched were able to celebrate him and my grandmother (because let's be honest - behind every great man is a great woman!). 

Poppy, know that once you DO write your book, it will be incredible and a priceless treasure to all who read it. But most importantly, know that what you and Nana have created with your lives pleases the Author of Life more exceedingly than you can imagine. 

"A Savior who cares cannot be represented by people that don't." - H.D. McCarty

November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Eve

I have really enjoyed this season so far of preparing for the holidays! Looking back, last year was so frenzied and busy and chaotic. I tried to do too much, and paid the price by getting severely sick for over a week. I also felt like the whole season was slipping away from me and all of a sudden it was over. I vowed after last year that, even though they were all good things, I had to be more intentional about making the holidays more peaceful. I'm doing several things this year that are different, and I'm excited to share them (I'm even decorating a little differently!). 

All that to say, I've been able to absorb all of the preparation and just enjoy it this year. We're home for Thanksgiving this year (we alternate traveling for Thanksgiving and Christmas), and as I type this, Kurt is preparing the turkey and my brother is making his homemade deer jerky in my oven. All of my Christmas decorations are up, but as I will share later, it's different this year and didn't take hardly any time or effort. :) 

My dad's parents are coming into town for Thanksgiving, and they should arrive this evening. We're sad that my mom's parents can't be here, but Poppy had surgery recently and it's best for him to rest - we will MISS them! I still need to post the rest of the pictures from our amazing weekend in Arkansas, so that will come soon. We're going to enjoy lots of good food, and I'm excited to maybe play some games with everyone - for some reason playing games just feels very "holiday" to me. :) I'm just happy and excited for all of the quality time with my own little family, parents, siblings and grandparents. 

I can't believe that the holiday season is here, but I'm so GLAD it is! This is also my favorite time of year to be blogging, because I love seeing what other families are doing and learning how everyone does things. I'm looking forward to sharing about what we're doing. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! 

November 12, 2012

Meeting the Duggar Family!

Recently, we were in Fayetteville, Arkansas to visit our family and attend a benefit golf tournament, banquet, and birthday celebration for my grandfather. It was an INCREDIBLE weekend! We hadn't been able to visit in about 5-6 years due to different things, and it was indescribable to be back where we have so many memories. We were simply there to be with family and just spend quality time together, but little did we know it would turn into so much more!

I've been in touch with Michelle Duggar for about a year. Their family knows of my grandfather (they've listened to his sermons and our families share many mutual friends), and I emailed them many months ago, telling them how much we love the show and sharing the connection that they might know my grandparents. Jim Bob wrote me an email back and said they would love to see us if we're ever in the area. He gave me Michelle's number, and we had texted on and off for awhile, trying to get something scheduled. However, we ran into conflicts, such as bringing Liam home last year (I didn't want to travel with him so soon after coming home), and they went through the loss of their sweet Jubilee. 

Well, we arrived in Fayetteville on a Thursday night, and Friday was the golf tournament. My dad and brother were playing in the tournament, so my mom and sisters and I were together. We had to run a few errands, and we enjoyed a wonderful lunch at Mermaid's, a restaurant we have loved for years. By the time that was done, we were planning on going to some shops, but we stopped by Walgreen's to get something first. While we were sitting in the parking lot waiting on my mom, I decided on a whim to text Michelle and see by if some small chance they were in town. I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to try! I didn't expect a thing. Well, she IMMEDIATELY texted me back and said they would love to see us! She and Jim Bob were flying out that night for a meeting, but she said if we could get there before 5:00, that would be perfect. It was 2:00, and I knew we HAD to go! I started freaking out and showing my sisters my phone, and when my mom walked up to the car I rolled down the window and yelled "GET IN THE CAR! WE ARE GOING TO THE DUGGAR'S!!!!!!!" It was nuts.

Michelle sent me their address and we put it into the GPS. I was driving, and my sister was navigating. They live about 20-25 minutes outside of Fayetteville, and so we had plenty of time to freak out on the way - ha! Every time the GPS lady would say "In .3 miles, turn left" or something like that, we would have a whole new wave of excitement. Then the GPS lady said "Approaching destination." We looked to our right, and THERE IT WAS! The house! Like a group of ridiculous teenagers, we started screaming. It was ridiculous and hilarious at the same time! 

Michelle opened the gate, and we saw several of the kids playing outside. It was so surreal!!! We knocked on the front door, and Michelle opened it, immediately greeting us SO warmly and kindly. We immediately hugged and started talking right away.

The first thing I noticed about Michelle is how incredibly genuine she is. We all immediately started talking like we had known each other for years. I was also so touched by her hospitality. Here she was, about to leave on a trip in a matter of hours, and she opened her home to us on almost no notice. It was more than we ever expected, and it blessed us so much.

Alyssa and Andrea with Josie:

Jinger was having a piano lesson with "Nana" - she's been featured on the show before. :) It was amazing because the whole time we were visiting, she was playing BEAUTIFUL Christmas music. I just wanted to pinch myself - being in the Duggar home and listening to Christmas "background" music on the piano. . .it was just perfect!

Andrea and I with Josie and Jackson:

We had such a great time with the kids. They were so precious and so NORMAL. They were incredibly sweet and also very hospitable! They were showing us things, offering us snacks (which Michelle vetoed, only because their snack selection had been sitting outside for several days - haha!), and asking us to read books. :) Here I am with Josie:

We also met the Duggar cat:

Andrea got the camera and the girls did a little photoshoot :)

Their home was absolutely beautiful. It was so surreal to have seen it on TV, and then be there in person! It felt so cozy and very warm and welcoming. I'm not even sure how to describe it, but we all said how we didn't want to leave. You could feel the Lord's presence there, and it just felt so comfortable.

We talked about a ton of things - I wish I could've just pulled out a whole list of questions. If I ever get to visit again, I'm going to be prepared with specific questions on parenting, etc.! I just feel like she's so wise and genuinely wants to get to know you. I just thoroughly enjoyed her.

The film crew was there doing interviews in their workshop/garage, so some of the kids were out being interviewed. We met one of the production assistants when he came inside to get Joy and a couple of others for their interviews. Another thing I noticed - Michelle wants everyone to know about Jesus! This particular production assistant was newer to the crew and she immediately told him about a Christian website where you can download and listen to a ton of great sermons and lectures. I could tell that it's her heart's desire for people to hear about Jesus if they're in the Duggar home. It really touched me.

Michelle was SO SWEET to sign books for us! She brought out this huge stack and we insisted that was too much, but she wanted each of us to have them - we cherish them!

Of course we all wanted pictures. :)

Jinger finished her piano lesson and we got to meet her! She is BEAUTIFUL. My mom and sisters and I couldn't stop talking about it. She is just strikingly beautiful.

We had the most amazing time visiting the Duggar family, and hopefully next time we can meet more of them. Jim Bob was out running errands, and a few of the older girls were at a Bill Gothard seminar (or they were teaching at one, I can't remember). We meant to drive by Josh's car business, but ran out of time. :) It was such an honor and privilege to be in the Duggar home and experience first-hand their godly, warm hospitality and love. Michelle kept saying, "You are just the sweetest friend!" and "Thank you, friend!" I laughed and said "I am one of Michelle's FRIENDS - I have MADE it!" and we all laughed so hard. She asked me to keep in touch and we're going to exchange Christmas cards. She also asked for my blog address. :) 

The Lord was so sweet to give us this time to meet a family that we admire and love so much. We enjoyed every minute and can't wait to hopefully visit again in the future!
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