Conni and her friend Olivia have birthdays just two months apart. 

This year, they decided to do a combined Sweet 16 party.
The girls put in a lot of time planning this party.  Lots of games and food!

They played everything from musical chairs, cat-and-mouse, (played in the street!)... the Dare game.
The whole group before dinner.
The highlight of the party was a water balloon fight.  Each guest was asked to bring a white T-shirt and be prepared to get wet.  The birthday girls decorated their shirts and all their friends signed them.
Outside (in the drizzly rained all evening long.) and ready for the water balloon fight.
What the guests DIDN'T know, was that the water balloons were filled with tye-dye!  Thus, the need for white shirts. :)
The motley, shivery, tye-dyed crew! After 4 and a half hours of filling tye-dye balloons, it was over in 20 minutes. Both of the birthday girls said it was worth all the work. would think that was a big enough BANG of a birthday party, but there was one thing missing.  The rest of our family wasn't in on it!  

We decided to do a combined birthday party/dinner for Angi and Conni.  Their birthdays are two days apart.

Conni's REAL birthday started with breakfast in bed.
Followed by a surprise visit from Olivia.
On Saturday, we had a family dinner/evening.  I had planned a treasure hunt for Conni with a special surprise at the end...something Abe and Tim had been planning and working on.

Conni reading her first clue:  "I hold things in place.  I am not glue or tape.  What am I?"
She had lots of interest and help.
We all had fun watching her try to figure out the clues.
This treasure hunt was a little different than others.  It required the participation of others.  If they didn't participate, she didn't get her next clue. 

Clue #3   I'm tiny, warm, and precious.  I can't wait to meet you!

It was cute to see Conni's face when she asked Angi if she had her next clue. 

Clue #4   Ask Quintin what the capital of Maryland is.  You can't get your next clue until he answers it right.

Since Q was helping his dad on a roofing project, he wasn't able to be at the party during this game.  Conni face-timed him to ask the question.
After first guessing Baltimore, some hem-hawing around, and a little help from Google, he got it right....Annapolis!  She got her next clue.

Clue #8    Choose a number between 1 & 10.  Out of all your siblings and their spouses, the two who guess the closest have to dance to music of your choice.  Once they do that, you get your next clue.  

Oh boy.  There were declarations of "I'm NOT dancing!"  Lots of laughter.  

Marci and Abe were the "winners".  Conni chose slow dance music.  Abe has never danced in his life, but Marci said she'd teach him.

Oh my goodness.  So funny.
I think it was somewhat like dancing with a board, but hey!  He did it!  What good sports they were.  
Other clues:  Matt had to spell "pregnancy".
                           Someone had to tell who in the world "Amerigo Vespucci" was. Abe nailed this one.
                           Someone had to turn a somersault.  Kelston was our go-to acrobat.  
                           Abe and Olivia had to come up with the formula for the area of a circle.  Olivia nailed it right off.  :)

Clue # 13   If Marci can go 10 seconds with a straight face while Matt sings to her, you get the next clue.

If you know Marci, you know Conni wasn't going to get her next clue very quickly!  

Here is Matt preparing to sing to Marci, and Marci working on her straight face.
And then this.  Immediately.  She didn't make it 2 seconds.
Just imagine.  "OKLAHOMA" sung at the top of his lungs.  She lost it.

Second try.  This is as straight as she can keep her face....while having "You Light Up My Life" sung to her in a weird voice.
Clue # 15    When you get the answer to this question, call this phone number and say the answer.  It it is correct, you will be given your next instructions.

What is the capital of Minnesota?  

She got it, then called the number.
She received her next instructions.
"Get a blindfold on and go stand in the basketball court."
We got her ready and she was led outside.
She heard someone drive up.  She asked who it was.  We told her it was someone she would really like to see.

Ha.  Little did she know.
The blindfold comes off.

Her dream vehicle...a truck.  (Abe did an awesome job painting it.)

I think she's gonna have a face-ache from all the grinning! 

Conni is such a fun girl; her sense of humor has us in stitches a lot.  It was a lot of fun planning her party and having all our family here to help celebrate.  What a joy and a blessing this dear girl is!

Happy Sweet 16 to my beautiful daughter!

 What a beautiful time of year here in central Virginia.  

We've been blessed to have two children born in September and now, we've had one get married in September.

What a joy to have Angi's wedding here at home.  Just what she's always wanted.
The day before the wedding, there was a lot going on.  Organized chaos.  Last minute preparations.

  The tent people arrived and in a very short time, a team of only 3 guys (one of them being about 70 years old) had it set up just where we wanted it.
I pretty much lived in the kitchen the day before the wedding. I took a few shots of the food, but didn't get it all. This is an Italian green bean salad in the process of being made.
Abe did the mowing.  Thanks to our neighbors, the Harts, for the emergency use of their mower.  Our brand new mower is in the shop....for the third time!  Argh.
Heather was my right hand girl Friday evening and all day Saturday.  Couldn't have gotten it all done without her!
Marci, Conni, and Heather wrapped all the silverware in napkins and tied them with ribbon.
Tim was still raking and doing last minute stuff at dark.
The morning of the wedding, it was up bright and early and get the chicken marinating.  Lots of chicken....  

The menu was Tropical Island chicken, grilled pineapple, orzo salad, green bean salad, roasted baby potatoes, crusty artisan bread, and homemade pies for dessert.
Angi and Matt arrived at 10:30.  Angi was feeling a bit green, but was still looking beautiful and very happy.
After arranging the flowers, in which each bridesmaid did her own bouquet, it was time to get their hair done.

Marci had already done one wedding that day and had to rush home in time to do Angi's.  Great job and shout out to this talented girl!
My three beautiful girls.
Heather doing her own hair with some assistance from MJ.
Angi's good friend and bridesmaid, Alli, with Alli's daughter Isabella.
Pretty Alli ready to roll!  Beautiful lady, a mother of four, a doula, a photographer, and Angi's closest friend in Richmond.  She took the wedding pictures.
I caught the bride just as she was going out the kitchen door.  So beautiful.  I'm so proud to be her Mom!
Enjoying appetizers, music, and conversations.  Matt and Angi used the wine glasses Tim and I used at our wedding 25 years ago.  Something old, something blue, something borrowed....
MJ singing "Who Are You?".  So pretty.
Angi singing to Matt.  "Inside Your Heaven"; a beautiful love song.
Everyone enjoyed the live music.  
My handsome son and son-in-law.
Marci and Quintin....still newlyweds...married just 4 months.
Before Matt and Angi said their vows, they had Tim read "What Marriage Means".  
The bridesmaids:  Alli, MJ, Conni, Marci.
Matt's groomsmen:  Jason and Peter.
Matt reading his vows to Angi.  We all cracked up when he promised to love her even when he doesn't understand why all the cans in the pantry have to face the same direction. :)
I love this one.
Angi reading her vows.
Exchanging rings.
Kissing the bride.
Angi was so happy they were able to say their vows out in front of the garden gate.  It was a drizzly day and we weren't sure if it would work out.  The rain held off just long enough!

Dinner time.  Pouring rain.

I missed so many things I would've like to get pictures of.  It's kinda hard to be the hostess, the mother of the bride, AND taking some pictures.  I'm looking forward to getting pictures from the photographer.

Mr. and Mrs. Matthew Campbell.  So happy.  
Matthew's grandparents.
Matthew and Angi sang a song beautiful.  If you've never heard them sing together, you're missing out!
Then Matt sang a surprise love song to Angi.
We are so blessed!  I'm so thankful for all that God has done and is doing in our family.  I'm grateful that my two older girls are happily married.  Grateful for both of my sons-in-law.

Now as things settle down and we get back into the school groove, I'll enjoy the time I have left with Abe and Conni.  Time goes by so quickly!  This spring I had four unmarried kids.  This fall, I have two married kids and will be a Grammy in just a few short months!  Wow! 

Enjoy your children.  Love them.  Support them.  Be there.

Always remember that they are a blessing; a gift from God.  

Peace and joy to you all!
Basically, the same thing.  Yet so different.

When I hear someone has a "full plate", I think of lots going on in their life, crazy schedule, plenty of burdens, several time-sensitive things that need to be dealt with, and minimum energy and capacity to handle it all.

On the other hand, when I hear someone say their cup is full, I think of much joy, too many blessings to count, overwhelming gratefulness, and a deep feeling of peace and contentment.

The same thing, yet such different meanings!

Over the last couple of months, I have been amazed at how God blesses us, uses us, and encourages us even when we have a lot on our plate.  When we feel discouraged, fearful, disappointed, and overwhelmed, He can still use us for His glory!  At times when I didn't feel like I had the capacity or was even remotely equipped, He used me or blessed me in a way I could never have foreseen.

Yes, I have a full plate, AND my cup is running over.

I sometimes wonder, "What did I do?  How did I mess up so badly?  How could I have missed that? What if...?"

I'm sure I'm not the only one to ever whisper these words in my head, or to sob them into my pillow, or to scream them to heaven.  Nor will I be the last.

Here are a few things that have really helped me.  

  1. It can't be about anyone or anything other than Him.  You have to let go of your fear of "What will everyone think?"  Yes, I know.  It's not easy.  Especially if you are coming from a similar background as mine where image and "looking" just so, and doing all the "right things" was a reflection of your godliness.  If you tie your "right-ness" with God to a bunch of man-made rules and check lists.....forget it.  It can ONLY be about Him.
  2. That was then, this is now.  I can't go back.  I can only move forward.  Don't waste time on "if only's".  Accept Christ's forgiveness on where you were wrong and let Him lead you forward.
  3. Remember that the Bible is full of freaks, frauds, and failures.   And God used them!  When you think you can't be used because you don't have it all together, or because there has been sin in your life, or because no one in your family is in "leadership", that is STINKIN' THINKIN'!   We all have gifts, talents, and we each can supply a need right where we are in the Body of Christ.
  4. Don't get bogged down in the sorrow or turmoil or frustration.   Remember that the story isn't over yet and that the Author is in control - not you.  He knows the ending.  He has a plan.  And because  He is God, it can only be good!  Walk on - a day at a time - in faith.
  5. Look for the good; the blessings.  They are there all around you! 
  6. Be grateful.  Gratitude precedes the miracle!
I am grateful for the blessings God has given me over the last couple of months.  Even when things are tough, when I'm worried and afraid,(or terrified)...even then, He loves and blesses me.  I am confident He is doing great things!

I'm so thankful for each member of my family.  Thankful that we are gaining a new son-in-law.  Thankful that our very first grandchild is on its way.  

And beyond thankful, that no matter my past, no matter my wounds, no matter my failures, God can use me. 
 And He can use you.

Even when your plate is heaping full, He can make your cup run over.

In Christ alone,

On May 4, 2013, we celebrated Marci and Quintin's wedding.
And now, 4 1/2 months later, we look forward to celebrating another one!

Angi and Matt are getting married!

In just 5 short weeks, we'll be celebrating another wedding in our yard.  What a pleasure and joy to be able to have our girls get married here at our house.  The place they were born; the place they grew up.  

Angi has always wanted a small, intimate wedding with only a few guests.  We hope that this wedding celebration will be everything she's dreamed of.  It has been fun watching Miss Organized make all her plans.  She's got it all written down; knows exactly what she wants.  That makes my part of this very simple.  

We are very happy for Matt and Angi and look forward to watching them grow as a married couple.  

Please keep our family in your prayers as we move on to another new "normal" in our lives.  Our desire is to glorify God in all that we do.

In Christ Alone,
Marci  just had her 21st birthday.  It was her first birthday being married.  We had the pleasure of having Marci and Quintin over for a fun evening along with several of their friends.

We missed Angi and Conni.  Conni is away at camp, and Angi couldn't make it.

Mar, Heather, and Bethy.
Tori and Amber.
This happens on a regular basis here.  I have many random holes in my sod to prove it.  This time, they were out on the gravel.  I wonder how many times a deer in the woods has just dropped dead from a surprising hit upside the head by a flying golf ball.  I'm sure if our neighbors went out in their woods/pasture they would gather a nice collection of golf balls.
Playing the beanbag toss game.
While we were playing this game, Tim was out in the garden getting a fire going.  It was a gorgeous, clear, low-humidity, cool evening.  While getting wood from the wood pile, Tim came across this creature.  He promptly took care of it.  Way too close for comfort!
Dinner: hot dogs on the grill (Abe's request).  At this point, I still had no stove, so it had to be something on the grill.
After dinner activity:  a fun, old stand-by...Do You Love Your Neighbor?  Except this time, we took it out into the yard and spread it WAAAYY out.  So instead of being able to hop from chair to chair, you had to run across the circle.  Really fun and entertaining.  (Thanks to Amber for staying in one chair and running the camera.)

Mar was in the middle first.
At one point, we were given the instruction to move if you are over 30.  After the mayhem of dashing around trying to find another seat, we all realized Quintin had moved too.  Over 30? He's a whopping 22!  We all laughed so hard, especially as we watched him clue in. He was in rare form that night.
This happened several times with the guys.
After one such pile-up involving Tim and Hunter, it was Tim's turn in the middle.  As he stood there, he received the information that he had a blowout!  Oops!  Halt game! :)
After dessert (thanks to Amber) Marci opened her gifts in the living room.
It was such a fun evening.  We were blessed to be able to share Marci's birthday with these special people.  

Hunter and Amber.
Eric and Tori.
Max and Bethy.
Dwight and Julie.
Abe and his 4th "sister", Heather. :)
It was  a fun evening.  I missed my other two girls, but still happy we could share Marci's 21st birthday with her.  

Kids are such fun.

Joy and peace and fun games with your kids!

A year ago last month, we were in Atascadero, CA at the Johnson's home.    The Johnsons are life-time friends of Tim's that I had never met.
This opportunity to meet them, spend time with them, and get to know them was a blessing I'll always cherish.  And the could only be from God.  We could never have planned or orchestrated it.

The oldest Johnson daughter, Donna Beth, was Tim's first girlfriend...many years ago.   Due to much turmoil in their church, families landing on different sides of issues, and realizing it just wasn't going to work out, they mutually agreed to break up after 3 years of being boyfriend/girlfriend.  They also had an agreement and promise to each other to keep in touch and to remain friends.  I won't go into all of that story here, but due to circumstances and people in Tim's and Donna Beth's lives, they went almost 29 years without seeing or speaking to each other. Tragic. 

Through FB, Tim and Donna Beth reconnected.  We were invited to visit them on our cross-country trip last year.  I was so excited to get to meet her...finally.  Through Tim, I felt like I knew her even though we'd never met.

Our time with the whole Johnson family was such a blessing.  We were welcomed with such love and warmth.  There was so much healing for Tim and Donna Beth.  For them, being able to go back in history and talk about their lives, to understand what really happened, was such a healing time.  I'm so grateful they could do this.  

Was it a bit weird for me at times?  


But I knew it wasn't about me.  And never for a moment did I doubt that I was Tim's wife; his chosen one.

Here is Tim with Alan and Linda Johnson. (Donna Beth's parents.)
This is Donna Beth and her husband, Ferlin.
Alan and Linda took us all to the coast for a yummy seafood dinner.
Abe enjoyed spending time with Donna Beth and Ferlin's three kids: Natalie, Tanner, and Lacey.
We got to spend time with almost all of the Johnson family one day.

Here is Alan with his four daughters:  Donna Beth, Lois, Sherry, and Brenda.
Visiting at Donna Beth's home.  She and Lacey sang for us.
Ferlin and Donna Beth Short, Natalie, Tanner, Lacey.
What a blessed three days with them all.  It was an emotional, yet joyful time.

Since that time, we've kept in regular contact with Donna Beth.  We've talked on the phone, we've emailed recipes and menus back and forth, we've facebooked.

In March, Donna Beth found out she had cancer.  


Donna Beth fought.  She had the most positive outlook I've ever seen.  Over and over she would tell people that she believed in miracles, because she believed in God.  She would even sing that song to any and everyone she could.  She sang it to us over the phone.  Her voice was weak, but she wanted to share it with us. Her joy, trust, and faith was unmistakable. 

What an example!

On June 8, 2013, at her parent's home in Atascadero, Donna Beth peacefully left this life and went to be with her Father in Heaven.

She was 46 years old.  She left behind the love of her life, Ferlin, and their three kids ages 8, 10, and 11.

Why?  Why now, when some old, dear relationships are just now being restored?  

Why now, when her children so obviously still need their Momma?

Why now, when her parents are getting older and will need her?

Why now, when her sweetheart still needs her?

I keep coming back to two things I know about WHY.  It has to do with His ways.

  1. His ways are not my ways, nor are His thoughts my thoughts.
  2. His ways are perfect.

Does that not sum it up?  

I don't understand why He's doing what he's doing, but I know it's for a reason, and it's perfect!

I can rest in that.

And yes, Donna Beth, you believed in miracles because you believed in the Almighty God who is a God of miracles!

Yet, He didn't really "do" a miracle for her.  Or at least, that's how it appears.  But what if we were looking for or expecting a certain miracle (like renewed health; a cancer-free life) when in reality, the miracle God was doing wasn't that at all?  What if God was using this loving, giving, compassionate woman to help rebuild relationships that were destroyed many years ago?  What if, through her, God was drawing His children closer to Him?  What if God was using Donna Beth to help others see the trap and bondage of "religion".  What if God was using Donna Beth to show others the freedom that they can only have through Him.

I don't know.  I don't claim to have the answers.

It doesn't even matter. 

What matters, is what I have learned from the little time I have known Donna Beth.  

  1. Without fail, everything in her life points to Christ.
  2. She has gone through some incredibly tough times in her life, yet she's always relied on God to help her through.
  3. She's allowed her trials to draw her closer to God, not away from Him.
  4. She's not bitter at all!  By human standards, she has every right to be. Yet she has forgiven those who have hurt and rejected her, and has prayed for them.
  5. She's joy-filled.
  6. She reaches out to most everyone she comes in contact with.
  7. She shares her love for her Lord at every opportunity.
  8. She puts others first.
  9. She is passionate about her love for her husband and kids.

These are some of the things I have personally learned/observed about her.

One more thing I know and can thank Donna Beth for...

She has had a part in making my husband the man he is.  Because of her, though it was many years ago, he is a better man.

I will always be grateful that I knew Donna Beth.  
I thank God for the time we had together.  I pray that her death will not have been in vain; that I and everyone who knew her will learn what they can from her life, and that each one of us will draw closer to the God of Miracles that Donna Beth believed in.

What if YOU are that miracle that God is performing?

Until next time...
I've enjoyed looking at last year's journal; retracing and remembering our cross-country trip last year.  It brings back such good memories!

This week last year, we were in Grant's Pass, OR.  We rode the jet boat down the Rogue River.  So awesome!  Kind of chilly and rainy, but what an adrenaline rush!
One of our many stops at Dutch Bro's coffee.  Friendly people, good coffee.
Then a beautiful, cold, snowy drive up to Crater Lake.
This was a first for all of us.  No one had ever seen Crater Lake.  But snow on June 5th?!  That was crazy.
I wanted to take a picture of the RV coming down the road at me in the snow.  The kids surprised me by all riding on the dash. :)  Bunch of nuts....
Hiking and exploring on the Rogue.  Fast, cold water!
Bend, Oregon.  Breathtaking.
Meeting up with friends from long ago.  Blessings.
Another first for my kids...a rodeo in Sisters, OR.
More time with friends.
What a fun-filled week.  Good food, gorgeous scenery, exciting adventures, wonderful visits.  

It's been fun "remembering" this week last year.

If you're ever able to do it, I highly recommend a long cross-country trip with your family!
Wedding is over.

Yard work projects are done.  

Now we are finding our new "normal" and getting back into the swing of things.  

I've been looking back over some of the pictures of wedding prep time.  Such good memories!    I love these of Tim (with Conni helping) building the door/entrance for the bride to walk through.
Tim is amazing.  He takes random things lying around our property and the church, puts them together, and makes something beautiful.  

Take some pillars that have been around for years, add a lattice top, and use them to frame an old door you found at Habitat for Humanity.  Quintin sand blasted the doors so you couldn't see through.  He also added their initials - really neat looking.

Here is the final product. (courtesty of Shauna R.)
And then there was the gate.  Remember these pics?  This is the garden gate in it's previous life.
Then Tim and his Dad got to work on it.  Tim designed it; Joe built it.  At the time, it was so cold that Joe had to work in the basement.  My schoolroom functioned as a workshop/mud room/garage for a few months.
This is Marci's handiwork.  She notched all the pickets.
Tim laying it out...getting the curve just right.
The finished product.  It's a good thing we waited until the very last thing to paint our basement floor.  It got used and abused!  We did everything from building a gate, to changing chainsaw oil, to painting multiple pieces of furniture and a gate on it.
Then, the day of the wedding.  The gate is painted and hung.  I just love it.  Great job to Tim and Joe!
In between all the wedding projects, I had a couple of visits from some of my family. Such a blessing.
My sister, Cindy.
Shannon and Cindy and their three boys: Reid, Collin, Koby.
My Grandma Stamper from OK.
The wedding day.  I caught Marci sneaking out onto the back deck watching the set-up.
So proud of our beautiful, sweet daughter.

By the way...see that cute little shoulder strap?  Marci's MIL, Julie Corle, hand made that to add to the dress.  Amazing job.  
View of the yard/wedding during the ceremony. 
The wedding party.  From left to right:  Abel Cotten, Eric Rutt, Max Corle, Marci, Quintin, Angi Cotten, Heather Corle Williams, Conni Cotten
Tim and Sherri Cotten family.  My favorite people!
We just had our twenty-fifth anniversary a couple of weeks before the wedding.
What a joy-filled, blessed, smiley day!  We are so grateful for Quintin.  Thrilled to have him in our family.  And thrilled to "share" kids with Dwight and Julie Corle.

That's snapshot of our spring and Maric's big day.  As I get more pics from the photographer (great job Amber!) I'll post some more.  

I'm looking forward to catching up!  Welcome back to my blog.  Hope to hear from many of you.

Have a blessed day.
April 12, 2012.

The start of our once-in-a-lifetime trip.
I've been getting all nostalgic this past week thinking of all the stuff we were doing this time last year getting ready for our trip.

Such good memories.

Except this part. :)
I will forever be grateful we could make that trip.  And over the next 74 days, I'm going to be remembering all we did.  I'm so glad we took lots of pictures.  It's  fun to go back and look at them.  

Now, in 2013, I'll be re-taking this trip in my memory.  

Good times.  Special times.  Never to be forgotten times.

Thanking my husband again for making it all happen.

Peace, joy, and good memories of past vacations to you all!
I have attended how many bridal and baby showers?


And I always sit where I can watch the honorary person open her gifts in front of everybody.

It's comfortable; relaxing. (Though often boring.)  I can visit with the other ladies, enjoy some yummy munchies, and watch the person in the hot seat have to open and comment on all her gifts.  You watch her open each gift, search for the giver in the audience, smile and thank them for the gift.  Sometimes you see her wracking her brain for something to say.  She wants to be nice; wants to be sincere, but honestly, who uses a crocheted toilet paper roll cover?!

Two weeks ago, I "got" to sit on the other side of the room.  Right beside the bride-to-be - the hot seat.

It was Marci's bridal shower.  

And what fun it was.  So many friends and family to be with, lots of laughter, and such lovely gifts.

Angi, Heather, and Tori did such a nice job on the food, and Amy sweetly let us use her house.

Mom and daughters.  Angi, Marci, and Conni.
Love these girls.
Marci with Julie, her MIL, and Heather, her SIL.
Marci and her sisters.
In the hot seat.  It was fun for Mar, and I actually enjoyed it too.  At one point, I wondered if you can have a 25 year anniversary shower?!  She got some really cool things!  I was guilty of drooling on a few things.  :)
Unbeknownst to me, Conni waited to the very end to give Marci my gift.

It was a scrapbook.
I had no idea it would hit her like it did.

The room was silent.

She was crying.

I was red-faced and wishing I could disappear.
She was able to read a few things out loud to share with everyone.  
I have known for years that I wanted to do something like this for my daughters when they got married.

I've been jotting things down for a long time.  Things I've learned from being a wife for twenty-five years.  You know, the type of things you want give your girls a head's up on.  Some do's and don't's.  Some bits of wisdom.  Some advice.Personal things I wanted to share with my precious daughters.

It took me almost a month to make it.  I had to sneak it.

It's kind of weird sneaking into your own bedroom, closing and locking the door, and sitting down at a temporary, makeshift scrapbooking table jammed up against your closet door - like scrapbooking on the sly! 

In thinking about a title, I went to Proverbs 31.

It was such a lovely day.  We are so blessed to have so many wonderful friends and family in our lives.  Friends who are ready to love and support Marci and Quintin as they are about to begin their lives together.

Thanks to each and every one of you who joined us at the shower, and to those of you who couldn't make it - we missed you!

Still peaceful.  
Still grateful.
Still joy-filled.