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Our Next Adventure

So, I’ve drafted a few versions of this. One is the detailed version that doesn’t leave out any specifics, emotions, or thorough history. Another is the elevator answer. And then there’s this one for sake of time and sanity and also so I stop procrastinating from the inevitable of purging and packing once again:

The Graveswolds are moving to Nashville this weekend!

Short answer: We don’t really know. We just know an undeniable door has been opened to us and we feel God leading us down that way for this new season. We’ve only been there twice before, and those trips for me, at least, were in May and June of this year. Nashville had been on my heart for about 10 years but I didn’t really know why…so, I just prayed for friends I knew there and for God’s love to be poured out there.

Anyway, we’ve been praying about what our family values as it relates to time, love, life, serving, and experiences. We knew we didn’t want to spend our lives in the car commuting kids to and fro because: life is short. And we really wanted to be involved in their schools and with their friends and their families. Our desire for a smaller radius of life for school, community, and service, and convenience to an airport for Jason were key. And accessibility to creativity and team collaboration was one of my big needs.

While we were in Nashville checking out the city the first week of June, friends encouraged us to apply at a wonderful school, K-12, which was a big leap for Jason and me since financially it wasn’t feasible. (***SOOOO many details leaving out for sake of time…) Then, after spending the rest of the month in Denver with family, they called to tell us they had spots for both kids and offered generous scholarships. Jason and I have been a bit verklempt ever since…humbled they would make room for our kids, so excited and grateful for the awesome experience available to them, and us as a family. So, we took that as a door flung open and are walking on through. We’ll rent an Airbnb for a few months while we get them rolling in their school routine and Jason and I will search the area for the right space for us to put down a few roots. I’m really excited because I’ve decided to relocate my non-profit down there, as well, so am looking forward to get back to 1/2 or 3/4 time work this fall.

 

Evernote Camera Roll 20160712 165634 (1)

 

That’s the short version and the only one I have time to share at this moment! We are so excited and hope our journey and yours will continue to overlap in the future! Many thanks for the love and prayers and cheers and support over the last couple years while we wandered a bit.

I suppose I’ll need to brush up on my accent and , “Y’all!”

 

Show Me Your Moves

20+ years with this guy! (Photo: Jessica Quadra, Barcelona, Spain)

20+ years with this guy! (Photo: Jessica Quadra, Barcelona, Spain)

As we were driving home from Denver this evening, after a fun day where Jason and Em went climbing at REI and Ryan and I watched monster trucks in all their volume do their thing at the Pepsi Center, we were flipping through the channels looking for some good tunes to pass the time.

Em told me to stop it at a certain song. It had a pretty good dance beat. And it’s like it’s automatic, or something…but the ribcage just started going.

I turned to Jason, my ribs all over the place, and said, “Show me your moves, Graves.”

Jason has one move, and well, it looks like this: Stand up straight, bend your arms to a 90 degree angle, elbows at the waist, hands held in loose fists. K. Now, barely move your hips from side to side.

That’s it. That’s what he’s got. Though, if you must know, he did once have a mean moonwalk, but that was before I ever knew him, you know, way back when he and his best friends wore parachute pants.

I said, “Dude, we would have never hooked up if we had met at a club…”

He smiled and said, “I would have learned to dance to get you.”

And that’s the end of the story, folks.

Jason Graves is my lobster.

Thankfulness is a Lifestyle

…not just a November thing.

Sure I love Thanksgiving!  Pumpkin is one of my favorite foods, along with warm comfort treats like mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, and turkey.  Of course, that’s simply the meal.  More so, I love the gathering of people throughout our home, often orphans and widows, like the check out lady at the grocery store and her daughter one year, or the far from family single women in our neighborhood, or new people in town who know no one.  I’m not the sentimental who only wants to gather my close family around, though I love and cherish them.  But, spend one Thanksgiving in a Children’s Hospital among selfless caregivers and tireless staff, friends and family, and the day of Thanksgiving becomes something else entirely.  The meaning not lost on me.

As much as I love seeing what people are thankful for on Facebook, it’s important to me to model to my family that giving thanks is a day in and day out act of beauty, worship, and dying to ourselves.  It doesn’t only last for 30 days, one month out of the year, but in this life, in this family, we will be intentional about thankfulness, in both the giving and receiving of it.

To be given something for which you are unable to ever repay, this is the true definition of a gift.  The words, “Thank You” may never seem enough, but this is the beauty in giving and receiving.  It’s a world changing event which takes place in the admission of gratefulness, every single day.

My friends and I encouraged one another to start these thankfulness posts back in October…because Thanksgiving is one day out of the year, 30 Days of Thanks is apparently a new thingy, but saying “Thank You!” is an every single day of the year privilege, a practice, an act of face to face time with the Giver of all good gifts.

Yesterday this was the thankfulness expressed at our breakfast table, on this particular day, in no particular order:

Jason

  • My relationship with God
  • My wife and kids
  • My extended family
  • Friends
  • My job at Compassion
Emily
  • “You guys”
  • “Our family”
  • The Ocean
  • Friends
  • My school
Ryan
  • Giraffes
  • Zebras
  • Cheetahs
  • Elephants
  • And, elephants!
Me
  • Quiet time with God
  • “You guys”
  • Healthy bodies
  • Heated blankets
  • Hot tea to warm me
I’m happy people are being intentional about being thankful during the month of November.  My prayer is that after 21 days, it will become, not a habit, but a lifestyle.  Please don’t hear I think I am perfect at being thankful.  I am not.  I reject gifts and compliments and helping hands, am too prideful to ask for help, and try to do stuff on my own more often than I should.  I’m learning through this…learning that the giving and receiving of thanks is a lesson of honoring another more highly than ourselves.  
Not an easy Thanksgiving bite to swallow…

Some friends are writing about thankfulness on their blogs:

Fear Has No Future

Jason and I celebrated 20 years of marriage in June, but since January, we’ve been dreaming and planning out the details for a trip to Spain, just the two of us.  We have spent hours and hours looking through books, reading reviews, mapping out our adventures, talking about it on date nights, road trips, in bed at night.

The destination and trip itself will be awesome, no doubt, but dreaming and anticipating have been part of the fun, as well.

Picture from AskFranciso

Except for the part where we realized it was about time to write out a Will and Trustthat part took the spark out of the trip, at least for me, for a good week.  My sinuses were clogged and swollen from crying, imagining not being the ones to raise our children, these gifts God loves more, but has graciously entrusted to us to love, nurture, and fan to flame the awesomeness God placed within each of them…

…and I almost cancelled.

“Sweetheart, we can just get a hotel downtown for the weekend…”  Forget the part that I’ve dreamed of going to Spain ever since I was in college when Profesora Calderon first sparked my romance with the language and country.  Forget about how we were going to do this trip for our 15th but then Jason lost his job and we knew it probably wasn’t financially wise to travel on “credit.”

I have come to terms, as I have for years, but clearly needed a reminder, that God knows the number of our days.  It doesn’t do me or anyone else any good to live in fear of the “what if’s?”

There is no freedom in fear, nor is there a future.  I knew a 90-something year old who harbored many fears…sure, in years, she lived a long life, but she was crippled by her fears, not experiencing what freedom in God’s love has to offer in a full life.

I have spent many hours praying and pleading, asking God to be gracious to our family and reunite us again to continue to live out the purpose He has for us on this earth…and I trust Him and have peace this will be the case…

So, do I hope to relax, sleep a little longer, go on 24-hour dates for two weeks straight with my husband, in a beautiful country, surrounded by people God created, all rich with stories, experience the smells, sights, make new memories, and see pretty much the whole countryside of Spain?  Yeah.  I do. And I’ll miss my kids like crazy, wondering what they are doing at such and such a time.

But this is good for my marriage, a celebration of friendship and love and thankfulness, and it will be good.

If this were my last post, on this blog, ever, not just my last post prior to leaving for our trip to Spain, I’d want to leave the world with this:

God is totally, completely, 100% in love with you.  Don’t try to understand it, just accept it.  Please stop looking around at all that is wrong in the world, in yourself, and everyone else.  Instead, find the good and as you do, allow your eyes to be turned upward to look at The One who made you, to see it as an expression of His love to a broken world.  He knows you intimately, has good in store, like deep down heart-good, and He sees a bigger picture which your head and heart are now allowed to contain at this time.  He loves you.  Love begets love…not war, back-biting, gossip, slander, politics, isolationism, competition, or elitism, nor pride or self-seeking. Love begets love, and God. Is. Love. He is love and is in love with you, totally, completely, 100%.

That’s all…

(*We may blog from Spain, but the #loneviajera won’t be alone…watch for it, and for a super fun blog by this girl, one of our date nights in Barcelona…)

History in Pictures

Happy 20th Anniversary, Sweetheart!  20 years.  I wrote a “Husband List” before we even met and started dating.  It was 6 pages long.  No pressure, right?!  I think it was the “thing” to do in Christendom way back when, now hidden in a journal somewhere in the basement.   On it were things about integrity, wisdom, a sense of humor, someone who was a good financial steward.  Truth be told, I don’t recall all the things I thought a husband should be, or at least things I wanted in one, but I remember the first item and it read like this:

  1. My husband has to love God more than he loves me.  If this isn’t in order, nothing else will be.

In my immaturity as a 21 year old girl marrying the love of her life, somewhere in my heart I’m sure I thought you would be all those things when we walked down the aisle.

Time and maturity and many moments on our knees before God have shown me how very short the list could have been in the first place.  The rest has been icing on the cake.  After I self-righteously scribed “The Husband” list years ago, the person leading us in the exercise said, “Okay, now, before you can expect those tings from another person, you have to be willing to let God instruct YOU in them, as well.”

It’s safe to say, this has been a journey of learning, the best and hardest lessons of my life, but I can’t imagine not learning to love and live without you by my side. 

For a man of few words, you sure married a wordy girl.  I could just write, “I love you,” but there’s just so much more to it with 20+ years of inside jokes, memories shared, world travels, losing loved ones, having kids, remodeling 2 houses, job losses and gains.  All I know is, you could write a post entitled, “What Every Husband, and Guy Whoever Wants to be One, Needs to Know to Have a Happy and Healthy Marriage.”  Sweetheart, you are an expert in this field, and I think it boils down to you doing these three things very, very, very well:

You love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, and mind…and you love your neighbor as you love yourself.

And by neighbor, that would be me. *wink, wink

Marriages are crumbling and dying all around us.  This isn’t to say we haven’t walked through gray areas, dry zones, and faced what seemed insurmountable obstacles.  We have.

But I love God more than I love you, too, and so it’s worked.  We work.

I told you “I love you” first.
A note your mom gave to me before our wedding.  This is a letter every mom should write to their future child-in-law.
June 26th, 1993
Our first self-portrait as Mr. and Mrs. Jason Graves, ready to set out on the first of many adventures.
10 nights in paradise
Your leg was shaking as you braced yourself over the waterfalls.  Thanks for splurging on our student income…Maui was a fantastic memory!
Remember the storm that morning?  So much has changed since the time this picture was taken.  I was so blessed to know your dad, Sweetheart!  And my heart is full to call your mom a dear friend and to walk and do life with my parents in the day to day.  We are so rich!
Your first Weber at Foxfire, Tulsa, OK
I love that besides Mexico, every country I’ve ever traveled to, it’s been with you!  Here’s a sweet little Siberian fan of yours.
I believe this anniversary consisted of strange tasting pizza in St. Petersburg, followed up with 60 teenagers asking us how our date went…
I know we moved to MN for your PhD, but I just want to thank you for putting up with me and my love of student ministry and mentoring girls.  Those 5 years I worked at NWC were a highlight of my 20’s, even as rough as some of them were.  I can’t believe I got paid to hang out with hundreds of young women year after year!  Thank YOU for being secure in who you are and never being jealous of the time I spent with the girls!   I loved that job and every girl I met there.  My life is richer for knowing each one, and though you were quiet and working on your thesis most of that time, I felt your constant support, so thank you! You seriously are the best!
Here you are on a bro-mance getaway to Alaska…because that is something we both shared openly up front:  friendship and time with our guys or girlfriends is important.  I appreciate so much your healthy, balanced approach to knowing you can’t fill my every need, nor can I fill yours.  I’m so grateful you have had man getaways and I just want to say, “Thank you!” for the times you’ve encouraged me to be with my Bevies!

More bro-mance happening over turkey carcasses…
On top of the world…or at least the Andes.  I always wanted to travel the world…I didn’t figure we’d always have teenagers with us, but hey, leading trips meant they were paid for, hey hey!!!
Thanks for allowing me this one semi-crush.  Bono is too short for me, and married and all, but I never wanted to marry him…you have always been the only man I ever wanted to marry.  Thanks for all the concerts over the years.
Our first house in White Bear Lake.  We sure did make that thing cute!  I remember being in the basement, barely pregnant with Emily, watching airplanes fly into the Twin Towers.  Better memories, however, were living only a few blocks away from Ryan and Shannon, walking over to that burger place or Einstein’s, and playing pranks on our friends.
Ahh, Gramma Pat’s house.  Thank you for your patience with me as the daughter of a builder who saw no reasons why we couldn’t just knock down that wall and that wall and that wall, all while pregnant with our firstborn!  Were we crazy?  All I know, I was large and in charge!  You did a beautiful job on that place, Sweetheart!  Thanks for making 803 Poplar our home!
I always knew you’d be a great dad!  You were pretty in awe of Emily making her sweet entrance into the world!  Thanks for holding my hand, helping me breathe, and pushing my hair out of my face.  It still blows my mind that God would say, the very moment she was born, “I love her more!” 
Our Peanut, Firstborn, Daddy’s Girl. circa 2004

And since you or I had never been a parent before, all I can say is, I’m glad we’ve gotten to “wing it” together!  We haven’t done it all right, but I think she’s turning out alright…and that because you place God first.
I think this was our first official nugget of time away from Em.  Thanks for playing in the Big Apple with me!  We’ve been in some pretty fun places together!  Can’t wait for some more!
Pretty sure this is our 12th anniversary when we first discovered Vesta Dipping Grill.
Perks of you working for a company out of England…Thanks for letting us tag along for a couple of weeks.  Thanks for being sweet and enduring my love of Lady Di and having lunch at that one place plastered with her pictures, too.
Oh man, this was a fun trip!  Remember the little Japanese ladies who came to our hotel room and walked on our backs?  How was that naked business meeting of yours?  Awkward?  #japanesebathhouse #nikkojapan #tallestpeopleinjapanthatweek

Our firstborn son.  Oh man, I was so happy to give you a boy, and selfishly to soak him up myself.  Thanks for being a champ and going along with inviting all my Bevies into the delivery room!  Thanks, too, for choosing Noah’s name.  It was beautiful…he was beautiful!
Mt. Evans hike with your man cub, June or July 2006.
August 2nd, 2006.  God was my Solid Rock, you were my hand to hold and shoulder to lean on.  Your faithfulness was unmatched.

We celebrated his 1st birthday surrounded by friends and rainbows in the sky.  He was the only one not in attendance.

Years later, on this anniversary, I think we had found our smile again…
On this one, I know we did, because the following picture is a result…wakka, wakka

Brave, protective big sister…scared mama, trying to treasure the life of the one growing in me.  Thanks for taking a risk with me, Sweetheart!  Trying this whole “having a kid again” thing was a rollercoaster, but one I’m glad I got on.  Thanks for holding my hair back as I puked my way through the fear.  You’re kind of awesome!

I know you were tired, physically and emotionally.  By this picture, you and I had already celebrated 17 anniversaries!  Honored to welcome into our lives this son named after your friend. 

#deepcontentmentandthankfulness #utterexhaustion #ilovemyguys

20 years, Sweetheart.  20 years.  You are the most generous man I’ve ever known.  You are wise, in fact, those scriptures in Proverbs about wise guys with few words, well, I know God wrote some of those specifically about you. 

This is from our 19th wedding anniversary last year having Spanish tapas in downtown Denver.  This year we’ll be having tapas in Spain.  I can’t wait for more adventures, though I do not take for granted all we’ve already shared.
Jason Aaron Graves, you are my very best friend and I’d say “I do” all over again if you asked me.  But this time I would skip the poofy dress…

I sure love you, Sweetheart!
xoxox 

Little BIG Feet

If you don’t know how much I love feet, scroll down to the bottom of this page…I’ll wait…

Okay.  So, let me clarify, because by “love feet” I want to make sure it’s clear which ones I mean:

  • NOT stinky, sweaty, hairy, scaly ones
  • BUT YES to: chewy, teeny, tiny, pink, plump, yummy ones

But seriously, I love the symbolism of feet.  Genetically we were designed to have two.  Whether we all have two or not, and whether they “work” or function as intended, doesn’t disqualify us for the symbolism of feet or not.

You see, you, or someone you know, may have really big feet or small, petite ones, but it’s the footprint you leave that will make the lasting impression. 

Five years ago when Noah died, he had the smallest feet in the family, simply speaking size here.  However, his teeny, tiny, chewy, yummy, sweet little feet left the biggest footprint on my heart.  His little BIG feet caused me to re-evaluate life on many levels and got these size 8’s on the move.  Not just to move around and add chaos to the world, but on the move to start living the way I was intended and Designed to live.

Do I do it right all the time?  Nope.  I’m a student on this earth…

I just met another mom that loves feet.  And by “loves feet” I’m not so sure Chelsea loves them the same way I describe above, but it’s clear she loves the journey and makes the most of her treasured times with her husband and their 3 sons.  And though from reading her blog I can tell she loved them well prior to meeting her most recent little BIG feet, it seems, once again, that a sweet little boy with teeny, tiny, yummy toes has “walked” into her heart and brought about even more joy, life and perspective, through love and heartache.

I was able to meet Trek and his Mommy and Daddy yesterday here in Colorado.  I even got to snuggle her little lover in my arms for a brief moment, trying to give Chelsea a chance to eat her breakfast, but Trek knows his mama and I handed him back into her loving arms.

Trek needs your prayers.  And so do his parents.  And his big brothers.  And their family. 

I have a crush on him, I’m not going to lie.  He is one handsome guy who gave me a few smiles and just reading about how he came into the world and how his life is inspiring others to live, well, you can’t help but get a bit wrapped around his cute little toes.

Trek has a genetic disorder, one they tested Noah for.  His parents are so brave and strong!  They are going to spend his beautiful days here on earth building memories as a family.  As they do, please keep them all in your prayers!

The size of your feet do not matter…it’s the kind of footprints you leave here on earth that make a lasting impression!

Better Late Than Never?

Well, I know Halloween and Fall Break were a while ago, but I thought I’d post some pics anyway so you can see the Adventures of Emily and Ryan. 

We had an early snow so we pulled all the pumpkins into the front hall.  Ryan played “ball” with these every day until the snow melted.
For Halloween Ryan was “Adam” from the Garden.  Just kidding.  His little tooshie was raw from 2 months of diarrhea so we let him “air out” at Nana’s house.  FYI:  his big D is gone and the kid broke 4, count ’em, 4 molars!  Fun times…
Em and I got to ride horses at a friend’s house while we were home in South Dakota. What’s that?  Yes, I am wearing a Pashmina with camouflage and running shoes…(no, I wasn’t prepared for the chill at sunset!)
Bonus kid points go to Emily this year…she told me she wanted to be Cleopatra and wear her Egyptian princess costume again…it’s from two years ago…the bonus points come in that Mama didn’t have to make a costume this year!  (*To tell the truth, I kind of missed making one…)  LOVE our niece and nephews pajamas that glowed in the dark!!!  And that’s Aunt Kitty behind the sword…let’s just say Ryan DID NOT LIKE Auntie’s face painted like a kitty!
Ryan, or “Squirt,” helped me pass out candy to the kiddos in the hood.  And by “pass out” well, I have video of him chucking it left and right but I’m not sure how to post it here.  He’s into that stage of throw down/pick up/throw down/pick up!  Fun for Mama!

In order to stop Squirt from chucking the candy dish all over the hallway I allowed him a few seconds of phone time.  I NEVER allow this as a phone is NOT a toy…not in my book, anyway.  I have a feeling this kid is going to be like his daddy…a techy brainiac genius type.

I guess I did get to sew a little…we were invited to a friend’s family party down the street.  Emily insisted that we HAD to dress up, that EVERYBODY would be wearing a costume, so, I was either going to sport my senior year gold sequin prom dress circa 1990, my Grandma’s old house robe with slippers and rollers with face cream, or a flapper dress I had made for a murder mystery party we went to 15 years ago…Can you tell which one I went with?  I had to take in the dress, if you count that as sewing.  

And did we have the best costumes there, you ask?  Well, yes.  Yes we did, in fact…BECAUSE WE WERE THE ONLY FRIGGING PARENTS DRESSED UP AT THE PARTY!  So, there you go…Halloween down, Thanksgiving in a week and then December the next week!  This year is flying!

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More summertime fun!

Here’s a pic of Ryan sporting Em’s backwoods redneck teeth as he crawled around in his cute military style crawl:

Em actually wore this set of teeth to the dentist recently…the dentist screamed and then couldn’t stop laughing! My kid is quite the prankster.

*I actually didn’t realize Ry had a prune mustache until I just posted this. This is because I don’t usually clean off his face after he eats…because I think he’s a cute dirty little boy.

Here are some pics from our summer adventures:

Em and her two BFF’s camping in the family room

Em requested dirt dessert. I know for a fact I left something out, but when you crush up Oreo’s and put worms and flowers on top, no one really notices.

Em and her birthday guests

A picture of Em after completing her first kids triathlon. She was exhausted but wants to sign up again for next year. Any of your kids want to join her?

Here we are visiting my Gramps in the hospital when he had pneumonia. My gramps is doing great now, fyi. And, a side note, he and Ryan are 93 years apart.

We got dressed up and went out to celebrate Noah’s 5th birthday. Inquiries: Em’s wearing a recycled Sari. Ryan is actually wearing a recycled Noah shirt, so I’m grateful it finally was worn!!!

Me and the best little mid-life crisis Eh-Ver!

Ryan’s first trip to the Denver Zoo. He loved it! He also fell asleep. Notice the delicious chubby wrists on this guy! Arghhhhh!

Em and her favorite babysitter in the whole wide world, who is actually on the other side of the whole wide world in Africa presently, doing relief work. We love you, Miss Claire! Thanks for the piggyback ride!

Em and I bought some feathers off the Internet to put in our hair…do you think I overdid it?

*For some reason, in the 60’s, I believe, women wore these feather wigs while they were lounging by the pool, sunbathing. It was my Grandma’s wig. Em’s feathers actually turned out great!