Thursday, March 31, 2011

Elton John's baby's first chocolate Easter bunny.

Josh grew up in a little town in central Pennsylvania, and last weekend he and I got to return to his home and spend time with his our family there.  It's always fun when we go to the home where he learned to be a man, and spend quality time with the beautiful people who shaped him into who he is today.

It's also really nice because his family's house doesn't have high speed internet, and AT&T has terrrrrible service at their house (Who am I kidding? AT&T has terrible service everywhere). So whenever we are there it feels like a real escape.  It's always restful, and we always eat a lot of really delicious food prepared by Verlee!

and I'm sure you're wondering about the title of this post so let me tell you a delightful little tale.  As Josh, Julie, Verlee, and myself were walking around downtown Clearfield, we noticed a new chocolate shop.  Our complete obsession with the movie "Chocolat" forced us to go and inquire of the new business.  It wasn't opened yet, but I sign in the window informed us that we had to go in the back door to see what was going on.  We walked into the back entrance and into what can only be described as "Chocolate Paradise"!  Ok, that might be a bit of an exaggeration but there WAS lot of chocolate.  The woman who owns the shop also owns one down at State College and is in the middle of her busy season. Chocolate Easter Bunny season.  It just so happens that Elton John was coming to State College for some reason, and his people called her chocolate shop people and ordered a lavish chocolate bunny for Elton John's baby.  and guess who go to see it?  WE DID.  The chocolate lady pulled out a massive chocolate bunny mold that had to be close to two feet tall.  It was still in the molding process, but she showed us pictures of the decorative flowers and frosting and accessories she was going to adorn the bunny with.  It was, quite possibly, the closest brush that I will ever have with a famous baby's food.  It's also been my claim to fame this week.  Can you think of a better ice breaker than "I got to see Elton John's baby's first Easter bunny!"?  Didn't think so.

ANYWAY, here are a few of my favorite pictures from the weekend from our fancy iPad 2.  It takes such fun pictures!  and some of them are sneaky pictures, because it has a camera on the back.  So it looks like we're just messing around on the iPad when really, we're taking candid pictures of people!

A candid of Julie.  Eating homemade guacamole.  (How come no one ever told me how awesome avocados are?!)

Everyone around the dinner table.  We spend a lot of time here eating and talking when we're home.  I love that about this family!

Buddy loves it there too, because he gets to go on more walks in one weekend than he does in a whole month at our house in Lowell. (Also worth mentioning, I was just going to write: "This is a candid of Buddy" but realized that dogs don't really know or care if their picture is taken so... I think every picture of Buddy is candid.)

Josh's Dad and Grandma.  (Candid)

Julie and Grandma.  (Also candid. All three were sitting like this at the same time, I just couldn't fit all of them into one picture)

We celebrated Josh's birthday early with a yummy fruity cake!

A family car ride into town


We had to run some errands, so we decided to try out the Pet Wash that was located in the local Car Wash. I don't think Buddy liked it a whole lot, but we got a kick out of it.  He looks so ridiculous when he's wet.  (and um, candid of Buddy and not-candid of me)

My love.  His heart rests when he's at home and I love to see his soul expand in the comfort and presence of his family.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The First Tears.

A friend of mine posted this story on her blog, and it spoke to me:

"Kathy told me once of the rock she held in her hand, she held it so tightly that her palm began to sweat and her fingers began to shake and then, it came to nothing because when she opened up her hand the rock still sat there, quietly

without her tight grip, she could surely loose it easier she thought, she felt 
and maybe it is true, but if we must hold something to tightly
then maybe it was never ours to keep in the first place"

The first tears over our eventual for departure from this country to another, 9000 miles away country, have fallen.  Because despite the certainty and excitement that we feel over the next season of our lives, it's still a tall order to fill, friends.

The first tears were my own.  Which seems appropriate.  They fell at the senior high retreat.  Watching some of our freshman boys be silly (and annoying, if I'm being quite honest) evoked them to fall.  In the midst of silly games and hanging out, the knowledge that next year they will be going on a retreat with another youth leader, playing different games, and learning more about God from someone else struck me deeply.

So deeply that, unexpectedly, tears came.

Being caught off guard, my only option was, of course, to immediately run out of the room before anyone could notice my eyes.  (Because everyone knows that the explanation of tears encourages even more tears).  I found an empty room in the building, sat on the empty bunk bed, and I surrendered to the only One worth surrendering to.  I sat with tears falling openly, unashamedly, feeling the first pains of departure and I allowed myself to feel them for the first time.  I once again gave back to God what He faithfully entrusted to me, to us, for the last 4 years.  What was never fully mine, to begin with: The hearts of these teens I love.  I want to witness, first hand, as they learn to live for something greater than themselves.  I want to see them grow and change and learn to love others with my own eyes.  Theirs are hearts and lives that I want to hold on to tightly...

So I let the tears fall and I reminded God how hard what He is asking of me is going to be.  and I asked the Faithful One to be faithful and to show me how to loosen my grip.  I re-committed myself to the calling and I re-committed myself to the One who called.  After allowing myself to feel the feelings that came so suddenly, I dried my eyes, wiped my mascara, rejoined the retreaters and no one knew what  had just taken place. What I had just let go of. Or what I had just clung to.

The second tears came from my best friend.  Tonight.  They came suddenly and unexpectedly and oh how they came quickly.  In a passing comment about spending more time together this summer, they seized her.  (and everyone knows that among best friends, tears are contagious. Highly contagious, in fact.)  Not ready to let go of that, of her, yet, I quickly ran and gave her a hug and we allowed ourselves the freedom to change the subject.  A freedom that, one day, will be gone and we will have to face the intruder-tears and let them fall again.  and again.  and again.

But not tonight...  Not tonight.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Egyptian Christians protecting Egyptian Muslims while they pray during the protests:

"By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." 
-Jesus (John 13:35)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

"He looks like a little sasquatch!"

Why is watching a video of yourself so horrifying?  Our friend Dave put together a great video of Josh and I that is going to be used for support raising and when I was watching it, all I could think was:

"Do I really sound like that?"  
"Do I really look like that?" 
"I should have done something different with my hair."  
"Yep, I definitely need to work out." 
"Hmm, I must really sound like that, because that's exactly what Josh sounds like..."

and finally

"This is really embarrassing"

and you know what? Generally speaking, I am a pretty confident person.  But I turned into a 12 year old insecure little girl watching that video.


Also, I'm delighted to share with you some successful pictures of me and my little family!  When I'm on the computer on the couch, Buddy always comes up behind me and rests his head on my shoulder.  It's so stinkin' cute and I always want to get a picture of it but can never open photobooth in time.  Tonight, however, I was successful!  So, here's 8 bajillion pictures of us being silly with the puppy :-)

These were taken 30 minutes after we got home.  You'll notice I still have my coat and scarf on.  It's because our house is really cold.  Like, we keep it at 57 degrees cold.  But that's how we get to do cool things like go to hogwarts, people.  So hey, if you want a warm house that's fine, but I'm cool with wearing a coat all night and traveling....  (So sassy!)

He's a deep thinker sometimes: 

Josh decided to get in on the funny business...

Fighting over the lone female in the house.

It's a tie!  Just kidding, Josh always wins.  
I love this picture!

"Ew Dad, stop it!"

Not sure what's going on here...

This is Buddy's "hero shot".  Notice the lighting and the intense look in his eye.  Heroic.

"He looks like a little sasquatch in this picture!" -Me

Sunday, March 6, 2011

I am not The Light.

"In Him (Jesus) was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the  darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John.  He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might belief. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world." -John 1:4-9

I read this passage recently, and it really stuck out to me.  It is about Jesus being the Light of the world, and John the Baptist, who was the messenger sent to tell about Jesus' coming, was not the light.  The part that stuck out the most to me is in verse 8 where it says:

"He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light."

My best friend asked me the other day if I feel like the way I live my life makes people want more of God, or want more of me?  and if I'm being honest, I think that I point other people to me more than I do to God.  I don't mean to, but sometimes, I'm pretty sure I do.

I think that sometimes, people confuse me with The Light.  I know that sounds terrible but let me explain.  Parents of the teens in our youth group will say something like, "Leslie... my daughter... she NEEDS to get together with you. She needs you to be there for her.  She needs your good example." etc etc.  That's pretty nice to hear, right?  and it's easy for me to start thinking that yeah, I am pretty awesome and yeah, these girls need me.  If I don't love them and listen to them and care about them, who will?  They need my light!

So I do my best, reaching out to as many girls as I can, but am I reaching out to them and then pointing them towards Christ? To the One who will always be there to listen, who always WAS there to listen in the first place? Or am I reaffirming a hidden belief that when issues or problems arise, all they need to do is sit down and talk with me, a wisdom giver, and everything will be better?  Who needs the Light of the world when they've got me? 

So, I want to live my life as more of a mirror. A mirror that reflects the radiance of The True Light onto other people. and I want to be careful to not let myself get confused, or allow others to be confused, with who the true Light of the World really is.  Because it gets exhausting when I try to be the light to so many different people.  and it gets fake.  and I don't want either of those things to be me.

So hi, my name is Leslie, and I myself am not the light; I am here only to be a witness to the Light. The light that shines in the darkness, into your darkness, and into my darkness as well.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Hogwarts! Hogwarts! Hoggy-Hoggy Hogwarts!

In January, I made a list of 25 things I would like to do in my 25th year of life.  One of the items on that list was to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando.  Josh was a bit surprised when it made it on the list ("You want to do that THIS year??") but when a couple of opportunities arose, My Love made it happen!

Our friends David and Katie came with us on our little adventure this week as well!  Josh found very inexpensive plane tickets for all of us.  He also found four Universal tickets (to both of the parks) on craigslist for $250.  When we arrived at the park, we learned that they would have cost approximately $430 if we had bought them there.  For $77 a night, we stayed in a four diamond resort that that had heated pools, a lazy river, and a golf course that holds professional tournaments! We even met a guy in the pool who asked, "So, were you able to get a room here for under $300?".  I let him know that, oh yes, we didn't just get ours for under $300, we got it for under $100!  I felt almost mean telling him that.  Thank you! 

Honestly, Josh is the most amazing trip planner ever.  He made the trip possible and he made this little dream of mine come true.  We went at the perfect time of the year (a week before college and high school spring breaks) and on the perfect day of the week (the only day of the week with rain in the forecast... so most of the other tourists decided to wait for another day to go to the park. Even the park employees were amazed at how empty the park was that day). It DID rain on our drive to Universal, and it continued raining as we crossed the long foot bridge over to the park, but as soon as we stepped off of the bridge... it stopped raining.  and not a single drop of rain fell from the sky the rest of the day!  What's more,  there was no line for the Harry Potter ride that has had a line with a wait of up to 4 hours on some days, or so we read.   It was perfect

The highlight of the entire three day trip was, of course, the Harry Potter part of Universal Studios.  Friends, I was like a little girl in that park!  During the main ride in Hogwarts Castle I allowed myself to get completely lost in the wonder and the magic of Harry Potter.  I cheered Harry on as we played quidditch.  I cast a patronus charm to rid the arena of dementors!  I outran a dragon!  I delighted in the moment.  I felt free and I allowed my imagination to soar and I can't even tell you how amazing it felt!

Without further adieu, pictures!!

Waiting to get into the park.  I am a very excited and very happy girl in this picture.  Childlike wonder, I tell you.

Hogwarts Castle!


Hermione let me borrow her wand for a couple of minutes.  (and check out that red hair MOM!)

Josh takes secret pictures of people.  This kid was walking around flicking and swishing his pretend wand around in a Harry Potter cloak.

The Three Broomsticks restaurant, where we ate lunch.

The inside of the owlry

Inside the candy store, Honeydukes.

A little girl picking out candy :-)

The fake snow on the buildings looked quite real.  Almost too real for us Michigan folks who were desperate to get away from it!

David and Katie with the conductor of the Hogwarts Express.  We chatted with him a bit.  He said he'd lived in Hogsmeade all his life, and that his apartment was just up the road a bit.  He couldn't take us there to see it, though, since he hadn't cleaned up in weeks! haha!

Every Flavor Beans.  Gotta be careful with these because there were a couple of naaaaasty flavors.

The Weasley's car

Hagrid's Hut

The Tri-Wizard tournament tent

The love of my life kissing me!

and a beautiful shot of the castle!

It was a day full of delight and wonder!