Hope Chest

I hope you have people in your life like this.  I hope you have people who cry with you, help you carry burdens that are too heavy for you, who really love you.  I hope you have friends who make you laugh and remind you to have courage.  I hope they help you remember that God is real and that He loves you when it doesn’t feel like it.  Because, in case no one’s told you lately, you’re worthy of that kind of love and care.  And you matter.

One thing is for sure—I surely don’t deserve all the people in my life who love me so well.  But I am awfully thankful for them.

On the one-year anniversary of the fire that burned our home and turned our lives upside down, I was presented with a hope chest full of love, prayers, and small gifts.  I love that Torey, as she was working and praying and sweating it up at Aggieland’s Impact, was covered with a similar flood of notes and prayers.

Here is just a taste of what I was given.

One woman actually gave me her grandmother’s brooch.  She said I reminded her of her grandmother—how she was full of strength and faith and loved getting fancy.  I’ve given it some thought and I truly can’t think of nicer compliment.  For now, the brooch graces a white straw hat.  I can’t wait to wear it on blazers and knit berets in the fall.

Another gave me a real live message in a bottle.  A message that has, so far, gone unread because, let me tell you, it’s harder than you’d think to get the paper back out!!  I have tried using my fingers, tweezers, and chop sticks all to no avail.  Kyle has tried.  I’m hoping someone reading this is a lot smarter than me and can tell me how to get it out.  Otherwise, a hammer is in that bottle’s future.

Someone else gave me a beautiful bracelet adorned with a swallow to remind me that if God takes care of every tiny swallow, He will surely take care of my family and me, too.

My mom gave me the crown from my first ballet costume.  I assure you I was the least graceful ballerina on that stage but I loved my gold and white costume with the tiny gold crown for our buns.  It seemed so magical.  And my mom saved it all these years because she never throws anything away ever.  She gave it back to me to remind me that I’m the daughter of a King and that I’m loved and that she thinks I’m lovely.  All of which makes me laugh and cry again at the thought.

And these are only a few of the words I won’t forget and the reminders of grace that now fill nooks and crannies around the apartment.  Thanks for walking with me, everyone.  Thanks for showing me what faithful friendship looks like.  I hope I have lots of chances to return what I’ve been given.


One Year Ago

I was getting dressed to take Kyle’s parents out for dinner when I was called from my room, shoeless with wet hair, to see the flames that were about to crack the kitchen windows and the sparks that were already raining into our beloved study.  In some ways, it seems like that just happened and in others, it feels it was an eternity ago.  We are still recovering and healing and that is a process that is far from over.  There’s lots that’s up in the air and uncertain about our lives like where we’re going to live (a great brand new house and a practically new pool and mission house are probably going to be on the market soon) and where we’re called to worship (we are still visiting lots of places and have really enjoyed bumping into some of you as we have).

But this Saturday–one year to the day after a three alarm fire burned down our home–we want to pause and remember what happened.  We want to celebrate that God didn’t allow any person (including the many wonderful firefighters who were working in temperatures well over 100 degrees to put out the fire) to be hurt.  We want to call God our Savior and Redeemer and the Lover of our Souls.  We want to say we trust His goodness and that, with His power, we take authority over the evil one who has pulled out the stops to steal, kill, and destroy our family.

On the morning of August 13th, we are going to Oliver Circle and the home that is in the process of being reconstructed.  We are going to pray and have communion.  And, like I said in my previous post, we would sure love it if you would pray for us, too.  Anytime is great but we’d especially appreciate your intercession on Saturday.  If you don’t mind, leave me a comment so we can celebrate all our friends who are joining us in seeking God.

Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were born
Or You gave birth to the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

Do return, O LORD; how long will it be?
And be sorry for Your servants.
O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness,
That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Make us glad according to the days You have afflicted us,
And the years we have seen evil.
Let Your work appear to Your servants
And Your majesty to their children.
Psalm 90:1-2; 13-16

But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel,
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine!”
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.”
Isaiah 43:1-2




Quilt made with love by Amber Littler and the rest of the Soulspring gang--it was enjoyed for many years as it hung in our entry hall.

My sweet baby girl seeing what was her room. Notice the sky above her head where the ceiling used to be. That's a happy birthday sign I made for her 20th birthday that she'd kept hanging on her door.

Kyle's Senior Boots From TAMU

Oddly Comforted

The last few years have been rough for my family and me.  I was with a friend yesterday who said it it has gone on long enough that it should no longer be called a season but a stage.  This was oddly comforting–it felt good to have someone acknowledge with love and compassion that what we have experienced is uniquely hard. Do you know what I mean?

Anyhow, as the first anniversary of the fire approaches (it’s next week) and as we have just had to face the heart-breaking decision to delay (maybe forever) our long awaited adoption, God is reminding me of a few things many tears later.  First, I’m not imagining this Job season–I mean, ‘stage.’  It has been excruciating to have every part of my life dumped out and mixed up and restarted.  And two, while I see more clearly than ever that there is an enemy who wants to utterly destroy me and my family, I see God not leaving.  He isn’t delivering yet but He is here.  And for now, that’s enough.

“Many times they have persecuted me from my youth up,”
Let Israel now say,
“Many time they have persecuted me from my youth up;
Yet they have not prevailed against me.
“The plowers plowed upon my back;
They lengthened their furrows.”
The LORD is righteous:
He has cut in two the cords of the wicked.
Psalm 129:1-4

…we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…
II Corinthians 4:8-9

So, yeah, God is good.  But that doesn’t mean we aren’t ready for a new stage of life to begin.  Will you pray that it will?

I got a new desk!

Days after the fire, my friend Jan bought me a temporary desk the size of a card table from Target and office supplies so I could get back to work on More Than Ordinary.  It definitely got the job done and made my huge computer look even larger so there was that.  But lately I’ve realized I was finding every excuse in the book to drag my feet when I needed to do anything at my desk.  I would use my laptop to work from the living room, the kitchen table, anywhere but my desk, (or avoid work altogether).  I’d planned to wait until we moved out of the apartment where my study is also Torey’s bedroom to get a real desk.  But I decided I couldn’t wait any more.  Sorry Torey!  Your room while you’re home for the summer just got a little more crowded.  But I found one I love at Ethan Allen and had a groupon discount to boot.  And, for the record, Torey has been really gracious about sharing her limited space with me.  Without further ado, here it is in all its glory:

new desk

old desk

In case you’re wondering, I’m pretty sure the light shining above the new desk are the angels joining me in rejoicing.  I’m ready to get going on what’s next with my shiny new desk.  In the next few weeks, I’ll start telling you about my next projects but for now just let me say I am really excited about them!

P.S. More Than Ordinary is being released in a few short weeks and is available for pre-order now.  It is available on Amazon at your local Barnes & Noble.  Check it out!

2010 in review [part 2]

37. We had some friends over to celebrate July 4th.  We didn’t know it was going to be our last party but it was sure a sweet day.

38. After a year of threats, church changes, business calamities, general chaos, and really hard times, Torey and I decided that we needed to remember that God is good and declare our hope in Him.  So we did—permanently.  “Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope for His lovingkindness…Let your lovingkindness, O LORD, be upon us, according as we have hoped in You” (Psalm 18, 22).

39. Barnes discovered rabbits sometimes hung out around the bushes at dusk.  His new favorite pastime became chasing them.  All it took to get him waiting eagerly at the door was to say ‘rabbit.’

40. After a great year getting to know my youngest sister better, Bonnie moved into a fun place on the east side.  She is way too cool for us.

41. We celebrated Doug’s birthday over a meeting with our publishers with a sugar and gluten free birthday cake.

42. We moved all Torey’s college furniture, bedding, some clothes, and a few mementos into her new house in College Station.  She wanted to get things set up early even though she wasn’t going to stay for a few more weeks.  This turned out to be a really really really good thing.  Thank you, God.

43. Torey headed to the Impact retreat to be part of the prayer team.  I’m so proud of her!

44. August 13, 2010 happened.  “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away.  Blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21b).

45. August 14 and the many days that followed happened.  We–and our neighbors–were blown away by the out-pouring of love and kindness (see previous posts for lots more on this).

46. From the day of the fire until just before Christmas, our friends and mentors Doug and Jan Sherman took us into their home.  We will never forget their love and sacrifice for us.

47. We celebrated our 21st anniversary with a gift card to Mikado from the Drake family.

48. Kyle decided to rechristen himself ‘dogman.’  He thought it kinda made him sound like a superhero.

49. When the dust settled, Doug and I continued to work on the book.  The publishing deadline was quickly approaching.

50. My sister Lauren married fellow schoolteacher Michael Barnard.  It was a beautiful day.

51. Hurray for weddings.

52. The McDaniel’s and Sherman’s took another trip to Colorado Springs to meet with our publishers.

53. Doug loved showing us around the Air Force Academy and telling us stories about his days as a student and instructor pilot there.  Seeing the chapel was a highlight.

54. We stayed at the Broadmoor where every view looks like a postcard.

55. The tree that was a few feet from where the fire started began to heal.  New life is unstoppable.

56. While watching A&M play Nebraska, Kyle noted, “It’s hard to imagine something more fun than tackling another guy.  I mean, ping pong is fun, climbing mountains is great, but tackling…” It’s moments like these when I am really glad for iphones and evernote.  These kinds of gems deserve to be savored again and again.  You’re welcome.

57.  After dressing up as a banana last year, Barnes decided to go mainstream as a pumpkin this year.  He loved greeting trick-or-treaters on the east side.

58. We stayed in Austin for Thanksgiving this year.  We melded traditions and shared secret family recipes with the Ford family.

59. Kyle and Torey went to the a&m/ut game and had a blast!  I stayed home because I am weird and possibly un-American and don’t like football.

60. We found many of our Christmas decorations had survived.  And rejoiced.

61.  Torey and I went to a Christmas concert with Dave Barnes and Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors.  We hung out with them afterward and had cider while they sang a few extra songs in the back.  Torey pronounced it the best day of her life.

62. We fond bid farewell to Doug, Jan, Bailey and Calera Drive and moved into an apartment.  It is has been great to start to put our home together again.

63. After a year and a half of hard work and some marathon editing from the amazing Sue Kline, we turned in the final manuscript!

64. We celebrated our traditional ‘family Christmas’ a few days before the 25th in which we cooked a special dinner, read the Christmas story, and exchanged some gifts in our new apartment.

65. We celebrated a quiet and cozy Christmas with the Youngblood family and 4 crazy dogs.

66. We ended 2010 as it began: with Eric and Keri and friends at the Patio Ranch.  It was just as wonderful this time around. Barnes chased deer and was happy.  Kyle couldn’t find him and was sad.  Then Barnes returned and they were happy together.

67.  As Kyle and Torey discussed a friend’s questionable romantic relationship, his poor hearing and propensity to mix up proverbs and sayings collided.  Alluding to the idea that, “There are more fish in the sea,” she noted, “But he’s a delightful fish.”  To which Kyle responded with consternation and confusion, “You would die for fish?!…Could someone just stop laughing and speak?”

68. A few days later, as he was browsing Netflix, he noted with surprise that, “Nicholas Cage sure has a lot of ‘one-stars.’”  Go figure.

69. I had an amazing birthday celebration with friends and family at my new favorite place Uchiko.  It was great to see so many people I love in one place.

70. My husband bought me an Anne Moore hat for my birthday.  I really love hats.

71. Chuck ran a marathon.  He’s crazy that way.

72. Myles Horton Ford came into his parents’ life on February 2, 2011.  And he is my belated birthday present; born a day after my birthday.  It’s going to be a good year.

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2010 in Review [part 1]

Since thirteen was a momentous number this year, I thought this year in review should include an extra month–a baker’s dozen.  Enjoy!

  1. We celebrated the New Year with friends at the Patio Ranch.  Kyle and I got to watch the sunset from a deer stand with a beautiful view and toast champagne.
  2. Eric taught Torey how to shoot while we were there.
  3. The Sherman’s and Kyle and I went to meet with NavPress about the book I was helping Doug write.  We stayed in the castle (Navigator headquarters) where Doug and Jan first met.
  4. In the meantime, as new toys came into Barnes’ life, he didn’t consider it his obligation to bring the ones with really loud squeakers to me repeatedly while I was trying to work.  It was his pleasure.
  5. Connie Willems (our editor for the early portion of the writing) came and spent the day at Casa McDaniel helping us clarify the big ideas we needed to communicate.  We spent the day in the mission house using ginormous post notes.  It was way fun.
  6. We celebrated my wonderful daughter’s 20th birthday.  I cooked her favorite meal and a red velvet cake and we all wore hearts just like Julia Child did when she celebrated Valentine’s Day.  We watched Torey’s new favorite movie Julie and Julia about twenty times.
  7. There was a beautiful magical snow.  Barnes liked it.
  8. After eight years of loving the people of The Austin Stone, Kyle resigned as an elder and we stepped away from leadership there.  Our love did not change as we followed God’s call to leave the congregation.  It was a decision made with heavy hearts but with peace and confidence.  We bless The Austin Stone and the work God continues to do there and the rest of His Body in Austin, TX.   And we miss our friends there and love when we get a chance to see them around the city.
  9. Still inspired by Julie and Julia, Torey and I attempted homemade eggs Benedict.  They were delicious!
  10. Barnes kept me company during many long but wonderful hours of working on More Than Ordinary.
  11. A Torchy’s opened near our home.  Rejoicing ensued.  Lunch plans for the rest of the year=done. (Still trying to become the mayor of there or Kerbey Lane on Gowalla.  I’ll keep you posted.)
  12. We hiked the Hill of Life as often possible.  Queso has a lot of calories, man!
  13. We celebrated Kyle’s birthday with everyone living at Casa McDaniel (the 3 McDaniel’s, Bonnie, Jordan & Lauren Tardy, and, of course, Barnes).
  14. We had a few of his favorite things—sugar and pizza.
  15. Barnes had his first day of school.  He was an eager student.  His favorite subjects were new toys and snack time.
  16. I got to hang out with the famous Berrik Sherman.  He’s pretty cool.
  17. Barnes got an ear infection and decided to hide from Dr. Donop.
  18. Kyle and Torey gave me some gorgeous roses for mother’s day.  I am a sucker for roses.  Maybe it’s because I grew up in Tyler—it’s the rose capital y’all.
  19. Over dinner at Kerbey Lane, the subject of Prince came up because, well, why wouldn’t it?  Kyle asked “What is that song he sings…’Bark like a Dove?’”  When Torey and I remained speechless with laughter a little too long, he added, “Just tell me the name of the freaking song!”  And wondered why we both grabbed our phones and starting typing like crazy.
  20. On one of our hikes, we saw a tarantula up-close and personal.  (Even though that was nine months ago, definitely just had to check the rug around my feet as I just typed that.)
  21. We also found a super cool old truck.
  22. And Barnes learned to drink out of a nalgene lid when he was extra hot and thirsty.
  23. My husband planted roses for me.  And then watered them regularly.  It was very sweet and romantic.
  24. Old friend Jenny Rose and new friend Erika and I put on our cute shoes and had cosmopolitans at the new Gold Class Cinema that had just opened.  The movie was tragically bad but the wonderful company made up for it.
  25. The Youngblood women went shopping for my sister Lauren’s wedding dress.
  26. She found it at the first place we went!
  27. Torey spent the first half of the summer as a counselor at Pine Cove.  She was great and loved it.
  28. We went to visit her and took her out for frozen custard.  Yum.
  29. It sure was sweaty out there but the kids seemed to love it.
  30. A few weeks later, her BFF Meghan and I got to visit her again.
  31. I got to take my dad to his favorite café in Edom for Father’s Day.  His great-grandfather used to have lunch there every day.  I love family histories.
  32. Our friends Jordan and Lauren Tardy moved out the mission house to spend time with family before moving to Pennsylvania for missionary training.
  33. We spent a few days in New York City.  And ate huge doughnuts from The Doughnut Plant.
  34. We got to spend a little time with our dear friend Daniel Ting.  He is the best.
  35. We also hung out with another long-time dear friend Trey Hicks.  He took us to his favorite pizza place near his place in Brooklyn and we took him to our favorite breakfast place (fyi: It’s SaraBeth’s).  We love New York food.
  36. On the flight home, we met the world’s ugliest dog and her owner.  They’d been on the Today show that morning.

[part 2 of the year in review coming soon]

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We’d been asking our insurance agency to correct the error in our policy since days after the fire.  There was no way we could rebuild until that happened.  Our family and friends had been praying and offering advice and standing with us in countless ways since the fire.  Then, on November 14th (the day after 3 months since the fire), I asked people to pray for the woman by name who had been the apparent roadblock toward correcting the policy.

I thought I believed in prayer before this. But what happened next blew me away.  THE NEXT DAY when we called (again) to try to get this particular adjustor to work with us, we were told she was no longer with the company.  We were transferred to a new adjuster.  He told us that our situation merited an investigation.  Before the end of the week, the entire department had to discuss our case.  By Thanksgiving, we were told that things were looking promising.  The policy was corrected by the end of the next week.  A check for the new policy limit has now been dispersed.

We negotiated, made calls, wrote letters, typed emails, and prayed for three months with no material progress.  Our spiritual family prayed specifically for a day and that changed everything.  There is no doubt in my mind that God was giving us a chance to trust Him and to learn what only experience with Him can teach: He loves moving heaven and earth to respond to our requests.  He loves giving good gifts.

It’s been a hard couple of years.  Every area of our lives has been turned upside down.  But my family knows God’s comfort better than ever.  And I know that our friends are more than that…they are our family.  God has been faithfully bringing us to mind to many people. Weeks before the fire, Daniel Ting had a dream about asking for God’s mercy and comfort in which he was talking with Kelly and me.  And Sarah Drinka texted me not long ago that she’d come across our names and a date next to some verses in Psalm 37.   The date was 8.12.10—the day before the fire. These things aren’t coincidences.  God is giving my family (and you) a chance to see an example of how He uses people and circumstances to turn ashes and destruction to beauty and wholeness.  It is not a path I would wish on anyone but I—we—can already say we wouldn’t trade it.

A friend we’ve known and loved since our days in Houston (Biff Van Cleve–great name, huh?) called trying to reconnect not long before the fire.  We never got a chance to return his call and the number he left was consumed when the answering machine burned.  When he learned why we’d never gotten back with him, he wrote to us, “Y’all have really been on my heart this year and now I understand why.  When any part of the body hurts, the whole body feels it.”

God loves answering prayers.  He takes great delight in helping His children draw near to Him and each other.  Just thought you should know.

[If you are looking for more stories about what happened after the fire, scroll to the ‘categories’ section on the right side bar of this page and select ‘after the fire’]