Friday, February 28, 2014


I love milestones. I'm kind of a junky for recording and revisiting significant dates in my life and probably reading way too much into how timelines correlate, intersect, overlap, etc. It's a sickness. It's possible I need some therapy, but we'll talk about that some other time.

For now, here's what I want to tell you: Today marks the 5-year anniversary of when I first met Vermont in person. My family boarded a plane in Nashville that morning and some time much later, we all stepped on snowy, rocky Vermont soil for the very first time in each of our lives. We were here "in view of a call" to Middletown Springs Community Church. And the rest, as they say, is history. 'Cause bless their little hearts, they "called" us. :-) We tried to warn them (seriously, we really did), but they called us anyway. I'm so glad.

That began a crazy journey that I've written about repeatedly, so I won't bore you with the whole long story again. I just want to highlight one excerpt. As many of you know (by which I mean the 4 of you who read this stuff), my family and I were divided for 9 months when they moved to Vermont in August, and I stayed in Nashville to continue my job while trying to sell our house there. Again, a long story I won't repeat. So just this: As I'm sure you can imagine, there were many, many moments during that time that I was heartsick to miss. Lots of "firsts" for my sweet Macy and Grace that I couldn't witness firsthand. Lots of exhausting days for Jared during which I couldn't really comfort or help him very effectively. Hard days. And as silly as it sounds, one of the moments that stands out most in my mind was when The Paramount theater showed The Wizard of Oz on the big screen, and I couldn't go. It's silly really, but this is me we're talking about, so don't act surprised, k? ;-) Of all the things I missed, this one resonated more intensely than just about any other. Something about the idea of experiencing one of my children's favorite movies in this old, ornate, beautiful little historic theater just seemed magical to me. But there I sat in Nashville. I didn't get to see their eyes light up when they first walked into that place. I didn't get to sit between them and hear them giggle and gasp throughout the film. Sad. Just a movie. I know. But still. Sad.

BUT! Guess what. 'Member how I told you today is our 5-year anniversary of meeting Vermont? Guess what's playing at The Paramount tonight.


That movie in this place:

So cool.

Guess who'll be there:

Yeah buddy.

And again, I know-- it's just a movie to most people. But to me, it's God saying, "I know you're a weirdo, 'cause I designed you that way. :-) But I also know you'll like this, so look what I did! Happy Anniversary. Here's another reminder of how I'm redeeming your time in Vermont. You're welcome." Silly? For sure. Personal? I sure think so. I believe God loves us much more personally than we ever dare believe. WHY WOULD HE DO THAT? I don't know, but I'm really glad he does.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Good List 2-26-14

10. Old maps. I don't even know why I love them so much, but I do. They feel like an adventure just waiting to happen.
9. EOS lip balm. Do y'all know this stuff? I just started using it, and it is magical. It almost makes my lips forget they're in the middle of a Vermont winter.
8. Jericho Season 3 in comic book form. I wish the tv show wouldn't have gotten canceled, but I guess this is better than nothing.

7. Hobby Lobby is coming to Rutland, VT. I'm honestly shocked about this. But also glad.
6. These dudes. I want them. Especially the 3 at the very end.

5. These. They are virtually carbless, fabulously delicious tortilla replacements, made with eggs, almond meal and coconut oil. Especially delectable wrapped around bacon and avocado.

4. Hugo. I love that movie. The line "This child belongs to me." gets me every single time.
3. This video. It is absolutely embarrassing how many times I have watched this and how much I have giggled. I can't get enough of it. My kids are legitimately concerned.
2. I have another new foster niece! It's a sensitive situation, so I dare not post much detail or any pictures, but y'all will just have to trust me when I say she is all kinds of adorable. :-)
1. A message all the way from the UK (specifically Wales) to let me know that Jared's book Gospel Deeps is filling the heart of a young, exhausted Mom with Gospel joy! Just awesome.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Good List 2-19-14

10. This dude. I want him.

9. Watching Macy play Clumsy Ninja. It's such a silly game, but it makes me giggle every time.

8. A tree full of these dudes earlier this week. The girls and I counted at least 6 at one time. Especially beautiful against a backdrop of nothing but white snow and brown trees.

7. This message from my friend David earlier in the week. His family is one of my favorites on the entire planet, so this makes me happy (but also sad that I'm not there to cook for them in person.)

6. Red barns (or bridges) in the snow. I heart them.

5. Macy built a snow cave. It's kind of awesome.

4. This week is winter break. No school. No strict schedule. No alarm clock. I'm not mad about this at all. ;-)
3. Two boxes of Jared's latest release showed up on our doorstep a couple days ago. You would think this would become a bit routine and less exciting each time. It does not. At all. Ever.

2. A "random" blog comment earlier this week got me thinking about how many amazing friendships I've had the privilege of building just because of a quick comment that led to all kinds of beautiful dialog or a direct message on twitter that set up a lunch or coffee date. Say whatever negative things you will about social media (and I'll probably agree with most of it), but I will continue to insist that it is an invaluable resource for helping to bear one another's burdens in situations where geographical challenges would make it otherwise impossible to do so.
1. Our friend Mark is friends with Tim from Home Free. Yeah. The bassist. The one I'm still not sure is human based on what he does with his voice. But that is a discussion for a different day. ;-) A couple weeks ago Mark flew down to Texas to hang out with Tim and the Home Free guys and attend one of their shows. He knows that Macy and Grace are completely enamored with Home Free and were therefore entirely starstruck with the scenario of him spending time with them, so he brought them back a surprise (an autographed photo and their new CD). I'll let you decide if they liked it: :-D

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Christmas Letter I *Would Have* Written

Well, it's February 17th. And you still haven't gotten a Christmas letter or picture from me. You know how I know? 'Cause I haven't sent one. ;-) It's a long story about photos sent to Texas instead of Vermont and myriad other issues, but mostly, and most honestly, it was just a difficult end of the year during which sitting down to address envelopes never really felt like a priority. (And most of y'all know me and Christmas, so it's a pretty big deal for me to say that.)

This morning was the first Monday in a very long time that I could have slept late. The girls are having their winter break this week. There is still about a 3-foot covering of snow on the ground, and we only have one vehicle suitable to drive in Vermont winter, which Jared needs to get to work. It would have been the perfect day for me to sleep in. Instead I woke up at 5am and couldn't go back to sleep, which is kind of the opposite of awesome, except that it gave me a quiet morning to drink a cup of coffee, watch the sun slowly sneak in through the windows and gather some reflective thoughts. It's been a long while since that has happened.

So. For what it's worth-- here is the Christmas letter I *would have* written if I had taken the time to do so in 2013.

Merry Christmas, Everyone! (Work with me, people--this is supposed to be a Christmas letter.)

I hope you all have had a sweet and special year and are looking forward to celebrating the birth of our Savior surrounded by your favorite people. Our family is always eager to slow down and sit still together a little more often during the holidays than we typically do, and that seems magnified this year for so many reasons. It's been a difficult year. More specifically, it's been a difficult second half of the year. But we'll come back to that in a minute.

Because: also, it's been a really good year. Really good. And I don't want to gloss over that. We celebrated accomplishments like Macy's 6th grade graduation, Grace's first 5K run and more book releases/completed manuscripts for Jared. We relaxed and giggled and snuggled our way through a beautiful vacation in our favorite little town in Maine. We hosted all kinds of guests, new friends and old, in our home. We shared meals and drinks and hugs and giggles and maybe even a few snorts and chortles when things really got going. We sent Jared all over America (and even into Mexico) to proclaim Christ, and sometimes we even got to go with him. We FINALLY SOLD OUR HOUSE in Tennessee! (I KNOW, RIGHT?!? It only took 4 YEARS!) We even welcomed 2 new family members this year in the form of our sweet foster niece Lilly and precious new nephew Deacon. All good things for sure (and this is barely scratching the surface).

But it gets better. Here's how. We learned to cling to Christ more fiercely than ever before. And even better than that, we felt his presence more profoundly than we knew possible. In the second half of 2013, we witnessed the final earthly decline of 2 dear friends in their battles with brain cancer. I'm not sure how to categorize that journey other than to say it was (and continues to be in some ways) unlike (and more grueling than) anything I've ever seen or done before.

Our friend Richard and his precious family first came into our lives a couple years ago when they started attending our church. It was a pretty good trek for them (a little over an hour from where they live) and difficult to have "quantity" time with them because of the distance, but our church embraced them from Day 1 and they settled into all of our hearts firmly and quickly. "Quality" time was no problem at all. 

Unfortunately, Richard already had cancer when we first met him, and already his prognosis wasn't great, but he stayed healthier than most doctors expected, so we got to love him here on earth longer than anyone would have guessed. It still didn't feel long enough when he went to be with Jesus on September 22nd, 2013, but we were so grateful to cling to the memory of Jared baptizing him in 2012, and we are still basking in the glow of his ceaseless and powerful confidence in Christ--even in the midst of his greatest suffering. Maybe ESPECIALLY then.

Then there's Anne. Oh, my Anne! I kept posting this picture and trying to convince everyone that we are really from the same family, 'cause that's just how much I love her. (There's at least a slight resemblance, no? ;-))

I've said so much about her here (see this and this and this for just a few examples if you like) and yet somehow it's not enough. I just don't have enough (and certainly not *powerful* enough) words for her. So special to me.

Her battle was unlike Richard's in that it was significantly quicker. Her tumor was first discovered on August 27th. God graciously sustained her long enough for her son Mark to transport her across the country to Tahoe (in a car since she wasn't well enough to fly) so she could dance at her daughter Ally's wedding on September 7th and then back across the country to re-enact the wedding here in Vermont on September 14th. 

But after those events, she declined quite rapidly, losing basic motor and brain skills pretty steadily. Glimmers of hope would occur occasionally, but they were usually short-lived and followed by devastating realizations.

I've never hurt so badly as I did watching her several days a week for hours at a time in so much pain and with so little of herself left in that little shell of a body. I sobbed into my carpet and/or my pillow so many nights during the last few months of 2013, it sort of became my new normal for that time. Agony. All while watching her precious, amazing family suffer all the more. I would think over and over again, "If I hurt this badly, what must THEY feel?" More agony. Helpless. Undone.

Anne died on December 2, which felt like the worst day of my life in many ways. Because this is who she is to me. And you can't just replace a person like that.

And yet. There was Christ. OHHH! How do I explain this? I can't. I just know. 

He didn't take away my pain, but OH how he held me (and my entire family AND my entire church family) through it! Oh, the deep, deep love of Jesus! Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free! Words so real to me. I don't know how to explain. I only know what I experienced, and it was truer and more real and more vibrant than most of the rest of my life. For that I'm incredibly grateful. 

Indeed it was a good, (hard), beautiful, (painful), brilliant (excruciating), CHRIST-FILLED year.

So. There you have it. I hope that you experienced a less painful 2013, but if yours hurt as badly as ours did at times, I hope you felt that sweet Jesus embrace carrying you through it. And if you didn't feel it in 2013, I sure hope you will feel it the next time you do hurt. I'm not one to volunteer for pain, but I can tell you this: hurting in the arms of Jesus is far better than not hurting apart from him. This I guarantee.

Many blessings to all of you! I hope I get to put my arms around you soon, but until then, know that I love you and wish you a Gorgeous Christmas and a Fabulous 2014! (Stay with me. This is still the Christmas letter, remember? ;-))

Oh, and here is the photo card I *would have* sent: :-)

But I kinda like the outtakes even better. ;-)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Good List 2-12-14

10. Rio 2 coming this spring. Cute. Fun.

9. Grace found a website where you can buy legos individually. It's called "pick a brick," and she thinks it's magical. With some of her Christmas money from Grandmom and Granddad, she got a puppy (of course! DUH!), some extra people, parts to build a car, a cell phone, and a few other things I've forgotten. Pretty funny.

8. Eliminating clutter. We are taking just the tiniest baby steps into some spring cleaning around here. And while we have a LOOOOONG way to go yet, it already feels good.
7. JoJo got me the cutest Patriots hat. Just because she loves me. Gotta love sisters. :-)

6. The Lego Movie. Super cute and fun for the whole family. And Grace even got an Emmett with her ticket. :-)

5. Brian Regan is coming back to The Paramount in Rutland, VT! And we have tickets! Yeah buddy.
4. Having a friend send me notice that she discovered this in her copy of World Magazine last week. That was a fun and unexpected surprise!

3. Crazy man Jeff's offer to go pick up Jared from the airport last Thursday after a snow storm which would have made it pretty dangerous to drive our completely unfit-for-Vermont-winter Suburban home. (For the record, this is a 4-hour round trip even in good weather, so it's a bigger deal than you might think.) But he did it anyway. 'Cause he loves us. :-) Thanks, Jeff!
2. Celebrating one year of sweet baby Lilly in our lives last week. Love that baby girl!
1. First hard copy of this arrived yesterday. This never gets old to me. Ever. So grateful.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Prayer Time 2-11-14

Today I'm praying. . .

. . . for my uncle, who is having triple bypass surgery in just a couple hours

. . . for beautiful little Lilly, who desperately needs a forever family, for my incredible sister and her family, who desperately want to be Lilly's forever family, and for everyone involved in this case who is standing in the way

. . . for a dear friend suffering from pneumonia 

. . . for a precious couple still trying to sell a house they no longer need (oh how I remember this struggle)

. . . for several amazing ladies in my church community struggling with various health issues that just won't seem to subside

. . . for so much more, and for you if you'd like. Feel free to leave requests in the comments section. (Comments on this post will not be published publicly for the sake of those concerned with privacy.)

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. ~Matthew 11:28

Friday, February 7, 2014

Happy Anniversary, Lilly!

A year ago today, my amazing sister Jody and her family welcomed this preciousness into their home. She was the tiniest little thing, pretty severely undernourished and in need of some fairly intense monitoring to get her nutrition and some other medical issues regulated.

Meet Baby Lilly.

A year later, she is as strong and healthy as can be. AND. She has stolen ALL of our hearts.

She continues to live with my sister's family in full time foster care, but the desire of their hearts is to adopt her. This is a painfully slow and sometimes agonizingly frustrating process. Won't you pray with me that the Lord sees fit to grant this desire in the near future and make the Dickersons (and all of us who are attached to them) Lilly's forever family?

She just fits right in, don't you think? Love that baby girl!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Good List 2-5-14

10. Excellent report cards from both girls last week. Grateful for the gift of intelligence, but also proud of their discipline and hard work.
9. Last week Gracie's "favorite school cook ever" moved on to a new job. She was sad, but Miss Marianna left a little cookbook for each of the kids, so I can still make all of Gracie's favorite recipes. ;-)

8. SNOW DAY!!! It did not hurt my feelings not to have to dig my car out of the snow this morning. Not a bit. 
7. Captain America 2 coming soon to a theater near you! So cool.

6. Andy Mineo's Neverland. Holy smokes. So good.

5. Racing runner sleds down Mr. Dan's driveway. I did have to wear 3 pairs of pants (literally) and all sorts of other layers, but it was SO MUCH FUN!

4. Grace's creativity. Yesterday I pulled the most random assortment of items from Macy and Grace's pockets while I was doing laundry (the picture on the left). I laid them aside to deal with later, and by the time I got back to them, Grace had done what you see to the right below. So silly.

3. Macy's Mathcounts team won 1st place at their competition last weekend. They'll be competing at the state level next month. She's so excited!

2. New babies on the way everywhere! Just this week, we've heard from 3 couples who are expecting. So fun!
1. Jared is at the Desiring God conference in Minneapolis this week. He's pictured below with the other pre-conference speakers. This guy keeps pretty good company, no? ;-) So proud of him!