Monday, December 23, 2013

Best Christmas Gift

As I teacher, I have received some unique gifts over the years….but this is perhaps one of my absolute favorites from many many years ago!

It's an ornament.  Don't try to wrap logic around this.  Just soak it in.

Sunday, December 22, 2013


I love the MADD Walk.  I do.  This might sound weird being that it's a day where many people who have lost loved ones in a tragic way gather…but the reality is that this day is quite the mix of hope, family, friends, purpose, and sorrow.  No one denies the reality of the losses so many at the event have faced and live with…but the overall feel of the day is one of hope and community.

For the Presley/McKinney/and friends clan - it's the only day of the year when loads of family and friends all gather in honor and memory of Jason.  The day is a celebration of him, his life, and the blessing of community that we have together.

And the fact that we're able to raise funds to prevent this from happening to others is satisfying as well.  Over the past 9 years, The Jason Presley Team has raised somewhere around 50,000 bucks to promote MADD's mission.  This past year, we raised 9,952 dollars thanks to the support of MANY.  This is satisfying…and it matters.  It promotes justice, freedom, peace.

After the walk, there is a lunch at my house - lots of soup eating.  Lots of laughter.  Lots of catching up with friends and family.  Lots of love.  I am reminded every year of how much I have and how blessed I am - in family, in friends, in community.

So here are some pictures from this year!

Nathalie and Eloise

Scott (aka "smack talker"), Roger, and Jim warming up with the Ben-gals.

Brad, Heather, Larry, and Tucker

Dad stretching - Eloise and Karah running

Tucker James

Dad and Wakefield during the opening ceremonies

Nellie, Natalie, and Audrey

Friday, December 6, 2013

Summer - Part 2

So it's now December, which means I should probably wrap up my posting about summer :)

In a commitment to looking at the beautiful parts of this past summer and seeing God's goodness and is Summer Part 2:

*Saw my niece Eloise jump off the diving board for the first time.

According to Eloise, the goggles were necessary.
Here she goes!

*Picked Rasperries at Mom and Dad's house.  And fed fish at the pond.

Dad loves feeding the fish!

*Camden Park with the family.  Think West Virginia....and roller coasters that are operated by wooden levers.  You can practically take infants on the rides with you.  Not safe.  I feared for my life on several occasions...which we decided is part of what makes it so fun.  You might die on any of these rides at any time...literally.  The fear is so real.  It is thrilling.

Barrett, Jill and I getting ready to get on the wooden coaster!

Notice the WOODEN levers running the coaster!

*Went to Hawaii with Mom, Kristie, and Lauren!  
Beauty UNLEASHED.  I thought to myself several times while there ...If Heaven is anything like this place....then we're in for a real treat.

While there we...
- Drove the Northwest coast
- Snorkeled in Hanalai Bay -  that you get to by literally hiking through some man's property...this is sort of thing that makes Hawaii what it is.
- Lauren and I climbed up and then cliff jumped off the black rock at Kenapali Beach
- Experienced a black sand beach on the Road to Hana
- Went on a stupid sugar plantation tour
- Body Boarded for literally hours at Napali Bay with Lauren.  Oh gosh I WISH I could put words to this…wave after wave after wave….This is perhaps one of the very most fun things I have ever done in my life.
-Drove the Road to Hana (even the one lane part) and we were even still speaking to each other when we returned (like 12 hours later).  Anyone who've driven this road will understand this.

No doubt about it - Hawaii is amazing.  Stunning.  What a great trip!

At the airport
Hanalai Bay - snorkeling

Mom and I at the Luau
Black Sand Beach on the Road to Hana
Just to give you a clue of how crazy these waves were - Lauren got up from one
wave "ride" and her swimsuit top was on….but turned completely inside out!
How did that happen?!  We did this for hours.  Truly the best waves I've EVER experienced! 
At a park
Seriously?!  Rainbows nearly every day...
West Coast Drive!  My favorite part of the island.

*Got invaded by beetles.  Have learned to make peace with them.
Please God make the larvae inside the walls of my house (that no one can get to…) die this winter!

* I got to see my friends from Venezuela because they were in the states visiting!  I spent a month living in Caracas with Zandra back in 2000….love that I got to catch up with them and see their beautiful children!

*Went to Nada with various friends 3 times in 3 weeks.  LOVE that place. 
One of these was a birthday dinner complete with birds swooping at my friends' heads.  Thanks for staying outside despite the birds….you know how being inside on nice days makes me feel like I'm in jail.

Chicken and Corn Enchilada, Guacamole and Dear Friends….Blessed.
37 years young…Bring it.

*The McKinneys and Presleys got together to celebrate Jason's life near the 9 year anniversary of his going home to be with Jesus.
I love that our families love each other.  I miss him.

The Presley's Backyard - July 6, 2013

*Experienced the Aquarium with Denise, Claudette, Samantha, and Jason.
What an amazing place!  Seriously.  I love it.  We had a grilled cheese sandwich at Tom and Chee afterwards.  And more importantly, I married in to an absolutely beautiful family, and I love spending time with them!
My life is better because of them.

*Kings Island with Heather and Cat.

* Went to the Rodeo with Dave, Karen, and Mike to see some bull riding.  
Did you know there are DOGS that actually chase these big bulls back into the pen?  It's crazy.  These little bitty things run around like they own the place and the bulls seem to actually believe them.  I hear this is a rodeo for posers.  I think it's totally the real deal.
(The ride starts around the 1 minute mark.  Notice "Thunder" playing in the background.  Seriously, does that look like a "poser" rodeo to you!?)

* Hiked with Tucker….Love my dog!  
Had a terrifying scare with Tucker this summer, and I really believe God saved my dog.  And I am grateful.  Not kidding.
Seriously, if you don't have a dog…go get one.  Like right now.

* Audrey's Birthday Party! 
What a big gal she is now!  She's so grown up.  Silly, beautiful, sweet girl.  Love her tons.  And little Natalie…well, that picture just says it all :)

*College gals came to visit!  (minus Kelly - we missed you!)
The summer after our Freshman year of college we met in Cincinnati for a reunion because we missed each other so much (1995)….and this makes something like our 19th year getting together since our first year.  OH how I love these girls.  They've known me since I was 18….and there's something really special about that.

Downtown Swings by the Ohio River

Duck Boat Tour

The one and only Findlay Market

*Painted a cool picture with girlfriends at Cheers to Art!  

*Labor Day Firefighters' Pancake Breakfast in Cedarville with Claudette, Wakefield, Samantha, and Grandad!  
This is an annual tradition, and I adore it!  My niece, Samantha, drove me all over on the golf cart!

*Mud Stash Obstacle Course with Lindsay, Kevin, and Chris. 
Nasty Nasty Nasty.  But now that I've had some time to get over it…I'll totally do it again.

So…as I reconsider the summer of 2013 and post these pictures, I almost hesitate, because I know how blogs and Facebook and all that tends to make a person's life look all rosy and posy.

And the honest reality is that for a variety of reasons my summer was emotionally very hard…
despite any sorrows, any waiting, any difficulties…. despite the ways that life just doesn't make sense to me…

I look at these pictures and know some things for sure.

I am blessed.  And I am thankful.  

AND There you have it - The Summer (and early Autumn) of 2013.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Summer 2013 - Recap Part 1

You know that verse in the Bible - the one about locusts - where God says that He'll restore the years the locusts have eaten.....

Well when I think about the summer of 2013, my first thought is, "Well go ahead and chalk one up for the locusts."

Lots of hard and sad.  Lots of struggle.

I honestly don't even want to go there - it was what it was...

SO in light of this reality, I wanted to blog NOT about that, but instead about the ways I'm being provided for - the goodness that keeps raining on me even in the struggle.  I've come to call this place a "wilderness," and I've realized that God is providing "manna" all the time. I don't feel like I'm feasting on grapes from the Promised Land...but I have enough.  God is enough.  I do believe this...

And them sometimes I pray that He'll help me believe this.  It's weird how belief and unbelief can be side by side so close.

I decided to hang something I call a "Manna Board" in my room where I can put the beautiful reminders of His goodness up to see and remember.  I'm finding it keeps me from getting all crabby and ridiculous to be around...and it keeps my perspective in a more accurate place.

(Of course, I did destroy the drywall in my attempt to hang the Manna board where I wanted it - someone's going to have to come fix that...go figure :)

SO....the following is a list of some of the great things about this summer.  Things that were accomplished.  Beautiful experiences.  And supernatural ways I was reminded that God loves me and that I am abundantly blessed.  This is Summer 2013 - Part ONE

* Audrey's Recital at the Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired.  If you can be a part of this and not feel the need to cry something might be wrong with you.  This event is such a mixture of beauty, pure love, sorrow, hope, and so much more.  I was blessed immensely by being there.  Everyone should go.  It would change your world.

* Mom's retirement party - hearing my dad get up front and talk about my mom...watching him choke up and tear up while telling them about her love for the kids she took care of at the preschool...was beautiful beyond words.  I listened to people talk about my mother and I was inspired by her legacy, and thankful beyond words to be her daughter.

*Girls weekend at the Cabin!  Oh how I love those gals - around them it feels like coming I remember a little better who I am after being with them...especially at the Farm - such a beautiful place that I've come to love.  Stace, Page, Amanda, Emily, Sandra, Francie, Daphane, Erin, Katie - the memories I have of sitting at those huge tables eating together are in my heart in a serious way.  Love you all.  Thank you for knowing who I am...

*Saw the new Superman movie with Crystal!  She got tickets for the preview night!

*New gutters installed and shingles washed.

*Trained with Bob Ronkers in June - reconnected with a gal I was in New Orleans with for Habitat for Humanity a few summers ago.  Yay for hanging out with Lindsey!  Yay for meeting her friends! AND YAY for having running buddies now in the running group!

* Traveled with Mom and Brad to West Virginia to be a part of my aunt Kara's Relay for Life Team!  It was wonderful getting to see family that I don't get to see very often - aunts, uncles, grandma...  And for such a beautiful cause...and to celebrate Kara's healing.  Thank you, God.



* Hair done at High Five Salon with Sam.  I leave feeling like one of the most special people in the world.  I leave feeling unique, beautiful, and seen.  I'm pretty sure most people leave feeling this way - which is probably why it takes 6 weeks to get an appointment.  What a wonderful gift he has.

* Mike's baptism in the East Fork River - a group of us hiked down a huge hill to the river at the bottom...such a beautiful surrender to Jesus witnessed and celebrated.

* Dinner with the neighbors several times.  I love walking to a restaurant with my neighbors - what fantastic folks I have living around me, and I am loving getting to know them more!  I'm the only single one - but I decided that once you get to 7 or 9 people, you're not a "wheel" anymore - you're just a person.

* Fountain Square with my dear friend Karen, Bakersfield for Tacos, and swinging on the swings down by the riverfront - Beautiful friend, Fantastic Guacamole, and a whole lot of FUN down by the river.  Those swings make me feel like a kid!  Go Cincinnati for putting those in...seriously!


*Went to a few classes at the gym with Jenny and others - emphasis on the word "few".  Spent a bit of time unable to move important limbs because of it.  Jenny - you make me laugh.

* Dinner with the Amlin gals - Always a blessing to see Emily care so beautifully for her girls.  I see the Lord's goodness all over them.  I'm inspired and encouraged by Emily's faith and belief in God.

*Went to Kings Island with Nathalie - layed out at the pool and ate blue ice cream.  It's always good to be in a valley with someone else :)   Especially when that friend is an inspiration!  Thanks Nathalie :)

Why the big, open mouths?  Why not, man?!
* Keith Urban concert with Lindsey - I always enjoy getting my country on!  And this would be where I started to realize that "midriffs" are now back.  

* Gelato and Crepe tasting event with my friend Heather.  She's a food blogger, and gets invited to things that are really cool and sometimes I get to go!  This new place opened up near my house and she took me to their special "private" event. We ate crepes and gelato until we were stuffed.  The Lemon/Lavender Chiffon crepe was fantastic!

*Mac-n-Cheese and Cider with Marina and Meredith.  Those 2 girls bless my socks off.

Summer 2013 Part One - Part Two coming soon...