Wednesday, June 28, 2017

HEADING TO RWANDA AS A FAMILY!

With great expectation, we are taking off on a family adventure heading to Rwanda.  Two years ago, a Rwandan pastor, his wife and four children all spent a year in the US attending a church planting residency that our church provides.  Joel and Annie were in our small group all year, and we got to know and love them during their time in Little Rock.  They have since moved back to Rwanda to continue their work at their church, Divine Destiny in Kigali, Rwanda.

Untitled

And we, along with our dear friends and their children, are now all winging our way to Africa.  We are traveling with one 10 year old, two 8 year olds, two 6 year olds and three 4 year olds.  I’m writing this from our first flight, and I can say for certain that flying with William and Violet has major highs and lows.  My tolerance for whining is already waning, and we haven’t even left the country yet. 😳🀣😜

Untitled

That said, we are so very excited for what lays ahead.  John and I LOVE traveling, and we love seeing friends in their home environment.  We are so looking forward to seeing more of what Joel and Annie do with Divine Destiny.  We are also going to visit our sponsored girls with Africa New Life, which will be amazing!

Stepping out on a trip like this always stretches my faith and reminds me how much we need to depend on the Lord.  It takes us out of our normal routine in a major way and broadens the way we see the world and people and God.  I am so excited for our kiddos to experience Rwanda!

Untitled

If you think of us, we would appreciate your prayers for safe, smooth travel and an experience that shows us more of who God is.

10 YEAR CFA ANNIVERSARY!

It feels fairly unbelievable to type this, but we are celebrating our free-standing CFA being open for 10 years today.  I have actually been blogging since back then, though there are not any pictures attached to those blog posts, but if you want a trip down blog memory lane, you can read Eat More Chicken in Little Rock, Little Rock Loves Chicken and Super Chicken, all written in 2007.  When we celebrated our five year CFA anniversary in 2012, I wrote out the story of how we came to be part of CFA here and here.

We were babies when our store opened. (This picture was taken in the Hilton hotel where we had to set up our makeshift hiring office while our store had no parking lot.  Those were the days.)

IMG_2020

I was newly 26, and John was 25, and one of our team members who has been with us for the entirety of the 10 years told us (after being with us for several years), that when she first met us, she figured we were the owner's kids who were helping out with things. πŸ˜‚  Bless our hearts.  It was hard to be taken seriously at first, and we had an uphill battle on many fronts.  I do not miss those early days, because they were hard.

Truth be told, there are many days that are still hard.  We know a lot more now than we did then, but our lives are infinitely more complex now than they were when we opened up in 2007.  We've added 4 children and another restaurant, among other things.  In so many ways, we've been given everything we've asked for and more, and most of the time, we spend every bit of our time and energy just trying to keep those things afloat.

But we are so grateful.  Being 10 years deep brings a lot of perspective.  You start to understand that there are ebbs and flows, and you must always re-focus and re-energize.  Things do not always go according to your plan, but God is working in and through those things.  He is shaping us in the midst of it all, and we are grateful to be doing the work that God has put in front of us.

We love CFA and cannot imagine being partnered with anyone else.  What a gift to be with a company who supports us and gives us so many opportunities to learn and grow and develop!  Here's teeny trip down memory lane from the past 10 years.

IMG_2112
IMG_2239
IMG_2701
IMG_2705
IMG_3145
IMG_8981
IMG_9354
IMG_0949

We work with so many amazing people who have become family to us.  God has faithfully provided a team around us every step of the way, and we certainly could not do any of this without them.  We will be celebrating in several different ways this summer, which is very exciting!  Today John has already dropped off a cake at the restaurant and sang, before we head out on an adventure with our family, because nothing says "Happy 10 Year" than taking all of your children to Rwanda. 😳

Untitled
Untitled

Thanks so much for any part you may have played in our restaurants - if you've ever eaten with us - THANK YOU.  If you've ever worked with us - THANK YOU.  If you've cheered us on from afar - THANK YOU.  We really are so grateful for the support of so many, and ultimately, we are so thankful to the Lord who guides and sustains us.

Untitled

Sunday, June 25, 2017

JUNE SUMMER SCENES

This summer has already held a bunch of fun moments along the way.  I'm trying to catch up on the blog before we head out on a huge adventure on Wed.  Here's what we've been up to in June!

Quick visits from Gran Gran and Quinn -

Untitled

Hitting up the pool with friends and family.

Untitled
Untitled
Untitled
Untitled
Untitled
Untitled

The girls had a piano recital where they did a fantastic job playing and loved running around afterwards.

fullsizeoutput_57a4
fullsizeoutput_57a5
fullsizeoutput_57aa
Untitled

The twins have been enjoying their class at school with visits from a hedgehog and fitness day, amongst other programming.

Untitled
Untitled

The big girls and I have run about a million errands, done a little baking, made several trips to the library and also had a Top Knot Thursday last week.

Untitled
Untitled
Untitled
Untitled

We had dental checkups for all children - three of which went very well.

Untitled
Untitled

And in between all those things, we've had cuddles and celebrations with friends and laughter and tears.  Pretty much a normal month, and I continue to be so grateful for these days.

Untitled
Untitled
Untitled
Untitled
Untitled
Untitled
Untitled
Untitled

Just in case you ever feel buried - we've felt that way at our house too. ⬆️
But, we are enjoying time together this summer and looking for ways to love God and one another better.

Friday, June 23, 2017

MAGICAL TIDYING: CRAFT ROOM

So, I know it has been about 40 billion years since I wrote about magical tidying.  Life sort of keeps marching on, and I keep doing other things.  Mostly our home has stayed pretty tidy.  My laundry room still becomes a crazy catch all, but it is easier to get it back to square one now that everything has an actual place.

A couple of weeks before we left for Aruba, I was bemoaning some un-done projects on the phone to my sister.  She super graciously invited herself to come help me with those.  In my head, we were going to tackle some of the re-decorating I've been hoping to finish this year.  In reality, when she got here, we realized that her giftedness would be most helpful in cleaning out some desperate spaces in my home.  She is awesome at that, and I get paralyzed and listless in the face of big mess.

Untitled
(I want to be more like her.)

We wisely outsourced most childcare to a local VBS πŸ™ŒπŸ», so we were able to accomplish quite a bit in the couple of days that she was here.  We spent all of a Monday in the girls' room.  They have some hoarder tendencies, and I hadn't exactly put away all of their Christmas gifts. 🀦🏻‍♀️ #itsonlyjune
We also destickered every surface, which was badly needed and doctored all the broken books.

Untitled
Untitled

I did a good job taking pictures of her doing a good job. 🀷🏻‍♀️😜

The craziest room in my home has long been my craft room, which John has lovingly referred to as my "Crap Room."  Just imagine if all of the birthday parties that I've thrown in the last five years threw up all over a space.  Then throw in some fabric from sewing projects, spare pieces of clothing that I've been meaning to mend or use for craft projects (?) and some actual dried cat vomit, and you can pretty much get the gist of the space.  I did a bad job taking pictures, but I can fully describe that the closet had two solid feet of junk on the floor, making it impossible to walk in or use. 😳

This is what it looked like in the middle of the madness.

Untitled

The transformation is unbelievable.  The entire back of John's Sequoia was full with the seats down.  Between the two rooms, we filled four contractor bags with trash and gave away a ton of stuff.  Feels so good.

Untitled
Untitled

Gigantic thanks to my sister Ellen for walking me through this soul-sucking process that I never could have tackled on my own.  I'm forever grateful.  And John is even more grateful.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

FATHER'S DAY THOUGHTS

Another Father's Day has come and is on its way out.  I've often had bittersweet feelings on this day, seeing as my father has gone on.  And I miss him, as always - that never goes away.  I ran across a picture of he and my mother while cleaning out a closet and was stopped in my tracks at the kindness of his smile and the twinkle in his eyes.  He was one of a kind, truly.

Today, however, I've been overwhelmed with gratitude that it was he who was my father, ever.  Sure, he's gone now, but I had him for 22 years.  So many people don't get 22 months with a great father, and I had a fantastic dad for 22 whole years.  He loved me so well and instilled such a sense of self inside of me, as well as each of my siblings.  When I look at my brother and sisters, though we have many differences, there are so many things we share thanks to our parents.

Our dad made us think that we hung the moon and could do anything we set our minds to.  He laughed at our jokes.  He wanted to hang out with us, and we believed it was because we were awesome - not realizing that it was he who was the most awesome for spending time with us when we were probably fairly annoying.  Honestly, we sort of all expect our mothers to always love us, but when a dad goes above and beyond, it really sets children up to soar.

He loved God and taught us to do the same by his example.  He was in no way perfect, and he was clear to apologize and ask for forgiveness from each of us - another amazing gift a parent can give.  To this day, when I run into someone that knew him, they often go out of their way to tell me how amazing my father was.  And I never tire of hearing it, because it's the truth.

I'll take this all a step further, because I'm married to the father of my children.  He's not perfect either, but he loves me and Lily, Bella, William and Violet so well.  John loves the Lord and is seeking to serve him.  He looks for ways to connect with each child individually, and he speaks words of truth and encouragement into their lives every chance he gets.  He plays with them, and laughter trickles through the hallways in our home. (not every moment, obviously ... but so many)  Our children will never doubt that their father adores them and will be cheering them on in any endeavor.

Untitled

Today, we were eating lunch out, and a guest that regularly eats at our CFA came up to tell me what a wonderful and amazing husband I have.  She wanted to make sure that I knew it.

In that moment, it hit me.  I've been blessed far beyond what I could ever deserve in both the father and the husband departments, and today I choose to honor them both and thank God for his overwhelming graciousness to me, my siblings and my children.  I don't take for granted these gifts and the way these men have forever impacted my life for the better.

I've also been enormously blessed with a fantastic step-father and father-in-law who love John and I and our children so well.  More of God's graciousness to us.  Happy Father's Day to each of the fathers out there making the world a sweeter place for their kids and pointing them to Christ, and thanks be to God for being the one who fills all the gaps and then some.

Monday, June 12, 2017

ARUBA: EVEN MORE FUN

Yesterday I posted about time on the beach and eating at fun restaurants while we were in Aruba with CFA.  Today, I'm sharing pics from our excursions and a couple of other fun meals.  Truly, it was a beautiful, relaxing and fun trip, for which we are so grateful.

Our first excursion was an off-roading adventure that took us around the entire island taking in all of the sights.  Aruba is 7 miles by 18 miles, so it really is possible to see almost everything in a morning.  It was windy and bumpy and dusty, but it gave us a great taste of everything Aruba has to offer away from the high-rise beach strip where we stayed.

fullsizeoutput_573a
fullsizeoutput_567f
fullsizeoutput_5670
fullsizeoutput_5734

We stopped at a place with some really amazing natural bridges over the ocean.

fullsizeoutput_567d
fullsizeoutput_5674
fullsizeoutput_5678
fullsizeoutput_5736
fullsizeoutput_573c
fullsizeoutput_5741
fullsizeoutput_5745

We also visited the "ruins" of the big Natural Bridge that actually collapsed in September 2005.  The picture of it on the wall of the gift shop was really prettyπŸ˜‚, and the shoreline is still quite stunning, though the major attraction is no longer there. 😳

fullsizeoutput_5742
fullsizeoutput_5685
fullsizeoutput_568b
fullsizeoutput_568d

We also made baby stops by a chapel and the California Light House.

fullsizeoutput_569d
fullsizeoutput_5694
(I became mildly fixated on taking pictures of all the cacti.)
fullsizeoutput_5699
fullsizeoutput_569a
fullsizeoutput_569b
fullsizeoutput_569e

Our second excursion was the "Palm Pleasure Snorkel Adventure."  How can you go wrong with a name like that?  You cannot.  We cruised around on a catamaran and got dropped off to snorkel at several sites including a ship wreck.  The water was so incredibly blue, and it was just a fantastic way to spend a morning.

fullsizeoutput_5760
fullsizeoutput_575a
fullsizeoutput_5758
fullsizeoutput_575c
fullsizeoutput_5761
fullsizeoutput_5764
(View of our hotel from the water)

In other island eating adventures, we hit up Azzurro with a group of friends.  We especially loved the view and the flaming whisky parmesan cheese wheel.

fullsizeoutput_574c
fullsizeoutput_574d
IMG_8091
(I've been social media friends with this girl for years, and it was such a delight to talk with her and her husband in person! #kindredspirit )

We had an island party farewell dinner with CFA on our last night, and every detail was really beautiful.  It rounded out our time there so well, and it was such a treat to thank Dan Cathy personally for such a great trip.

fullsizeoutput_5772
fullsizeoutput_5777
fullsizeoutput_5770
fullsizeoutput_5779

In a wonderful surprise treat, we discovered that our flight left late in the day on Friday, so we snuck in one last culinary adventure, after sleeping in.  I went to trusty Trip Advisor and tried to figure out a close-ish, very highly rated lunch option.  We made a snap decision to go to Eduardo's Beach Shack which was the #5 rated restaurant on the whole island.  I didn't read many reviews, and we got dropped off by our taxi and walked around, eventually having to ask people to find the place.

It was literally an overblown kiosk featuring gluten free, dairy free, vegan "bowls" and protein balls.  So, while it was not what we were expecting at all, it did turn out to be delicious and much more healthy than most of what we had consumed, so overall, it was a win.  And it was right on the beach.

fullsizeoutput_5789
fullsizeoutput_5788
fullsizeoutput_5787
fullsizeoutput_578b
fullsizeoutput_578f
fullsizeoutput_5790

And then it was time to head home!  We had a great trip, and it was such a joy to spend quality time together.

fullsizeoutput_5795
fullsizeoutput_576c

Peace out, Aruba - until we meet again!