Thursday, May 18, 2017

Surprise Visit From The North!

Once upon a time...it was a cozy Thursday evening, and I was sitting cross-legged in my favorite chair, in our schoolroom, deep in a FaceTime conversation. I was very much of the knowledge that it was just me and a few siblings at home. It was dark outside, and nearing ten o clock as I was finishing up my call, when all of a sudden...the door to the schoolroom opened and in walked MY COUSIN + lifelong bestie whom I most certainly + assuredly knew was hundreds of miles away in her far-off Canadian home. 

OR WAS SHE REALLY AND ACTUALLY HERE?!?!?!?!?

The phone went flying, earbuds dangling as I shot out of my seat screaming out all sorts of exclamations. I had to hug her multiple times in the middle of all the joyful whooping to make sure that she really and TRULY was standing right before me. Her baby boy (in her arms) began to cry, obviously + understandably terrified by this wild woman before him. 

Ah, what memories.

Once I managed to calm down, I heard the whole story...here cousin love + sister love had been scheming + plotting of this visit since JANUARY. Where had I been???? Well, in the dark, quite successfully. =) Her husband so sweetly brought her and the little man ALL THE WAY from their new home in Ontario...to visit ME in lowly little Iowa! She hadn't been here since she was dating her husband, five years ago...and it was just all too good to be true that she actually WAS here again!
Friday morning found us at our favorite local coffee shop, for the first "in person hash" since last April. BEST OF TIMES. It was also lovely to introduce my cousin to my best friend, the luscious Breve Experience. She was smitten, as I knew she would be. =)
Ahh. Can we do this every week please, instead of just once every year or two???
Friday night we had homemade pizza + such a fun pizza making party proceeding it! Over half of the family was gone on trips or dates or things of that nature, which left just a few of us, eight in number. 
Saturday lunch was at the most incredible Crepe Place. (downtown Iowa City) This place is so legit---I could live on their gormet crepes, I think. I was especially thankful for them after the ???? amount of time it took to finally find a parking spot! 
Just look at it. If that isn't presentation, I don't know what is. =)
We had a Coldstone gift card that we put to good use for our dessert. We were nearly blown away as we walked back to the car......eating ice-cream + horrifying our proper and dignified cousin as we defied every kind of street-crossing rule known to mankind. Er, womankind. =)
The little man is basically all grown up since I saw him last a year ago! (cue the tears) Such a charmer. We all couldn't get enough of him, and he was definitely the most popular person all weekend. It was slightly sad that I had to share him with my little sisters (and the rest of my family) but such is life whenever a baby enters our door. =)

Ah, so many memories just writing this post. This visit was definitely one of the highlights of my year. There's just nothing quite like time with kindred spirits, and surprises are the best, I am finding. =) I haven't often been on the "being surprised" end, but it is quite fun. It will be a looooong time before I forget the afternoon at the park, the failed golfing expedition (ahem), the midnight chats, the hilarious round of "the Bean Game", and the look on certain faces when guys got up in the middle of the night to load out hogs and found us girls all still awake + "going strong".
Oh, and all those  "shady" moments that occurred over the visit? Those were pretty grand too. =)

To my cousin dear, and her sweet little family, and my sista love who helped plan...
thank-you a million times over. The visit was beyond beautiful + I loved every minute.
Let's do it again sometime, okay? 

-Chels

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Currently

 
*THINKING
About how it's been a loooong time since I've blogged. Okay, that's it. =)
*LISTENING
The new hymns album by Anthem Lights. I have it on constant repeat. My favorites are the Easter Medley, I Need Thee Every Hour, and the Hallelujah Medley. Goodness, so much beautiful. These guys can harmonize SO well!
*WATCHING
Nothing. Ha. No time for movies these days. Kinda funny how life does that to you. Does anyone else feel like movie time is in seasons, sometimes?
*WORKING
Details for the summer tour. New album marketing. Blogging. (family blog) Office work, in other words! Also spring cleaning window washing at the hotel. Trying to figure out a plan for this blog. (pray for me!) Organizing my life.
*DREAMING
About trying out a new project I've been dying to do for YEARS and am finally going to be attempting!
*LOVING
Organizing, deep cleaning, and discovering my minimalistic side that I didn't quite know I had.
*LEARNING
More and more about openness, brokenness, + faith that move mountains.
*EXPERIENCING
Lots + lots of new things in this season of life. Also answered prayer in the tiniest AND largest of ways, which warms my heart so much.
*FINDING
Rest in knowing that I don't have to know everything, cause Jesus already does.
Revelation!! Why does it sometimes take SO LONG to learn this?!
*KNOWING
That there is a purpose for everything, and that Jesus has, does, and WILL make everything beautiful. That's a promise!

I'd love to hear a little of YOUR life currently, friend!
-Chels

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

My Brother Is Getting Married!!

My dear friends! My baby brother is GETTING MARRIED! I'm OVER THE MOON excited!

If it was possible for my heart to positively EXPLODE with happiness...than I would be in a million little pieces all over the universe. =) This is joy ABUNDANT! God has answered thousands of prayers + worked in such MIGHTY WAYS! I am overwhelmed at His goodness + faithfulness.

And. I'm gaining the sweetest, dearest sister you could imagine. She is perfect for him. They are perfect together. It just couldn't, doesn't, can't get any happier!

Anyways! I could go on and on but you can read a bit more over on the family blog!!


My Sister's New Blog!

You asked, I asked...and finally, God asked! So she did!

My sister Allison has started a fabulous new blog, and you don't want to miss it. Click over to www.fromallison.com to follow along on her new blogging journey!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Sisters + Kindreds October Surprise || Shipshewana, Indiana

(disclaimer. This is a little mortifying to be posting about this now, because it happened last October! 
To be fair, a lot happened in my life last October, and I'm still catching up with myself! So I've got a few posts coming for y'all that are from that time, as long as you promise to forgive me and be okay with reading news that is six months old =))

Something I've been thinking about quite a bit lately, is friendships, and the importance of having good, solid, LIFE GIVING people in our lives! And not just having them in our lives, but having them as friends--- as kindred spirits, companions, mentors...you get the picture. 

So these two girls above---they are that kind of friends. Literally two of the sweetest ladies you will ever meet. Sometime last fall (can't remember exactly when) the idea was born that they could drive out from the east, and meet up with us to hang out while we were singing in Shipshewana. And since surprises are always just sooo very great...it was decided to surprise Alli with their visit! 
It was a complete success and so very much fun. I was out for coffee with her when they just "walked in", and the look on her face (well, actually, tbh, the scream was the best) was pretty grand. =) 

We were singing multiple times over those two days, there in Shipshe, so we didn't exactly have an open schedule to do whatever. But we worked with our concert times and made the most of all the other times that we got. We (us four girls) stayed at a lovely hotel for the two nights and made an abundance of memories trying to get our room unlocked, and falling over suitcases in the hallways, and laughing til our sides hurt, among other things.
Lots of chats + laughs over coffees + soft pretzels!
I took pictures of these cups in the hotel room and told Allison, "Can we pleeeeeease get cups like these for the Dutch Country Inn????" #managersisterperks =) I mean, how cool...??
Our very own buffet of random leftovers + restaurant food, served on the WHITE bedspread. I tried so hard not to panic the whole time that I was going to make a mess. Thank goodness, the covers survived! And we now know that dinner in pjs on a hotel bed at 11pm is a great idea for all girls everywhere. Go try it! =)
Excuse the fuzzy picture. But really these were the best of times. Fuzzy picture or not.

Side note: the food above comes from the most incredible establishments. f the Bluegate Restaurant or JoJo's Pretzels or Rise n Roll bakery ever needs promo or a free blog post advertisement or whatever, I'll totally be RIGHT HERE AND AVAILABLE, ready to exchange my services for free samples. *sigh* Any other foodies out there? I just love food so much!
End of food rant. =)

It was such a rich time. We discussed goals, and life, and siblings, and family, and writing, and books, and relationships, and all the current issues surrounding our generation (okay, not quite all!) and solved as many of the worlds problems as we could squeeze in.

So many good memories were made. I'm so thankful for these girls, and all of our incredible friends, really. It is such a treasure to know people who push you UPWARD and encourage you in your "reaching for the PRIZE". Friendships like this are priceless, and meant to be loved + valued. And I'm really blessed by mine.

Hope y'all are having a wonderful week!
-Chels

Monday, April 10, 2017

National Siblings Day + Ten Things I Love About My Siblings

Well, what do you know. It's National Siblings Day!  I don't much buy into the whole "national day of whatever" deals, as I've mentioned before, buuut...siblings are worth celebrating!
Mine, in particular, are VERY worth celebrating.
To the extent that I decided to do a blog post about it.

These kids are the coolest I've ever met and there's no family I would rather be in than this one. We have the grandest party with whatever we're doing and some days I just have to pinch myself thinking, "Is this really my life?! Like HOW am I so extremely blessed with all this love?"
Perfect? Goodness, NO NO NO. But blessed? Ah, yes, a resounding YES.

I really could go on and on. But for sake of time and things like that, I will keep it short + sweet. Since today is the 10th of the month, I'm gonna give y'all ten things that I love about these siblings of mine, in the order I think of the things.

1. Their love for Jesus.
I'm realizing more and more how rare it is to have ALL one's siblings love Jesus with all their hearts. Feeling convicted even now that I need to spend more time praising Jesus for that one, because it is a very special blessing!
2. Their love of laughter.
Not much to say about that, except that its grand and I'm really thankful for it because it makes life so much more fun when everyone is able to smile + laugh lots!
3. Their crazy side.
You'd never guess it, looking at that calm picture above. But let me tell you. The amount of stories we have that we will never tell is pretty unbelievable. Some stuff is just too wild---people wouldn't understand. The memories we have are so grand. =)
4. Their amazing work ethics.
There isn't a lazy one in the bunch, and they all pull their share of the load. It's a privilege to do life with people like that, who are all willing to work hard and give every project 100%.
5. Their tender spirits.
I am convicted, so often, by my siblings' sensitivity to truth and the Holy Spirit's working in their lives. I want to be more like them.They would honestly give the shirt off their backs, every one of them, to help someone in need.
6. Their personalities.
They are different as night and day, some of them, in the way they see and do life. But they are just fine with being "themselves", and recognizing the different strengths and weaknesses of different personalities, and seeing the beauty that comes when there are all four types in the world, and in families.
7. Their entrepreneurial goals.
This is particularly the older ones, although I'm pretty confidant that the "babies" will be following in their steps. They are constantly researching + brainstorming about new business ventures, or improving the ones they are already involved in. This love for excellence + growth in practical areas is so inspiring to me.
8. Their adventurous lifestyles.
Gotta say it about these-there is never a boring moment. There might be times when life has us in over our ears and wondering how we're ever gonna keep from drowning in everything that's happening. But even in that-the brothers especially keep us "racing for the lifeboats" or something fun like that to keep even the drowning process, entertaining. =)
9. Their vision for life.
When you have two visionaries for parents, I guess this one might not really be an option. But still. Visionary action, at least, is a decision. The thinking might be more personality. But anyone can be a dreamer, and the dreams can stay right there, in the mind. It takes grit + determination to make those dreams happen. I've seen that determination in my siblings, even the little ones, and it blesses my heart so much.
10. Their passion for the Word.
This is a heritage that has been passed down for from my grandparents, to my parents, now to my siblings. The younger ones have especially cultivated a deep knowledge of the Word, through the Bible Bee. I wish sometimes I could do my pre-teen/teenage years over and memorize as much as they have! But even aside from memory, my siblings are so committed to making God's Word a regular part of their daily life, and I am grateful for that about them.

My siblings would be the first to tell you that they aren't perfect. They have misunderstandings, and disagreements, and plenty of opportunities for needing to ask forgiveness.
But they are gems, each and every one of them, and I love them to pieces. No one else I'd rather have been with for the past twenty-six years of life. And even with the many current changes in our family, I am confidant that this sibling closeness will stand the test of time, and that we'll be just as great of friends in fifty years, when we are all old and grey, as we are now.

To my six brothers + three sisters---
Mitch, Alli, Cars, Josh, Denny, Willie, Eliza, Pudge, + Rebs 
(bear with me + the somewhat odd nicknames we use)
....I love y'all more than I can say, and I'll love you guys forever! Happy National Siblings Day
 to the sweetest tribe I know!

With love,
-Chels

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Greatest of These


It was during the final message, before we all left for our various prison ministry hubs throughout the state of Alabama, that the Lord started to work in my heart about my need for a greater love. The pastor who was speaking was talking about compassion, and love, and what it means to have these two rooted in who we are.

"Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, 
and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned." 
-1 Timothy 1:5

This message and his text (above verse) touched my heart so deeply. I found myself longing for a love for each of those prisoners, those many souls I would be meeting the coming week.

I wanted more than just an overall feeling of pity. Pity comes easily enough when you enter prison and see people who so desperately wish they could change their circumstances and where they are. These people are at the end of their rope; at the bottom of the bottom, and your heart would have to be made of stone to not feel something for them.

But this day, I felt myself wanting more than that. Wanting to feel more than just pity for the masses. In my heart, I desired to feel an overwhelming love and compassion for each person I met. I wanted to see them as more than just another unfortunate person with a tragic story. I wanted to see each of them as beautiful souls, whom Jesus had placed in my path for me to love.

The next morning, in my quiet time, I read the love chapter, Corinthians 13. The last verse sums up the whole chapter beautifully: 

"And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity."

I began asking the Lord, the beginning of that week, to change my heart and give me a deep, genuine love for each person. And He answered. He confirmed through messages, songs, + verses throughout those next few weeks. He confirmed through prisoners who thanked us for bringing love to them, for loving them individually. It was a wonderful thing to see Him direct and bless in this little area of my life.

"Lord, break my heart with compassion, as I see them passing by,
Traveling down the road to nowhere, trying to fill the void inside."
Forgive me when I judge them, when I don't take the time to care,
You have given me this glorious news, yet I neglect to share
I'm guilty, Lord, of focusing, on the little things in life
Forgetting that you put me here to point others to Christ."
-"Through Your View"

I've realized that it's more than just these prisoners for whom I need love. I want love to be the thing that drives me. Love for Jesus, first of all. And love for others, next. The only way to have this true love, is for me to allow Jesus to pour it into my life, so that I can pour it out onto others.

"When God puts love and compassion in your heart towards someone, 
He's offering you an opportunity to make a difference in that person's life. 
You must learn to follow that love. Don't ignore it. Act on it. 
Somebody needs what you have. " 
-unknown

This last quote speaks volumes. So true. God gives us the love, and then calls us to act on it---to follow. This is our call. Will we step out and allow God to fill our lives with this amazing love of His?

Praying this love + compassion will fill YOUR heart today!
-Chels