Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 - 13 Big Moments

When the world marked the days this year, the number “13” played a leading role. 

The number 13 won't make such a prominent appearance again for another 100 years. If the world is still spinning as it is now, I won't be on it, and neither will you. This is, I admit, a sobering thought. But it's a good sobering thought. It makes you think about real things - eternal things. The Bible speaks to this in Psalm 39, verses 4 and 7.

“O Lord, make me know my end
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting I am!

“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in you.

Good verses to ponder as we look at the future. Good verses to ponder as we reflect on the past.

And speaking of the past and the number 13, we'll let it make an appearance in the yearly update. Following are 13 of the big, but fleeting, moments of 2013.

1. When the son of lifelong friends gets married on the west coast (and when Luke is a groomsman:), you get up at the crack of dawn on January 1, 2013, and whisk your way to the great Northwest. Even though the weather in Portland, Oregon, was cold, wet, and miserable, the celebration was warm, dry, and sweet.

Forrister and Harris kids: lifelong friends

My dear friend, Louise - mother of the groom.

2. Speaking of Luke, he got our attention this year when he quit his job as a Pharmacy Tech in Fayetteville, AR, packed up all his belongings, and moved to LA to try the acting thing. In between going to auditions, he’s parking cars and taking acting classes. He’s had a little luck modeling and even more luck when he landed a small part in Carley Rae Jepsen’s cover of Part of Your World. If you buy The Little Mermaid, Diamond Edition, you can see Luke in high definition.  He's the piano player and makes his appearance a little after the 1 minute mark.

3. Our Hannah finished her 4 years in Fayetteville in May, graduating from the University of Arkansas with Honors. That little degree from the Sam Walton School of Business helped her land a good job with Market Fresh Produce in Nixa, MO. 

4. May 2013, also saw sweet Faith graduate from dear old Bolivar High. It also saw her provide some excitement for our crew (and her coaches) at the State Track meet. Her chance to make All-State came down to the very last Triple Jump of her prep career. With hearts beating out of our chests, we watched her sprint down the runway, then hop, step, jump! She hit the pit and the sand flew. We watched her. We watched her coaches. Joy and more jumping when the tape measure showed she had jumped far enough for a medal.

Changing the BHS record board:)

5. David successfully finished his freshman year at the University of Arkansas, and immediately headed to Branson, MO, where he hung out with 7-9 year olds all summer. As a counselor at Kanakuk Kamps, he was paid to swim, eat, play, camp and ski. It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it.

David and U of A roommate, Judah


6. July began with Lou and Faith journeying to El Salvador on a medical mission trip with our church. Lou saw a lot of patients, Faith took a lot of blood pressures and played with lots of kids. God was glorified, and many were encouraged!

7. Something pretty big happened in July that changed the course of our fall. While Lou and I were out on a date, Hannah was being proposed to by one Alex Joseph Hughes. Talk about happy and excited and...busy! She said, "Yes!" on July 19, 2013, and they said, "I do." on October 26, 2013. Those two dates are a mere 3 months and 1 week apart.

They might be a little excited!

8. While we were still trying to grasp the fun wedding mountain that lay before us, we hiked a few Rocky Mountains around Estes Park in August. We saw the top of Flattop Mountain, and  Lou, Luke, Faith, Elizabeth, and Mary Grace hiked Longs Peak, a 15 hour trek to the top of a Colorado 14er. We always come away from our time in the mountains amazed at God's beautiful world. 

Flattop Mountain
Faith, Elizabeth, and Mary Grace on their way up Longs Peak
The Narrows

The Home Stretch
The Summit

9. In those three pre wedding months, Elizabeth began her senior year. This is our third year in a row to have a senior. (That kind of pace makes a parent have senior moments!!) Elizabeth has decided she wants to study computer science in college. Now we've just got to decide where that studying will take place! In the mean time, college Calculus, dual credit Biology and English Composition, Fit and Well, Speech, Weights, Volleyball and Basketball are keeping her from being bored.

10. Also in those three months, Faith left for her Discipleship Training School in Colorado Springs with a mission agency called YWAM (Youth With A Mission). Her training, which had an emphasis on justice and mercy, lasted 3 months, and she is now currently on the field in the Middle East, working with Syrian refugees. She's there until February 19. She's loving it and we are loving her and praying for her from afar. My heart aches and is full all at the same time.

11. Could any other major event happen in those three months? Like the baby of the family starting high school, playing a varsity sport (tennis) and getting her driver's permit? Could we be talking about Mary Grace, who also plays the violin? Yes, we could. And I'm here to testify she is juggling all the changes like a champ. She's got what it takes.

1st day of high school

Thankfully, the last one to teach to drive

12. Speaking of having what it takes, my 87 year old mom has got it going on. She's not the spring chicken she once was, but she's doing pretty darn good for the shape she's in. At the wedding, she looked positively radiant. 

13. But nobody looked as radiant as our Hannah, who gave her hand to Alex on a beautiful fall day in our backyard. Thank you, God, again, for the sweet grace of that ceremony and reception. It was a blessing and a blast!

Our girls

Lou and I are still holding hands and hearts in this our 26th year of marriage. We're also still holding on to God, for "in him we live and move and have our being." (Acts 17:28a) We are grateful beyond words for his kindness and faithfulness this past year. 

We pray God's blessing on you and yours as you begin 2014!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Listening to Wilson

Even though the alarm goes off at the same time everyday, some mornings are just more rushed than others. Thursday dawned one of those. Because of early morning appointments where I needed to look presentable, I wasn't able to sit down and leisurely sip my coffee and read my Bible. Instead, I ferried my computer and my coffee down the hall to my bathroom.

Most of you can understand the coffee making that trip with me, but the computer?

It was one of those times for Wilson (what I have affectionately named my MacBook Pro) to do one of the best things he can do.

He read God's Word to me. 

I have a long time habit of starting my day reading the Bible. Not doing so throws me off. Sitting down - slowing down - to pray, read, think in the mornings is something I look forward to and need desperately. So when I don't plan well, or unexpected things happen, and I don't have that time that I normally do, I do what I can do, and what Wilson can do for me.

This morning, I didn't have any particular scripture in mind, but I knew I wanted to start out hearing words that praise God for how great He is. The "high number" Psalms are known for doing just that, so I very randomly picked Psalm 136, clicked the "listen" icon, and heard the following life giving words.

Psalm 136

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.
to him who alone does great wonders,
His love endures forever.
who by his understanding made the heavens,
His love endures forever.
who spread out the earth upon the waters,
His love endures forever.
who made the great lights
His love endures forever.
the sun to govern the day,
His love endures forever.
the moon and stars to govern the night;
His love endures forever.
10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt
His love endures forever.
11 and brought Israel out from among them
His love endures forever.
12 with a mighty hand and outstretched arm;
His love endures forever.
13 to him who divided the Red Sea[a] asunder
His love endures forever.
14 and brought Israel through the midst of it,
His love endures forever.
15 but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea;
His love endures forever.
16 to him who led his people through the wilderness;
His love endures forever.
17 to him who struck down great kings,
His love endures forever.
18 and killed mighty kings
His love endures forever.
19 Sihon king of the Amorites
His love endures forever.
20 and Og king of Bashan
His love endures forever.
21 and gave their land as an inheritance,
His love endures forever.
22 an inheritance to his servant Israel.
His love endures forever.
23 He remembered us in our low estate
His love endures forever.
24 and freed us from our enemies.
His love endures forever.
25 He gives food to every creature.
His love endures forever.
26 Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His love endures forever.

Those first 9 verses are pretty amazingly perfect for this time of year, aren't they? 

Another thing you may have noticed is a few words repeat - not just few times - but a lot of times. In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to confess that after I read the repeating words 3 or 4 times, I was like, "Ok, enough already." Then my next thought was, "Really, Shelley? You gonna correct God on his inspired words?"

Then I remembered a quote my kids have heard me say over and over: "Repetition is the key to learning." 

I think God wants us to know - remember - learn - never, ever forget - that "His love endures forever."

We definitely have a consistent thread running through this Psalm with those words, but we do, at verse 10, see the Psalm take a bit of a turn from praising God as creator, to praising God for what He has done in Israel's history. Noticing that, I thought about how His love has endured throughout my history. And I might have started mentally reciting some of my history, followed by "His love endures forever."  

To him who gave me a firstborn 
His love endures forever.
and gave me 5 more to love
His love endures forever.

To him who led Lou and me to Bolivar
His love endures forever.
Who continues to guide and help us everyday
His love endures forever.

You were with us when Lou flew over the bike handles.
His love endures forever
You'll be with us to the end
His love endures forever.

I know there will be times when I'll be in the thick of living this busy, messy, happy, hard life we all lead, and I'll tend to forget just how sure God's love is and how long it will last. When that happens, I want to turn, this time not so randomly, to this Psalm. 

Psalm 136.

It will remind me of how great God is and that His love endures forever.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Usual Suspects

"Round up the usual suspects."

This famous line from the movie Casablanca is the No. 32 quote on the America Film Institute's list of the top 100 movie quotations in American cinema.

Well, let me tell you. My Lou and I have some usual suspects that we want to round up right here. They're not only friends that just showed to help with our big event, but friends we really count on all the time to be, well, to be, friends. You've got them too. I know you do. People who love and encourage you on a daily basis. And people who show up at the big events too. Glory, these are some good friends we've got - that we've been unbelievably blessed with.

Lou and I just kept shaking our heads in amazement at the army of friends and family that surrounded us, loved us, worked alongside us, and pulled off our Hannah's wedding.

I'm not even kidding...or exaggerating. These folks thought for us when our heads were spinning so fast we weren't thinking straight. If you've ever married off a young'un, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, you've got something good to look forward to. Your friends will blow you away with not only offers to help, but the follow through of help.

I'm praying I don't leave anybody out, but I am going to try to name names. I want to name names and say a little bloggy thank you to our usual suspects - our friends.

And, I might throw in a few pictures I like…just for fun.

Early on, in the "what are we going to sit on?" discussions, it was decided that the parents of the bride and groom would sit on church pews. We have one in our home, and it was the first object placed in the wedding grove.

Later, it was joined by one owned by Max and Rose Roweton. (Thanks, Max & Rose!)

It wasn't long till other chairs joined the fun. I'm here to testify that it takes a little time to move 300+ chairs from one place to another. And then to take them back. (Thanks Luke, Alex, Hannah, Faith, Elizabeth, Mary Grace, Isaak, Andy, Daniel, Leighton, Chandler, Preston, Keith)

The bride, Mary Grace, Jasmine, Me doing a little arranging

It also takes a little time to iron 325 cloth napkins.

How Marla Kemp found time to help with this, I'll never know. This dear friend was not only our wedding coordinator (a massive job in and of itself), but also tent light hanger, soup maker and soup divvy upper, and crock pot returner, and sparkler hander outer and stay til everything's done kind of girl. She is one of the main reasons this big event was so much fun. She carried a lot of the load so I didn't have to. (Thank you!)

My sister, Kathy
My sister was here for the week preceding the wedding to help. She was at my mom's beck and call since we were all a little distracted. (Thank you!)
Kacie Watson and Faith
Not only do these two lovelies look amazing, they sound amazing! Kacie ran sound for us at the wedding and we all let out a resounding "Yay!" for the great job she did. Our Faith was a bridesmaid and sang the song "In Christ Alone" that was played as Hannah came down the aisle. Talk about a moment to treasure.

And here's a picture to treasure.
At the rehearsal
Lifelong friends are also one of God's sweet gifts. I cannot count the nights these girls have spent together giggling, talking, crying, laughing. Breanna and Sara, you hold special places in our hearts.

We had quite a few travel great distances to help us celebrate. This family was one of them. They helped us celebrate and prepare to celebrate. We worked them! (Thanks, Louise and Heide and the Forrister clan!)

Shelley, Heide, Erik, Louise

I must include a special pic of Hannah Louise hugging Sonya Louise, who has loved her and prayed for her since the day we named Hannah after her. Much, much love.

This is an amazing picture of these two!
Luke and David need an honorable mention picture, also. These boys gladly and willingly did anything and everything anybody asked them to do. We needed their manly muscles:)

Does everybody do what we did and take that "last family photo before the first kid gets married" picture?

At Rehearsal Dinner

The wedding day dawned with a forecast that made us smile and thank God. NO RAIN! It was a bit cloudy in the morning, but by afternoon, the sun was shining and the temperature was perfect. Oh my mercy. What a great gift!

Lou and I hosted a "Bridesmaid's Breakfast" with omelets made to order. A very sweet addition to that was a surprise gift of homemade cinnamon rolls from Jane Bishop. (Thank you!) So thoughtful!
Elizabeth, Megan, Jasmine, Breanna, Faith, Caroline, Sara, Mary Grace, Megan, Hannah
Oh, how I enjoy a table full of young people! And see the young person named Jasmine in the above  photo? She was Hannah's right hand woman for the last 3 months. Lots of texts, lots of phone calls, lots of planning. Thanks, Jasmine!

After breakfast, all the bridesmaids and I headed to the salon for a little pre wedding pampering. I was caught in my usual position since all this wedding planning started - on the phone.

Faith, Elizabeth, Hannah, Me, Mary Grace
While we were gone, our home was still a beehive of activity. The three in this next picture love me well always, and carried much of my load on the big day. Allyson Bishop spent her morning heading up decorating the reception tent. She led the team that included my brother, Andy and his family. (Thank you Andy, Debbie, Abbie, Pat, Jeffre, Lauren, Daniel and Joe.) On Friday, before these decorators worked their magic on Saturday morning, Alex, his brother, Eric, Marla and I risked Eric's life (he was the designated ladder climber) and hung some lights in our tent. (Thank you!)

Allyson, Me, Marla, Sue
I was glad to find a picture that included Sue, whose work was featured in my last blog post. People on candid picture duty rarely make the candid pictures. (Many thanks!)

One of my favorites that Sue took was this one of Hannah and her girls up in her room before the wedding. I don't know if you can tell or not by looking at this, but Hannah was just a little bit excited.

As you might imagine, parking for 300+ was something we had to plan for. Thankfully, we live very close to Bolivar High School, which happens to have a very nice parking lot and they were kind enough to let us use it. (Thank you, Dr. Guerin!) It's a pleasant 10 minute walk from our house, but we knew not everyone would be able to make that little trek. We provided a couple of golf carts. Many thanks to our drivers, Jeff West and Kerrick Tweedy. Many thanks also to the impromptu suburban drivers, who helped bring guests to Springbrook as the line at the high school got long, and the time for the wedding drew short - Ron Evans, Tom Sneed and Keith Vaughan.

Jeff West and Alex's uncle's family

Kerrick Tweedy, Connie Tweedy, Susan Burleson

Kerrick is chauffeuring two sweet ladies right here. Let me tell you why.

First, Connie.  Here's the exact text I got from her on Wednesday, October 23 at 3:01 p.m. (3 days before the wedding)

"I have a couple hours of availability right now. Anything I can do to help?"

Do you know what I do if I have a couple of hours of availability - especially at 3 in the afternoon? I think, "Oh good. I have a couple of hours to myself. Me time!!"

I told Connie that those words will forever go down in my history as one of the kindest, most thoughtful, unselfish texts I've ever received. Thanks, Connie!

Secondly, Susan. Susan, amazing creator of beauty, Burleson.

We called Susan because we were at a loss as to how to do the curtain thing high up in the trees in the wedding grove. I don't remember her exact words, but it went something like this.

"Oh, I've been hoping you'd call! Can I help?? I have a special place in my heart for Hannah, and I'd love to help decorate!" 

Wow. I can't tell you the relief that those words produced. Susan brought Hannah's vision to life. It could not have pleased us more. Thank you, Susan! Susan brought a couple of helpers with her on Friday. Thanks also to Eric Jack, Grace vanHoornbeek, Allie, Cole and Samantha.

Now, a few pictures of some of the beauty Susan created for us.

On Instagram? Search their hashtag and enjoy some pics!
My brother and his wife greeted the wedding trams as they entered our subdivision. Thanks, Andy and Debbie!

Greeting our guests as they approached the wedding grove, was warm apple cider. Thanks to Linda, Tammy, Lene, Dona, and Jennie for keeping it full and overflowing!

Dona, Lene, Lou
Our friends, The Sneeds, are sitting down in this picture for good reason. They were resting before their real work ramped up at the reception. Thanks to Philip directing traffic out at Silo, and thanks to Tom for leaving the Men's Simulcast on Saturday morning to rescue Lou and fix a generator and for being Master of Ceremonies at the tent, and thanks to Polly for making a crock pot full of soup!

Polly, Tallie, Philip
Speaking of soup, we had it. And lots of it, too. Thanks to my souper friends who made crockpots full of it, and transported it to our tent. I wish I'd thought to get pictures of all of you! (Note to self for next wedding).

Cute sweaters for the crockpots
Thank you! Marla

The hour we'd been planning for finally arrived: 4:30 p.m. Here are a few moments I wanted to share.

Sara Scott, lifelong friend (and amazing OB nurse:)

All turned to watch Hannah

Love our Elizabeth's smile

We all love the looks on the faces of Wes and Marla
I need to stop and say a word about Marla's husband, Wes. He was to Lou what Marla was to me. His M.O. Friday and Saturday was "Stop, Drop, and Help." We couldn't have done it without him. Thanks, Wes.

Another blessing of the wedding was the young man who officiated. Chris Byington, who is going into the ministry, is a long time friend of Alex's. This was his first wedding ever and it was the perfect combination of sacred and personal. Thanks, Chris.

A couple of other people that worked tirelessly to make Hannah and Alex's day special…Mel Hughes and Lauren Hughes, Alex's dad and mom. They hosted an amazing BBQ rehearsal dinner and also managed to handle sound equipment, ring bearer pillows, boutonniere pinning and wedding cake coordination. Thank you, Mel and Lauren!

Mel, Hannah, Alex, Lauren
Lou, Me, our beautiful, happy Hannah, and her Alex

Our reception was held a few miles down the road in a clear top tent at Silo Ridge Country Club. A huge thank you to Brian, Ronnie and his crew at Silo. A big tent hanging out around a club house for a few days interrupts their normal flow, and I know, makes for extra work. I was assured more than once that it was "no problem!" (Thank you!)  The whole setting at Silo was quite magical. Here, the wedding party is lined up, waiting to be introduced.

To light such a structure was slightly complicated. Thankfully, Lou took the lead with this and lined up generators and electrician extraordinaire, Chris Warwick (so our reception wouldn't be ruined with an explosion). Thanks to Wes Kemp, Kelly Roweton, Tom Sneed, Ron and Lou Kemp, and Ron Kemp, Jr., for your help in this area. You light up our lives!!

To feed such a group, you need an expert running things. Mary Plunkett, of Morsels fame is calm, creative, and more than competent. She's a lovely soul, and a delight to work with. Thanks, Mary!

If you've made it this far, it means you've read the longest blog I've ever posted. You too, deserve my thanks!!

Thanks for caring enough about our family to share our joy here. I realize it's been a rather personal post, but I hope the thanking of our friends and family turns your heart and mind to your friends and family and the gift they are to you. We all have our cache of usual suspects - those that hold our hands and hearts on this big round ball. God has blessed us all.