Monday, October 25, 2010

My need for grace, in pictures

Emily at Chatting At the Sky has been doing a magnificent series this month called 31 Days of Grace. Her writings have been so beautiful and inspiring. Today, I'm linking to her blog, sharing images that communicate what grace means to me today, in pictures. And at the moment, when I think of the word grace, I just can't stop thinking of how much I need it. Every single day.

I need Grace to help guide the seedlings of her dreams. 

I need Grace to help model and lead.

I need Grace to help him navigate.

Because someday soon, we'll be conquering much more than this. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Songs I'm lovin'

While listening to my favorite friend Pandora this morning, my Jadon Lavik station, I heard so many new songs, and was reminded of many others that I'm lovin' right now.

I had to make a new Mixpod (that little cutie iPod thing on the right) and put a few favorites on there. They are so awesome. Addison Road. Jon Foreman. Watermark. Mellow, inspiring, beautifulness.

The first song, What do I know of holy, by Addison Road is so amazing to me. Wow, it puts me in my place and brings me to worship.

Just had to share. Hope you like them too. I looped them so that you can just leave it on in the background of whatever else you're doing and it will keep playing. (And then you'll probably get sick of it, since there are only six songs, but let's cross that bridge when we get to it.)

{And if you happen to dislike the music playing while you visit top of the page, then just press the pause button and it will turn off.}

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The art of lifting

Apparently, eight years old is when the way others see you begins to trump everything else.

I'm hearing a lot of words lately from my daughter regarding her developing awareness that other people may not think she is as amazing as her family does. Perhaps those people, in fact, hold the truth about her. Perhaps my continual praise and instruction about what a beautiful creation she is in ours and God's eyes is just a thin sheet of lies that can be easily ripped down.

Suddenly, she's hearing a lot of junk from the world. No more double ponytails for her, since she was told she looks like she has puppy ears. No more using the "babyish" umbrella. One of her best friends likes to point out that she is last in completing her math every day. I can see the wheels turning; that must say something about who she is. And for the first time, she chose not to include God in her essay about the most important things in her life. She's never before been self-conscious or afraid of being a light. Overnight, it seems, everyone else's perception of her really, really matters. And by everyone else, I mean lots of other small children who are starting to uproot everything I've tried to plant for the last eight years in her tender self-image.

Then the other day, I was tired of it all. Tired of her feeling the fight to determine who she is and whose she is. And I took the fight into my own hands. I stopped her as she raced through the kitchen, leaned down looking her in the eyes, grabbed her face with both my palms, lifted up her head to mine and firmly said, "You don't have to be anything but yourself. You were created to be exactly who you are, and God is so proud of what He's created. Don't ever forget that."

You and I are assaulted by the same junk from the world every day. But we're more immune to it. Right? Now that we're grown ups? You and I would never be swayed by the opinions of handfuls of people who don't really even know us. Who cares what the neighbor says, or the annoyed cashier, or the mother of the wild child, or the aloof teacher. Nothing they could say or do could tear us away from believing how beautiful and unique we really are. Right?

Yeah, right. We don't do half the fighting we should to protect truth in our hearts about ourselves. The world kicks me around, and most of the time, I'm too busy or distracted to kick back. "You didn't turn his homework in yet?" "You don't know about Prop H?" "You aren't going to the fundraiser?" "You didn't finish your Bible Study this week?" And the negativity starts to seep in around my unprotected heart. I can start to reel, feeling like a bad mother, a bad homemaker, a bad anything! Some days, a bad EVERYTHING.

Last night, we went to mid-week church, and the woman who led worship sheepishly introduced her next song by saying it was a "moldy oldie." And what do you know, I knew the song. The words are right out of Psalm 3, and I remembered the tune from singing it in high school youth group.

Thou, O Lord,
are a shield about me.
You're my glory.
You're the lifter of my head.

It reminded me what Jesus does. He is the good parent who gets tired of watching me lose the battle for my identity. He grabs my face in His gentle, scarred palms. He lifts my head to look me in the eyes, and says, "You don't have to be anything but yourself. You were created to be exactly who you are, and I'm so proud of you. Don't ever forget that." His kindness sucks me in. His kindness is what makes me want to follow, and grow, and follow some more.

I love who I am when I let Jesus define me. But it takes a stopping and a listening. He is the lifter of my head, and I let Him see me. Then I listen in my heart to what He sees. His love for me is the shield about me, my glory, and the only thing that will protect me the next time I walk out the door.

But You, O LORD, are a shield about me,
My glory, and the One who lifts my head.
Psalm 3:3

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

cake & cotton is here!

I hinted about it a few posts ago, and now it's here!

My friend Shauna and I have a lot of ideas. From projects, to recipes, to things we'd like to own from Anthropologie if money grew on trees....our new blog is where we want to share our conversation about all the things that inspire us. We are always thinking and talking and processing this welling of creativity and need for expression that we both have. And though we both have it, we like to express ourselves in different ways.

Our blog is a place where we'll try stuff out and tell you how it went. We'll help you learn how to make something you'd normally just buy. We'll help you nurture creativity in your children's lives, help make your home more beautiful, inspiring or efficient, and pass on some killer deals.

Because here's the thing: you weren't meant to endure your life alone. We all need ideas, support and a heck of a lot of encouragement. Our new blog is emerging from the truth that two are better than one.

You can meet Shauna here, and you can read the intro post on me here. Shauna and I thought it fitting to write our profiles about each other. I need her eyes for me, softening my rough spots with grace and appreciating my quirks as things of beauty. She helps me accept myself and I do the same for her. I know you'll relate to one of us, since we can be quite different, and perhaps finding yourself among our posts will encourage you to embrace yourself in a new way too.

We need each other, so I hope you'll follow our little journey. Welcome to cake & cotton.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Whoa nelly, we're in a storm

Right now, it is pouring rain outside like I haven't seen in years. The sky is still near completely dark at almost 8 a.m.

Lightning is like the feverish paparazzi, snapping pictures through my window. The dog won't stop barking from the incessant thunder.

God is putting on quite a display this morning. I always think thunder must reflect an aspect of Him. Like its His voice. And the Bible tells us that even when we witness some of the most incredible acts of His power on this earth, we are only getting a glimpse. I can hardly imagine that what is going on at this moment in the wild and reckless sky is merely a peek through the curtain at the unbelievable things He can do and has done. And will do.

"Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways,
and how small a whisper do we hear of him!
But the thunder of his power who can understand?"

Job 26:14

"At this also my heart trembles
and leaps out of its place.
Keep listening to the thunder of his voice
and the rumbling that comes from his mouth.
Under the whole heaven he lets it go,
and his lightning to the corners of the earth.
After it his voice roars;
he thunders with his majestic voice,
and he does not restrain the lightnings when his voice is heard.
God thunders wondrously with his voice;
he does great things that we cannot comprehend."

Job 37:1-5

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Secretariat and Glory

"Do you give the horse his strength or clothe his neck with a flowing mane? Do you make him leap like a locust, striking terror with his proud snorting? He paws fiercely, rejoicing in his strength, and charges into the fray. He laughs at fear, afraid of nothing; he does not shy away from the sword. The quiver rattles against his side, along with the flashing spear and lance. In frenzied excitement he eats up the ground; he cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds." - God, in Job 39:19-24

And so begins the new film Secretariat, in a hushed voice-over, amidst the sound of violins.

For background on this passage, God asks these questions of Job, pressing him rhetorically, reminding him that He alone holds life in his hands. Job was created for specific purposes, one of which was to exemplify unwavering faith despite severe suffering. In fulfilling his purpose, Job reflected the very glory of God. God's creation, doing exactly what it was created to do, reflects the divine like nothing else can.

Secretariat's story is of the same marrow. He was born to run his race. The theme is repeated over and over, as if the filmmakers obsessed about driving the point home: what makes Secretariat such a tangible, even personified hero, is that his very nature drives him to run his race. All caution is thrown to the wind. All arguments about his limitations are stopped. All hindrance, threat of an enemy, even physical impairment are shaken off. The undeniable truth is that He was created to run. And Secretariat runs his race with such passion the watcher has to resist jumping to his feet.

I say Secretariat pursues running with a passion. He does not pursue victory. He is not shown to have an understanding of winning or reaching a goal. Secretariat simply craves being unleashed. The track is just the vehicle through which his most glorious strength can be unashamedly let loose. The track allows him to fulfill his single, magnificent purpose: glory.

Doesn't that strike a chord in you? Doesn't a part of you, deep down, just want your greatest power and brightest beauty to be unleashed just for the sake of its freedom? I want to shove everything else out of the way. I want to annihilate my inhibitions and clingy self-criticism. I want fearlessness. Lord God, free me up to run my race, fulfilling my purpose and revealing your glory!

[Whew. Breathe, Leslie. Told you it makes you want to jump up and down somewhere. In a large, Kentucky Derby kind of hat.]

When Secretariat is first learning to race, his trainer says he presses back against the gate before every start. And once the race begins, he takes a heck of a long time to find his stride. I get it, because me too. My track - the place where I'm supposed to shine - isn't always obvious. And when it is, half the time, I'm stumbling through, without a bit of gracefulness. Thankfully, my very nature drives me along, and my Trainer is perfect. At times, He and I have unleashed some serious awesomeness. Those successes remind me to keep in step, follow, listen. Obey.

I can only hope and pray that once I find my stride, once my race is being beaten out with a thunderous rhythm, that all who are watching just see glory. If I can reflect something about God while on the track He's laid out for me, I will have done exactly what I was created to do.

Run your race with all you have. The trumpet is sounding and I will not stand still.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." Hebrews 12:1

Friday, October 15, 2010

Swing and turn, Live and learn

About a year and a half ago, I wrote this article for my MOPS group (Mothers of Preschoolers). It was entitled "Jubilee," based on the lyrics of an old folk song, reborn by Elizabeth Mitchell on one of her CD's for children. Since I wrote this, I've thought of it many times; the message that God spoke to me through this song and the insight He gave me from these lyrics continue to challenge my perspective. I'm here again, in the spot where these words were first spun together in my heart. I need the message again. I thought maybe you would too.

In honor of the song and its message, my friend Shauna and I will be selling this banner (and many others) at the Mariners Boutique coming up. The word in itself is a banner in my life, and perhaps the message of Jubilee will resonate with you as well.

. . .

If I had no horse to ride,
I’d be found a crawlin’
Up and down this rocky road
Lookin’ for my darlin’.

Swing and turn, jubilee.
Live and learn, jubilee.

How difficult it is to know another person. In fact, who truly knows you but God? Can you say with confidence that another person on this earth really understands who you are and why you are here? Perhaps your mother has a good guess, or your best friend presumes to know. But often we are merely looking for one another and waiting to be found.

This is especially true in marriage. If it is difficult to understand another human being, how much harder and more perplexing is it to understand a member of the opposite sex? They are wholly other than you, and created for totally different purposes. If you were like me, you signed up for a marriage expecting to be found, or known, in a way I know now is reserved only for the Lord. Intimacy between two people – two innately broken people - can only go so far. It is part of the reason why this earth will never feel like home; unlike heaven, this place has rocky roads, upon which we are constantly crawling, looking for each other.

A portion of an old folk song entitled “Jubilee” is above. My thesaurus gives synonyms for “jubilee”: celebration, festival. And if you read the lyrics, you’ll see the instant dichotomy. There is at the start a sense of loss and pain and longing, followed by references to dancing and celebrating. If I am figuratively crawling along a rocky road, in other words making an excruciating effort, to connect with a person whom I love, I am not celebrating.

Why did the author of this song juxtapose those two concepts, celebration and hardship? From a worldly perspective, the two just don’t ever meet. Rough times are just that, and parties are saved for later, when things get better. But this doesn’t seem at all to be what God has intended for those of us who follow Him. I am convinced the “abundant life” of which the Bible speaks is not referring to those smooth spurts we all experience from time to time. Life is more like a dance which swings and turns us every which way. We either move with its rhythm or contrary to it. Perhaps being able to sway with the rhythm of what life brings, and not against it, is where the abundance and the jubilee are found.

The “live and learn” part of the song barely escapes being reduced to cliché. But when I dig into it, I understand its gravity. Most people choose to ignore the “learn.” Life spins them a little too quickly, or in an unexpected direction, and all they can focus on is getting back to familiar ground. We’ve all done this, fought an unpleasant circumstance, unwittingly wasting the potential lessons to be learned as we desperately strive to reassemble what used to be. So there is celebration in being able to stuff that instinct to resist the unfamiliar, and seize the opportunity for growth which every trial brings. What kind of person would you be without such learning? Would you have any strength, endurance, or courage at all if you hadn’t survived some dizzying spins in your past? So the question is, in a time of trial, am I allowing God to lead as we dance through the steps of growth? Or do I struggle against His lead, trying to grasp my own footing? Either way, the circumstances of our lives will indeed come. So isn’t it all a matter of choosing which perspective we will have? Swing and turn, jubilee. Live and learn, jubilee.

How exactly God leads us in our personal dance is a little mysterious. I know that I’m at Point A in my walk with Him and my personal growth, and I know that I want to reach Point B, but how to get there is another question. More often than not, I don’t really want to take the steps needed; it’s much safer to stand still. Sometimes I may as well be engaged in a conversation like this with God as He leads me in some unfamiliar steps: “Lord, I’m slipping. I don’t think I can do this…Wait! Can’t you see I’m slipping! I’m about to fall!” I then feel Him hold me a little tighter, quietly replying, “I’ve got you.” The grace and strength my Lord bestows on me to carry me through trials is unexplainable. I cannot explain its presence, its shape, or its persistence. I simply know its source is God and His love for me. He is an expert at my personal dance because He is the only one who knows me through and through. Though I may search for connection with others in my life (of course we all need to fervently pursue relationships), at the end of the day, it is enough to be found and deeply known by Him alone.

Jesus, our Wonderful Counselor, tells us, “In this life you will have much trouble. But take heart, for I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Sunday, October 10, 2010

10 things of beauty

A little while ago, I looked at my clock. It said 10:10. And of course you know the date today. 10/10/10. So it got me thinkin'.

I've been struggling with beauty this weekend, that is, in terms of finding it in tangible ways in my life. That sounds terrible, but it's true. It is hard to explain and I need to write more on that later.

For now, I'm making a list. Because I need to.

10 things of beauty I can embrace right now

1. Reading with my kids. We read. I'm proud of that time spent; it feels very productive. My son took the photo of us above, arm outstretched as far as possible. We have a mutual love for sharing stories. Tonight it was this. The illustrations are so incredible.

2. No one in my home is sick.

3. I'm caught up on laundry (which means more time for crafts and writing).

4. I wrote down a plan for moving some things around and reducing clutter in two areas of my house last night, and I plan to execute said plan very soon. Watch out, visible enormous box of Hot Wheels and same-sized box of zillions of plastic members of the animal kingdom! You can no longer live in the family room.

5. I got to sleep in till 8 a.m. two days in a row this weekend. One of the days it may have been 8:30. And then I may have lingered until 9. Beauty.

6. I got to worship in my great church this morning and sing one of my favorite songs. Here is The Stand, by Hillsong. (It's always recorded live, so it's impossible to find a super clear version.)

7. I have friends who remind me who I am (and whose I am) when I start to forget. You know who you are.

8. I have outlets for my creative energy on the horizon. This month, I'm preparing for some tidbit showings in November. (tidbit is the teeny children's clothing line my friend Shauna and I work on when we feel like it - we have some amazing new things that are NOT for kids. They are for mommies who like having beauty in their home.) We're cooking up other fun things too. You'll see.

9. In the words of my then boyfriend, now husband, circa 1992: "You already have everything you'll ever really need." He meant in my heart, and I knew that he was right even at 17.

10. When I can't see beauty around me (instead, I get tempted to focus on messes that need me, frustration from my kids' school schedules, relational discord, dog throw-up, or the bathroom that needs cleaning), I have a love, tried and true. Literally, I've tested and tried Him, and nothing has ever been more true: Jesus is more than enough for me.

Can't get any more beautiful than that.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

A burning fire in the bones

To what extent do you want to talk to others about your faith? How often do you and I pray for opportunities to share God's love with others? If you were to measure your desire by the size of a flame, would you fall closer to a birthday candle, or a camp fire? Do you know anyone who has a forest fire of desire to share with others about Jesus? I do. I'm not one of them, but I can say my flame is being fanned.

I've been reading through the book of Jeremiah. Just for some background, he actually authored the book of Jeremiah, which is considered one of the major prophet books of the Bible. At a critical time in Israel's history, Jeremiah was God's prophet, or mouthpiece, bringing God's messages to His people. The people did not want to hear, however, because a lot of it was really bad news. God was about to allow foreign nations to bring His people into captivity as a consequence for straying so far from His ways for so long.

I'm about 20 chapters into it. So far, Jeremiah has been faithful to bring this bad news to God's people, and the people are basically pressing their hands to their ears. He is hated by everyone, and much of the text records his intense grief over the continual rejection.

Today, I read of a message he faithfully delivered in the court of the Temple, right in the middle of God's house. It was more bad news. The priest, named Pashur, was enraged, as he had been falsely prophesying to the people along a more pleasant tack. He had Jeremiah beaten, and then thrown in the stocks at the entrance to the temple. Verses 7-18 of chapter 20 record another lament, poignantly detailing the emotions of Jeremiah's soul at this point. (Even though he was God's chosen servant, he was also human, let's not forget.)

I'm paraphrasing, but he actually says that the man who delivered him at birth should be cursed for not killing him as an infant. He continues, "Why did I come out from the womb to see toil and sorrow, and spend my days in shame?" (v.18) His discouragement runs so deep that he even entertains resigning as prophet. But listen to what he says:

"I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me. For whenever I speak, I cry out, I shout, "Violence and destruction!" For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. If I say, "I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name," there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot." (Jer. 20:7-9)

His words sting a little, for me. I kind of want him to give up; I want that to make sense because then I'm let off a related hook. In the New Testament, Jesus calls us to bring a message to His people as well, but it is instead really good news. He knew that His children were captives already, of sin and brokenness. His followers were given the message of restoration and hope to deliver. In fact, the word "gospel" means good news, and we are commanded to bring this message of love and rescue to the world.

I have to let Jeremiah's words get personal for me. I have the best message in history to deliver, and yet do I feel driven to bring it to the forefront of my relationships by a burning in my heart that I literally cannot contain? I wish it were more so. I want that burning fire in my bones, in my core. I want to feel weary when I hold it in, and neglect to give space to the power of the gospel.

Jeremiah's level of persecution is reality for many followers of Christ in other countries. For me, it is so easy, socially and politically speaking, to discuss spiritual matters. Am I capitalizing on that fact? Am I making the most of my days bringing a message of freedom to those in captivity? When the desire isn't there, we need to pray that God would bring it. Let's pray for an uncontainable, burning fire in our bones to share the message entrusted to us: the good news of a great, great love.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Finding family

A handful of years ago, my great aunt Isabel and her daughter Jane began to do some research. They knew we were of Italian descent (Isabel's parents had immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1900's), but knew nothing of our ancestors. With some help from the internet, they found a name. This person shared our last name, and had an address in Southern Italy.

With nothing more than a slip of paper bearing this name, they went.

Isabel, nearing her 80's, and Jane found their way to the region of Calabria (red section above) and the small town of Cortale (a speck within the yellow dot above). It has a population of 2,400 and is too small to have a hotel. No one could speak English. Here is a photo of Cortale I found online.

Isabel resorted to pointing to the slip of paper and motioning her hands. Someone went to fetch a woman who could understand, and to everyone's shock, this woman KNEW the person whose name was on the slip. However, no one knew, yet, she would quickly lead them to the home of Isabel's first cousin. At the moment of arrival, Isabel met the daughter of her father's brother. Her name was Isabelle, and she was about the same age.

Fast forward a couple of years to my parents' first visit. Isabelle had a son in Milan about my dad's age with a wife and daughter, Erica. My parents contacted them and then one summer, showed up at their door. Isabelle took a small plane up from Cortale just for the meeting. When my dad entered their home, Isabelle burst into tears, pinching the flesh of his cheeks with both hands. Erica was an excellent translator (she is fluent in six languages!), and soon her father made his way to a hutch, slid open a drawer, and removed a stack of old photos. Black and whites of my dad as a boy and his parents were among them. Throughout the years, unbeknownst to anyone in the U.S., my dad's grandpa Joseph had been sending photos of family living in California to his brother in Cortale. Those photos were passed from the brother, to his daughter Isabelle, and then to her son who has them today.

Inside that home in Milan, an integral piece of the puzzle of my heritage was snuggly put into place. In August, my husband and I had the pleasure of visiting these newly found family members for our first time. We shared one beautiful but short day together. And so I was thrilled to discover one month later that Erica had made last minute arrangements to visit the U.S. Her trip even included a stay in California with us for one week!

This visit ended yesterday. And after spending several days together, I am so absolutely blessed to not only know her, but also to be her family. She is so passionate and expressive, wears her heart on her sleeve (another English saying, Erica!) which is so familiar to me, and simply sees so much beauty in life. From food to music to children to nature, she is constantly distilling out and sharing the beauty she sees with those around her. In this way, she is a very inspiring person, and points others toward a deeper appreciation of life in its many intricacies.

One way Erica inspires and points to beauty is through photography. It was great fun to watch her find beauty in my everyday space through her lens. I can't wait to receive the CD she is burning for me of her shots during her visit. I will surely share some of them here.

But for now, you'll have to be content with this one: Erica and I at Los Alamitos Race Course.

Nine of us in my family took her out to a very fun night at the horse races. We laughed at her repeated bad luck, losing her $2 or $3 bets race after race. And finally, as we were about to leave, her horse finally won! I believe she won all of $35, probably breaking even for the night. Here she is with her winning tickets.

I thought meeting our family members living in Italy would be more or less like meeting strangers with whom we happened to share a common point in history, that history being quite far removed from my life. But I experienced something unexpected; it seemed a connection between us had existed all along and we were simply tapping into it now. Love was already there, waiting for us to unlock the door that had been shut on our family line three generations ago. It was so easy to walk into a new and spacious field of love for each other.

This is all important to me because family and heritage is extremely important to God. He has reasons for putting us in our particular family and none other. And He accomplishes His good and wise purposes from one generation to the next. If we invite God into our family line, He can do what no one else can, in terms of bringing healing, reconciliation, and the breaking of destructive patterns that get passed down. He is at work in my family, and I am privileged to observe it. From my grandparents' lives all the way down to my children's, He is visibly at work. Beautiful, wonderful work. And, I truly believe the Lord is so delighted to see a family tree bearing much fruit. I'm so thankful that the severed branch on ours has been restored with so much promise for the future.


Life has been a little crazy here lately. I haven't had time to write as much as I want, but I wanted to give you a little sampler of what's been happening and on my mind.

1. Swimming is on my mind. My daughter is a swimmer. It's her deal. We spend a lot of time at her swim team workouts, and last weekend, she had a two-day meet. The summary of a swim meet is that I'm the nervous one, sweating, and trekking around the pool with a clipboard to find out when and where exactly she needs to be lined up for each event. And she is the cool one in more ways than one; she is collected, and gets to be in the water multiple times. Oh, and did I mention that it was triple digits last weekend? Yeah, so I was envious about being in the pool. She rocked it though. It was a great meet for her, and good family fun.

2. Exercise is on my mind. Remember my new BFF named Self-Discipline? Well, she and I and my friend Shauna joined a gym. I haven't exercised in five years, and I haven't had a gym membership in probably 10. I'm still getting used to it, but it's starting to be a little bit fun. (However, I desperately need to find some new and motivating music for my little green iPod Shuffle. My Ray LaMontagne doesn't really make me want to pick up the pace. He helps me want to go back to bed. Help please.)

3. Italy is on my mind. A couple of years ago, with the help of the internet, a relative found our long lost Italian relatives. My grandpa, Frank, was first generation Italian-American in our family, his father and mother, Joseph & Mamie, having immigrated to the US in the early 1900's. Joseph's brother never got a chance to follow his brother as planned, due to the onset of World War I, and all his descendants are living in different parts of Italy today. Turns out my dad has a close cousin about his age, with a daughter about my age; they live in Milan, and I was fortunate enough to meet them for the first time this summer while on our fancy vacation. They are amazing people and I already love them so much. I can't wait to write more soon about my new favorite intercontinental cousin, Erica, and our great times together this past week when she visited California for the first time. (Erica, I don't know if you know this saying in English, but the truth is that in so many ways, we are "cut from the same cloth".) She and I have lived very different lives in very different places, and yet we speak the same language; not the language of the tongue, but the language of the heart. She is so awesome, AND she is a photographer, so I'll get to share some of her beautiful shots from her stay too.

So with those snapshots in words, here are some visuals to match. (The vacation shots are from the first part of August. Sorry people, I have no visual to go with the exercise part. Gross.)

Here is my little fish.

Here we are with our newly acquainted family members, having lunch at an unbelievably beautiful place; we are at the hotel Villa d'Este on Lake Como. Seriously unreal.

This is the real Bellagio. Not the Las Vegas version. I didn't even know it was a city on Lake Como. We are travelling there by ferry.

So that's what is happening over here.

(I'm sorry the photos don't seem very clear. I'm not sure how to make them bigger without distorting them. I need to ask someone about this.)

More on my time with Erica later. And I have to tell you about so many other things!! My new Bible Study, my upcoming boutique dates where Tidbit will be alive and well (that's a little children's clothing-and-now-home-decor-line that I co-operate, in case you didn't know), won't believe this...even another blog. Because I have so much to say about everything! Now if I could only find more time to say it all...