Friday, July 31, 2009

what's in YOUR closet?

I made it through the week. More than that, I was blessed through the week and just, plain, enjoyed it! Yea!!

My house feels more like home. I believe I have unpacked everything. Laundry continues to be mountains, but when is it not? Really. Isn't that just life with a big family?

The next project: my closet. Whew. What a mess! The mess used to be in the very back of the closet. Now, the mess reaches all the way to the door. It is a walk-in closet, so we are talking about lots of mess. The closet is in definite need of help. There are boxes [a lot of boxes] from when we moved in a year ago. That's just sad. Baby stuff we don't need with Samuel anymore is just tossed half-hazardly in there. It's bad. I think I might take a "before" picture so I can show you what I mean! B. A. D.

While I had hoped to tackle the awful closet this weekend... The weekend is already full. Saturday we're participating in our housing's "Bargain Market" garage sale thing. Getting rid of the stuff cluttering our porch. Hoping to make a little money, but, mostly, just wanting to get rid of junk. After the Bargain Market, a friend is coming over so Jason and help him fix his car. That will be the rest of Saturday.

Sunday is church, company for dinner and then there goes the weekend. It will be a good weekend. Full. But, good. But no time for the crazy closet. Sigh. Dumb closet.

Monday, July 27, 2009

My Cup Runneth Over as I zig-zag around mothering

We have been home for one week.

A fast and furious week. I predicted we would "hit the ground running" upon the return from our roadtrip. Even with the prediction and the great, big breath I inhaled before we started "running", I am staggering from the past seven days.

My house continues to be an array of half-unpacked bags, scattered overgrowth of toys [where have all these toys come from???], continual dishes and a mound of laundry that would intimidate even the most accomplished of mothers.

My kids are slowly adjusting to the "new" sleeping quarters. Two-year-old Lela Mae has yet to sleep through the night since we've been home. The first four nights she was found wondering the hall, crying and distraught. The past few nights, she only cries in her bed. I suppose that means things are getting better... ???

The weekend proved useless. Jason worked 13-hour-shifts both Saturday and Sunday. I worked the nursery at church on Sunday [making it a total of EIGHT Sundays since I've actually sat through a service at Grace Church]. No rest for the weary. I am beyond tired; I am weary. Monday is upon us and the week stretches out, offering no reprieve.

I am stumble around, my eyes heavy from a night of on again/off again sleep, and try my darnedest to be a gracious and compassionate mother. A heavy fog thickens the air and I can hardly breathe, much less think.


Um, I just re-read my post and it sounds incredibly depressing. I must note that life is happy. I cuddle my babies and cry out to God with a grateful heart. My cup runneth over. [Obviously, I sweat the small stuff. I really need to be better about that.] Things are pretty crazy around here, but I have not given up. My scripture this week is:

"To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me." Colossians 1:29 [italics mine]

So, you see? It really doesn't matter that my energy is depleted. In fact, truly, it is a good thing. This way, I can just take my hands out of things [which, I'm supposed to do anyway] and totally and completely rely on God's energy. Which, as Col 1:29 tells us, works powerfully in ME! I grab ahold of that hope and run this amazing race! Whew-hew! Off I go!

Monday, July 20, 2009

home again, home again

We're home!

After going 7,000 miles, the weary travelers return home. Only, we're not that weary. We are happy and sad to be home.

The home was as we left it; Rachel, my sister, took good care of our little home. The dog was fatter, the children's toys picked up and the fish were still alive. Not bad.

We walked around the house, unsure of what to do now. The adventure is over and "normal" is back upon us. We had become accustomed to a "new normal". Road trip normal.

Now I am back in my kitchen. My dishes. My king-size bed. My thermostat. My fatter-but-still-skinny dog. My lawn with the tall grass.

The kids ran around, admiring their old toys which now held the magic of new toys on Christmas. I ran my hand along the kitchen counter, finding it hard to believe that I was, once again, in my own kitchen.

Six weeks is a long time to be away. I am glad we had our month and a half road trip. But the adjustment to being home is proving to be more.... awkward than first expected.

Friday, July 17, 2009

wrapping up the mammoth roadtrip

We are in Illinois today. Drove in yesterday after driving a total of 19 hours of actual drive time. That doesn't include the time off road for potty breaks and lunch/dinner and hotel nights.

Our roadtrip is rapidly drawing to a close. I can hardly believe we are so close to the finish line. I am looking forward to being home, but I am also sad that this big adventure is over. It has been a grand adventure.

People say, "I couldn't do what you guys have done!! How did you do that??"

It makes me laugh outloud. The roadtrip has been wonderful. Driving/riding 7000 miles has been, truly, not that big of a deal. I know, I know, you all can't really believe me. But, it has been fun!

Unexpectedly, the hardest part of the trip has been the many good-byes. Bouncing in and out of people's lives has been bittersweet. To share for a few days their heartaches and hopes and then to hug them close before driving away.... has been so very difficult. Much more than anticipated.

Tomorrow, when we start the 15 hour drive home from IL to VA, I will take with me many wonderful memories of our 2009 Family Roadtrip. God has been gracious to us.

The following scripture God laid on my heart the day before we left [back in JUNE]. I meticulously printed the verse out onto a florescent yellow index card and taped it to my steering wheel. It has been our theme verse this past six weeks.

"And thanks be to God who goes before us in triumphal procession in Jesus Christ and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him." 2 Cor 6:14

Monday, July 13, 2009

looking towards the futue with tears and with joy

Tomorrow we say good-bye. It is our second to last good-bye on this long road of good-byes.

For me, personally, this will be the hardest good-bye. Good-bye to my parents. Sigh. My heart already aches and my stomach is burning with anticipation.

I said good-bye to my baby sister already. In a few hours I will say good-bye to my baby brother. Life is hard for them right now. They are in the heat of the world, making decisions that will effect the rest of their life. It is hard to see them struggling so fiercely with the call of God on their heart. They are truly wrestling with the Word of God; fighting His soft voice.

On a brighter note: We have plotted out the rest of our journey. The final leg. Wowsers. From here, we drive through South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and to Illinois. In IL we'll spend time with my brother and his wife. And their kiddos. Then will come the final shove of the road trip as we high-tail it home to Virginia. We are only 34 hours to go on the trip. Eighteen to IL and 16 hours to home. So close.

I am ready to be home again. Sad to say good-bye, but joyfully looking towards returning to "normal" life. I have gained many wonderful memories on this roadtrip. I have dropped in and out of many people's lives. Many amazing host families have opened their home to me and my brood. It has been good.

Can't wait to make my photo book on Snapfish. That's my next project up on returning home. Yea!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

week five, day five.... wyoming time

We are in Wyoming this week. With my parents. My parents are some of my most favorite people. I love them deeply and I miss them horribly when we are home, 27 hours away, in VA.

Time with my precious parents is rushing away much too quickly. My heart is already growing sad with the good-bye I will not be ready for bright and early Tuesday morning. My throat constricts with the thought. How will I say good-bye? The future is uncertain; when will I see my mom and dad again?

I have to push these thoughts away in order to enjoy the visit. I want desperately to enjoy every moment. I am begging God to slow the time down to a sloooow crawl. Please, God!!

Here's the thing with this roadtrip: the visits are not what we really want. What we really want is to live less then a mile down the road from all these amazing friends and family. We cram in a year's worth of living with each visit. Late night visits, trying to make up for the loss of heart to hearts all year long. Mom cooks all our favorite meals, making up for the dinners we miss as time flies by.

My parents love on the kids, achingly soaking in all their childish ways and antics, knowing that the next time they see my kids so much growing up will have taken place. My baby won't be a baby next time. We miss so much of each other's lives. It truly breaks my heart.

So, I put it all on the shelf. And turn away. I choose to focus on the now and enjoy what I can of the moment. I also thank the Lord for his faithfulness. I know He loves me and has prepared a good future for me and my family. In Virginia. Not in Texas. Not in Arizona. Not in Wyoming. But, on the east coast. Far away from everyone.

It hurts.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Not Me Monday

Not Me Monday. Who-rah!! [Remember, Not Me Monday is a time to confess it all without really confessing.... So not me!]

It is not me who is both sad about leaving my in-laws [because I love them and I will miss them] and terribly excited about leaving [because it means I see my parents on Wednesday]!!

It is not me who has just now started to miss her house after being on this roadtrip for four weeks.

It is not me who thinks it has been good for my kids to sleep in various arrangements like air mattresses, KOA bunkbeds, and, at times, the floor. Not me. I pamper my kids...

It is not me who has totally enjoyed not having to cook dinner every night because I've been at someone else's house eating their dinner.

It is not me who loves her cup of sweet coffee in the AM. I do not snuggle it close to me like a long lost love, breathing in the delicious fragrance. Ah... I do not have a co-dependent relationship with coffee...

It is not me who has traveled over 3,500 miles away from home [and will begin the 3,5000 miles back home tomorrow!!] with FOUR KIDS in a mini-van!! Not me!! \

Sunday, July 05, 2009

a day on the road with four small children

"You are so brave," mommies whisper into my ear when I tell them of our 7000 mile roadtrip with four small children.

Truly, it makes me laugh. Brave has nothing to do with it; a strong desire to see my family and friends is what drives me, literally, down the road.

But what is it like roadtriping with four small children? The following is a mostly true description of a typical day on the road with the Keys family.

5:30am Samuel awakens with the sun. His sweet gurgles and coos awaken my daughters who are quick to run to our bed and play with their baby brother.

6:00am Begin packing the van. Sleeping bags rolled up; suitcases reorganized; dirty clothes into the dirty clothes bag; drink cups filled; everything out the door and to the van. We fit the items into the van like a jig-saw puzzle.

7:00am Breakfast. Either the hotel's contental breakfast, one more breakfast with those who love us or fast food.

7:30am Buckle up seat belts, re check the map and off we go!

7:35am "Can we watch a movie?" Almost-five-year-old Isaiah asks. Ice Age plays behind my head for the tenth time in one week.

8:30am Driven 70 miles. Only 400 left to go for the day. I sip my lukewarm coffee. Samuel drifts to sleep in the middle row of our minivan.

8:45am "MOM! She's hitting me!" "Shh!! Sam's sleeping!!"

9:00am "I'm hungry!" Crackers distributed by Daddy who is taking his turn in the back with the kids. I nibble on my handful of animal crackers.

9:30am "Look at the mountains!" Sam is startled awake thanks to the excitement of his siblings.

10:00am "Look at the cows!"

10:15am "Look at that train!" The train loops around a mountain side. Very cool.

11:00am The family stops for lunch at a rest area. The kids run like a herd of cattle across the grassy lawn. Sandwiches fill our stomachs and we're back in the van within an hour. We are also quite proud that we made it a full three and half hours between stops. No small feat with little, wiggly children.

12:00pm Jason's turn to drive. I take my place in the back, praying God gives me grace with my children.

12:30pm "Naptime! Everyone lean back and close your eyes."

12:40pm Samuel's out.

12:45pm "I don't want to go to bed" "I'm not tired" SH! Sam's sleeping! Go to sleep!"

1:00pm "I'm not tired!" Tears roll down their very "none-tired" faces. Samuel wiggles in his sleep and I feel myself loosing it as I struggle to keep one little eight month old asleep while disciplining the three and two year old.

1:30pm After an hour of frustration, there are FOUR sleeping children in the mini-van. Mom and Dad's eyes meet through the rear view mirror. We smile. I lean my head back to catch a few zzzz's while Jason plows ahead on the Interstate. Stopping is not an option with four sleeping kids.

2:00pm Samuel wakes up. I try to not be frustrated from my short nap. Sam and I play peek a boo.

2:30pm Everyone's awake. The kids don't sleep very well in the carseats. Short naps have become the norm on the road.

3:00pm Gas stop. Fill up for $2.59 per gallon. That's been our average. Everyone goes potty. This seems to take an absurd amount of time. Samuel gets a diaper change and I try to hold him the whole stop so he can soak up mommy time since he doesn't get much on the road.

3:45pm Finally, back on the road. I have a piping hot cup of coffee that will keep my eyes open for the last 2-3 hours of our drive for the day. Jason turns a movie on and passes out another round of snacks.

4:30pm The DVD Players have lost their magic for the day and everyone is ready to get out of the van. Including the adults. From the rear view mirror I see Jason lean his head back and close his eyes. Isaiah and Rose are fighting about crayons in the back-back; Samuel is screaming his protest of being strapped to his carseat for the entire day; and Lela Mae [strapped beside me in the front seat -air bag is turned off-] is applying chapstick over and over again to her adorable lips.

5:30pm Our stopping point is just a few miles ahead. We pull out all the stops to illicit peace in the chaotic van. Cheetos are passed out. Mommy sings her silly songs "I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts... dee-da-la-dee-da-lee..."

5:45pm We stumble into the KOA kabin and stretch across our bare mattresses. The kids beg to go swimming. Jason and I look longingly at the bed as we dress everyone in their still damp suits before heading off to swim in the KOA pool.

So this is a simple outline of our day on the road. Most of our days end earlier, praise God. But, this is a long form of our travel days. We have intentionally tried to schedule the days to be short so the kids don't loose it in the back.

Well, now you know. Have a great day!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

stuffy heads and heavy hearts

I am tired today. I feel icky. My head is stuffy and my heart is heavy.

Heavy with good-byes and missing those who love me and those whom I love. Why does this world have to be so big? Heaven will be a wonderful place. I want a mansion on the same block as my mother. And my husband's mother. And our fathers. And my friends from college. And my children.

The girls' fever has progressed to sore throats. No more fever, though. Just the sore throats and cranky attitudes. I have both of those, too. Isaiah is coughing, but still very perky and happy.

We are praying for healing and grace. We are here until Tuesday morning when we start on our 15 hour drive to WY. Trusting God for His perfect will.

Friday, July 03, 2009

the fever and ants of Yucca, AZ

The roadtrip adventure continues today with life in the desert mountains of Arizona. Winged ants have invaded the house. They made a colony in the chimney and, possibly, inside the walls of this beautiful stucco home. As I type, Jason and his dad fight the ant battle. Jason is up on the roof, pouring water and dish soapy water on the ants. The in-laws live so far in the country that they have issues finding a exterminator to come out and take care of the ant problem "for good". After calling eight exterminators, Tami finally found ONE who would come out and take care of the dirty business. Huge sigh of relief from this country-ish, suburb-ish girl. Whew.

Also, I visited Yucca, Arizona today. Population 500 or so. We needed juice and the closest place was ten minutes down the road at a tiny gas station called P.J.'s. [Connected to Junior's Bar and Grill; we'll be eating dinner some time later this weekend.] I think I like Yucca [pronounced "yuck-uh"]. Very friendly people. People who look you in the eye and smile a loud "good morning". I like it.

The girls have been running low grade fevers yesterday and today. Please pray for them; complete healing, in the name of Jesus!! We're not sure what's wrong with the girlies. I think it might be either a fever virus or just weariness of the roadtrip. We've stocked their tiny bodies up with echinacea, child's ibuprofen, and child's multi-vitamin. And prayer. Lots of prayer.

Three and a half more days here in sunny Arizona before hitting the worn out road towards Wyoming. Despite the ants and the feverish girls, I am really enjoying our roadtrip. Praise God!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Roadtrip views and the darn heart

Day four of week four of our humongous roadtrip.

Today we wake up to the mountains of Arizona outside our windows. They jut up into the sky, their peeks rocky and sharp. The Arizona residents rebel against day-light savings time so we are now three hours behind our "normal" time zone on the east coast. Since we've spent the last three weeks in the central time zone, our bodies acclimated to central time. I think moving one hour earlier into mountain time would have been easier than this huge jump to two hours behind central! I am praying, asking God for mercy as we stumble around, trying to get our bearings with this "new" 5am. {Darling children and the sun. They just feed off each other!!}

Saying good-bye to Texas was hard. I know, I know, all you non-Texans just don't get it; but those Texans out there... YOU KNOW! Texas draws her natives. The wide sky stretches on and on and beckons us. Oh, the country roads. Miles and miles of fields. Huge bales of hay scattered across rolling plains and herds of cattle along the roadside. Sigh. I love it. My country man has turned my heart into that of a country woman. I, too, long for home.

But, where is home? My heart also longs for the life God has given us in VA. A beautiful home that more than meets our space-needs. A church that loves us and meets our friend-needs. A job that feeds and clothes us. But where is our family? Our family is scattered across the USA, thousands of miles from each other. Virginia is where God has put us right now. I want to embrace that life, not long for the Texas life I imagine in my mind.

Today is day one of five days with Jason's parents. We have asked God to slow time down to a crawl. That each day would run like cold molasses, barely moving by us. We ask God to help us treasure every moment together because we know... That only God knows when He will bring us together again.

Those of you praying for us; please keep it up. We feel the presence of God. He is so faithful!!

revolutionary love

I have experienced revolutionary love. Love with no strings attached. Jesus Christ loves me and made a way for me to have a relationship with the One True God. God desires a relationship with you, too. If you have yet to experience this revolutionary love, please email me at so I can share this amazing experience with you. Blessings, -Jess