Sunday, August 20, 2017

People...What Is The Perfect Gift?

It's really difficult in a marriage like ours to surprise each other. We share bank accounts, look at each other's phone, grab keys out of and dig through each other's bags to grab things for the other one.  We trade off which car we drive, dump paperwork on the same desk and share kids. So, when I opened the doors to our church fellowship hall, I kind of knew there was a party.  For me.

What I didn't know was exactly who was in the room or what was in store.  My husband did this. And he did it well.

I couldn't look at them all at once... so many faces as I scanned table to table and I was overwhelmed with the most beautiful gift.   Friends.  Family.  Old and Young.  People who I see daily, weekly, monthly and some not nearly as often as I would like.

My niece and nephew from North Carolina- and their four kids first caught my eye.  I later learned they drove in for the party and had to drive back home the same night.  Owen, my great-nephew pulled one of his own treasures- a tiny silver heart - out of his pocket and handed it to me.  And, a big hug.  His sisters, Audrey and Norah both gave me hugs.  Ella, I didn't even try but she didn't cry so we are calling it a win.  Y'all, how cool is that?

Before I could make my way around the room, I was summoned to the front for This Is Your Life aka the Kelly and Karen show.

I sat down and listened as they read letters that my mom, step dad  and a favorite school teacher, Mrs. Shelton had written.  I watched as video played packed full of pictures from the last fifty years.

And then, the surprises began.

First, my Daddy, step mom Barbara, my baby brother, his girlfriend Rachel and my niece Erin came from around the corner.  They had drove from Tennessee to surprise me for the party.  My sister also drove in from NC.  She wasn't a big surprise, I think she may be a little bitter about that, but we all know I'd been more surprised if I hadn't seen her face when I walked in, then if she had hidden behind the corner.  She's just always there when it counts.  Both my parents, my stepparents and my siblings in one place.  Together.  What a gift.

hugging my Daddy

They asked me about the year 2000 and mentioned my special friend from that time frame.  I first guessed Matlock.  (long story,  you can ask me sometime)  Then they asked me to close my eyes and they played a tape from that friend- about four words in and I knew.  I knew that voice.  The accent. The sweet sound of my friend, Shanna.  And I knew she was around the corner.  She had to be.  And she was.  

Me & Shanna.
Biggest Surprise EVER!  

The show segmented my life  - babies.  I do love rocking me some babies.  My friends.  My children. And my husband.  Oh, that man!  The pictures of our hills and valleys flashed on the screen while Vince Gill's Me and You played over the speaker.  I was overcome with gratitude of God's love for me- when he placed Rex in my life.  How blessed we've been to love each other.

Every so often they'd ask me a question and I wasn't sure how much of an answer to give. But when they asked exactly what it was that has sustained me through life. That answer I had no problem with.  God, and the people he has put in my life to journey with me.

While I was showered with more kindness and gifts than I deserve, I saw the faces of people that I wouldn't trade all the money in the world for. I can't possibly list everyone in that room without forgetting someone, because, I am 50 y'all; but if you were there it wasn't a random invite.  It's because my sweet husband knew what the perfect gift for my birthday is... and that is you.

Of course we ate cake.  

And then we packed it up and took it home. I woke up the next morning thinking it might have been a dream. But it was real. My front porch was full of my people. We drank coffee in our PJ's and rushed to breakfast for 19 without makeup or showers.  

Daddy with almost all of his grand and great grands. 
Daddy and his kids. 

Jim, Shanna, Rex and Me, Jay & Teri
Visiting the Roanoke Star after dinner 

Me & Shanna at Blue Cow Ice Cream
Distance can't change a friendship like ours 

It took a few days for me to take in all the details that went into the night, a few days to grasp all the work and planning-  flowers, jeans, shoes and purses- my man knows me.  You need to know that  I do not take for granted the sacrifices made by everyone who attended. 

Thank you Rex for planning the perfect party and thank you to everyone who helped him pull it off! 

Mostly, thank you for being my people! 

Happy Sunday y'all! 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Kendall Grace, 5 looks good on you!


Wow!  Baby girl, (I wonder how long I can get away with calling you that) I can hardly believe you are five.  I know adults always say that about the little people in their life, but it really is true.

It was so fun calling you on your birthday (August 4) and actually talking to you on the phone.  You have lots of words, but use them selectively these days.

When I hung up the phone, I started thinking about some of the things that make you so special.

You, sweet girl made a me a grandmother the day you were born; I didn't know it until months later.  I love that about God, and how he brought our family together.  Bits and pieces fit together perfectly. That's kind of the way it is in His family.  Surprises come along and we don't even realize what a wonderful gift they are until much later.

You are a wonderful gift to our family and we sure do love you.

What a fun and magical age five is.  Starting kindergarten, learning to be a little more independent. Life is moving in a whole new direction now that you're starting school and making friends. I'm looking forward to the year coming up for you, so many exciting things ahead- things you will learn, things you will try for the first time,  people you will meet- might even find your best friend for life in school this year.

I'm proud of you for the little girl that you are.  I love that you love Jesus and have a heart for him, and that you love going to church with me.  I even love the insecurities in you too, your tender heart and even seeing you cry. You are one tough little girl and you held your tears for a long time.  I'm glad you feel safe enough to cry and be afraid and need comforting from us.

I especially see it when you come home after being away from your mom and dad.  You are a little uneasy, unsure and I see you looking back to her for your comfort, support and reassurance that it's okay.  I pray that you always do that- that you always find your way home for comfort and support when you are unsure about what life hands you.

Kendall,  you are one of the best things that happened to your mom and to us and we are just so grateful that you are a part of our family.  That's a gift that we got.

But you aren't all insecure- you can be determined and driven when you need to be.  You knew what you wanted for this birthday, you made your list and made sure it was stuck on my refrigerator months before your birthday.  We referred to it often over the last several months- I guess we will have to start on a Christmas list next, won't we?

You often pretend to be a kitty cat, mostly when you're unsure about a situation or upset after being gone from home but it is often you walk into a room with your little kitty cat hands.  So this birthday, it seemed right to play along.

I know that one day I'm gonna miss your little kitty cat hands- and the little girl who always wants to be next to me when I'm baking in the kitchen or  watering the flowers and putting on makeup.  And girl, you can talk an ear off when we are in the car riding around.  I feel like you trust me with your secrets, and I sure do like that.

We had so much fun bouncing in the Barbie Birthday Bounce house- where you told me some pretty important things like:

your favorite thing to eat - Cereal
your favorite cereal is Cocoa Puffs
your favorite thing to do for fun is going to the mall
you like to shop where the bunk beds are (huh, maybe your momma knows where this is)
your favorite toys are balls
you're afraid of sponges that come alive, you saw that in a movie you watched
your favorite TV show - Haunted House
your favorite color is purple
and your favorite dessert is cake and brownies

You will grow up one day and will forget about sponges that come alive, shop at more exciting places than where they have bunk beds, will eat more than just cereal for dinner and won't care about many of these little things.  But,  I hope they are a great memory for you just as they are for me.

So, happy 5th birthday Kendall Grace.

Your Pappy and I want to make sure you know what an important part of our lives you are.  We love you so much! And you can always come home here!

Grammie, aka

Sunday, April 30, 2017

He builds things.

The son. 

Come close, I have a story to tell.

The setting was an old two-story house in Southeast Roanoke.  The year was 1995.  The characters, a Mom, Dad and newborn baby boy.  The arrival of this baby had been prayed over for years and years- joyous doesn't begin to describe how they felt bringing the firstborn son home.

He was their most precious gift.

From the first time she held him, she noticed his hands.  So tiny, yet big and strong.  She studied how he curled his fingers when he slept and grabbed things early on.  Lots of things.  He wanted to hold it all.  This mom loved holding his tiny hands and often wondered while rocking him close at night, just what those hands would do one day.

And like all of our kiddos do, he grew. As he grew his fingers grew into manhood and curved a bit, much like his Papaw Hersey's. He was usually tinkering with something- stripping the bark from a tree, making handmade flower boxes, bird feeders, a Mother's Day shelf as a gift, walking sticks and so on.  Creative and resourceful he was.

But no matter how big his hands grew those fingers still curled when he slept, which brought the Mom and Dad great joy.

And lest you think the boy child was made of perfection, he wasn't. His parents had their fair share of dealing with his choices that didn't meet their approval.  They went along with some of his plans praying that cheering him on would get a better result than disapproval and judgement.  Even tho, that cheering was met with judgement and sadness.  Life has a way of dishing out natural consequences - which was enough for this boy and better than anything his parents could dream  up.

People who knew this boy joked that he was born a man- so anxious to be an adult.  So anxious to conquer the world.  So anxious to just do. Whatever it would be, he was born ready to do it.  Despite his parents pleas to just slow down, he kept moving.  He went down a couple of paths that lead him back to a starting point through all of them he seemed happiest when his hands were busy.
his most important building project

While he was figuring all this out, he started building things. Things that will last much longer than wooden flower boxes - like a family.  Some say he rushed that too. Taking a wife and a daughter on the same day at only 19 years old. He had watched adoption and unconditional love play out through the chapters of his life so he said I will with confidence and courage.  And, while adulting wasn't as easy as he might have thought, he understood that from then on, whatever he did as a man would impact the wife and now two little girls who called him Daddy.

His path already had several stops like Ntelos, Universal Technical Institute, Orkin, and other jobs in between to keep a paycheck coming in.  Figuring out is hard y'all.

And seemingly out of nowhere, that stop behind the curve came and he obeyed his Lord and took a year to build other things of eternal value.  His own mom and dad wondered if it was the right thing.

It looked different than anything any might have expected.

Actually, it looked like a man with his own life stepping back into the lives of two little boys who just happened to be his little brothers. If you were looking in from the outside it looked a little crazy. Why would one who was finally free from chaos come back?

Because he builds things.

He was building them.  What looked like him just watching his little brothers, taking them to appointments, playing basketball on a Tuesday morning between math facts and history podcasts, forcing them to bathe and use nice words- was more than that.  It looked like throwing pencils. Actually, there was a lot of pencil throwing.  It looked like him teaching them how to figure fractions while measuring boards, how to grow food by planting a garden and taking care of your body by visits to the gym and soaking in truth from the Bible and others who have testimonies too big not to share.  It looked like all of that but it was so much more.

His mom would be perfectly content to keep things just like they were. It was a beautiful thing being built before her eyes.  But she knew God doesn't just drop us at our final destination- instead He gives us a path to walk and sprinkles it with different stops along the way.

The last year was just a stop and this family knew it was time to keep walking.  In faith.  Is there any other way?  It has to be faith over fear- because God is bigger- even when we can't see the next stop around the curves.

And while that boy now man was building his family and his brothers people couldn't help but notice he was building other things too.

Day or night, if there's a job to do he doesn't stop until it's done 
That boy's Momma- she had been wanting a farmhouse table.  Their family often invited people into their home to eat and hangout, it's just what they did and they loved it so.  But they needed more space- space to put forks and meatloaf, a lit candle, play cards and sit baby girls for important conversations.

So the mom asked the son if he would build a table.  She knew he could.  They piled up the family car with lumber from Lowes- turned their front porch into his workshop and days later... he did what she knew he would.

Custom farmhouse table the son built
March 2017 

The son was asked what is it about building things that he liked,  his reply:

"I enjoy carpentry because I love taking boards that are plain and ugly and turning them into something useful and beautiful, revealing the potential in them.  Unlike life where you don't ever know what you're gonna get each day, carpentry is absolute and exact- the boards either fit together or they don't.  If they don't you just go back to the saw and shave them off a bit. Bringing the beauty out in things whether it' is building a table, installing a floor or painting a room- seeing things change in a positive way brings joy to my life."

You've probably figured out the story is about us. The boy- he just turned 22 on Wednesday and like his Mom and Dad prayed that he would, he stepped out in faith and is walking his own path. Tomorrow he starts a new job working for a construction company- using those hands to build material things.

More importantly, he keeps building eternal things, his beautiful family and their lives on the foundation of God's truth. What more could a parent ask for --- except that he not drink alcohol and stop with the tattoos and get out of the house more and.... oops.  That's another story.

Come close, friends, I have a story to tell.  Faith doesn't make things easy- but it sure makes the impossible possible. We might not all be good with a hammer or able to whip up a table on our Momma's whim, but all of us can build on the cornerstone.

Ephesians 2:20 - Jesus Christ himself, being the chief cornerstone. Go build something beautiful.

My son, Shayne and his beautiful wife Emily and daughters Kendall & Penelope
Easter 2017 

Shayne- you just keep at it son.  You're building some pretty amazing things and making your dad and I proud- but not nearly as proud as your God Daddy for leading your family in faith.

Happy Sunday y'all!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Great Nerf Gun War of 2017, aka The Birthdays.

I can hardly believe another year has gone by and it's birthday week for my three sons.  Some days drag on and on and we wonder if they will ever end yet we find time flying by.

We usually do birthday parties at home but with me traveling so much for work it was a no-brainer to "go somewhere" for Elijah and Isaiah's party this year.

A friend suggested a place we could rent where they would set up obstacles for Nerf gun wars.  I have three sons so Nerf guns are in abundance at 2946, so much so that we have a rule about them...

...guns are for upstairs or outside and never shoot mommy

It was the perfect plan.  I scheduled the gym, sent out the invites and ordered their cakes.

Last Saturday, smack in the middle of their actual birthdays, we partied.  Almost everyone they invited to the party was able to come- which was a first for my boys.   The joy on their faces throughout the day, brought joy to mine.

Thankful for all these people who made their day special 
Isaiah with a few hundred guns to choose from 
Getting ready to go to war 
Who is bigger, Elijah or the gun? 
It was so fun, Momma had to get in on the action 
Isaiah reloading 
Blowing out their candles

Rex, Elijah (12), Me and Isaiah (11) 

These two boys keep life exciting and fun.  They both get worked up in the car when it rains and want me to drive through the big puddles on the side of the road.  I do.  And sometimes, I turn around and drive through them again, because- it's the simple things.  Their laughter and comments when the puddles spray their windows is way more fun than when they were terrified to even be in the car during a downpour.

Wrestle Mania in the living room, frog hunting in the creek and Basketball battles in the driveway are common occurrences.  

Elijah is doing great with his drums.  He takes lessons once-twice a week and plays in the youth worship band at church.  He has a memory like an elephant, unless it's math related.  He has always been loving; but he includes me in that now, which I cherish.  He enjoys dressing up and tucking his shirts in, wearing a belt and takes much pride in his "poofy" hair.  Star Wars, X-Box and arguing with us are a few of his favorite things.  He is so handsome, he slays me with that smile. He is starting to take an interest in cooking and his latest thing is making me coffee.  I'm raising 'em right, y'all.

Isaiah is my baby and the fact I probably shouldn't call him that anymore makes me sad.  He is our artist and draws really well but when you look into the eyes of his drawings, you can feel what you see.  He doesn't like being alone unless he's overwhelmed with life.  Then he wants to be left alone but not alone.  Difficult to figure out, yep.  He has started eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and decided Cinnamon Toast Crunch is his go-to cereal, so at least he is adding to his diet.  Ha Ha! His new favorite hobby is "whittling" sticks and he will sit outside and work at it for hours. He prefers outside, but not alone.  His laugh or smile hasn't changed since I first laid eyes on his cute little face and both will light up a room.

Elijah, Kendall, Isaiah & Penelope

As much as these two fight, like brothers do, they love hard.  And not just each other, they love their nieces with a pure, sweet and protective love that is an amazing thing to watch. Yes, they have a little jealousy going on, it's hard sharing your Momma and Daddy with your nieces but at the end of they want to know if Penelope and Kendall are coming over.  And the girls- well, one of their most asked questions is...where's the boys?

Watching the pure love between the four of them is one of life's greatest blessings right now.

Happy Birthday Elijah and Isaiah! We love you big!

Your Daddy & I are so thankful for all that you are both teaching us and learning for yourselves as you grow into young men.  We can't wait to see what God has planned for your future.  With Him on your side, you can do great things!

Go grab yourself a Nerf gun and start a war.  The laughter does a soul good like a medicine, even if it isn't upstairs or outside!

Happy Tuesday y'all,

Friday, April 14, 2017

How's your hope?

Well hello there.

Have you been wondering if I quit blogging?  I know it has been a while.  But I haven't quit.

Actually, I've got some exciting news to share soon about some new opportunities coming and there is a lot of thoughts swirling in my head that will eventually make it to the world wide web.

For now, I'm doing some guest blogging and for Good Friday I'm over @allmomdoes for their devotional series focusing hope.

Check out WHEN THE END ISN'T and find some hope and encouragement for your own heart this Easter weekend.

For each day in April the devotions focus on ways to rekindle hope.  If you know me at all, you know that HOPE is one of my favorite God gifts.

So, I hope you will set your bookmark for their site and get in on some good stuff.

Happy Easter y'all,

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Miss P celebrates Two!

Dear Penelope,

It was a cold, snowy day two years ago when you were born, so today when we woke to snow and super cold, it somehow made it perfect.  Except for the weather keeping several from being able to make it to your party.

Last year, you were so sick on your birthday.  Your mommy had pneumonia and generally everybody had some sort of crud.  So, we definitely prefer the snow over sickness.
First snow of January 2017 

You are a tiny but mighty little princess.  One of my new favorite things is your little Pebble's hair.  Your Daddy hates it, but he has lost the battle to cuteness.  

Princess Penelope

In many ways you're a typical two year old.  You are starting to show some sass and make your opinions known.  Still tiny but definitely moving from baby to toddler.

Already, we can see that you are your own special person.  Here are a few of our favorite things that make you- you!

Your have the cutest voice. We enjoy hearing you say Daddy- it first came out sounding something like D-a-d-l-e-d-y.

When you want our attention you yell "hey, hey" and then when you get it, you get your face close to ours and whisper.  We still can't understand most of what you say but it's clear that you like a lot of L's and it is so stinking sweet.

You might be the youngest Foodie ever.  "Eat, eat" is one of your favorite phrases and one of your favorite things to do.  It doesn't matter when you were last fed your stomach resets to empty as soon as you walk in my door.  You like most anything but some of your favorites are:
  • tomatoes
  • chips
  • eggs
  • grilled cheese 
  • salad (go figure)
  • the pureed fruit pouches 
  • anything on my plate
  • and any Little Debbie cake you can find in Grammie & Pappy's pantry

    Got food?

You are such a happy toddler- even when you're under the weather, you usually smile through it.  It's a joy to watch you nurture and care for your own little baby.

No means yes.  At least when you are answering questions. And the way you say "I don't know" is so cute I might ask you off the wall questions just to hear you say that.   

We bought you a potty a few months ago when you went through an early potty training phase.  I pee was announced each time you trotted to the bathroom and pulled off your own diaper.  Your timing and judgement was a bit lacking so we were relieved when you settled back into diapers for a bit. With that said, you still like to announce "I pooped" and most of the time you have.

Your uncles think you are amazing. Elijah says you are smart because you are learning to say big words.  We all get a kick when you talk about deedle-dees.  I imagine one day this tidbit of information will be used to torment you over dinner conversations with your friends.  

You've learned to play the game making you a true Allen.  What game you ask?  The one where we ask "whose girl are you"  fully expecting you to answer me like you have been coached a bazillion but instead you offer the name of anyone other than the person asking the question. Most often you say you Mauwm.  I guess that's only fair since she has to hear more than she would like about how you look and act just like your Daddy.

Kendall, Emily, Penelope & Shayne 

Penelope Ryan Allen, 01.07.17

Penelope Ryan, you light up the room with your sweet disposition.  You are starting to smile more often and will even sometimes smile on demand.  Your Uncle Isaiah got it right when he said simply, you're just so cute! 

You already get embarrassed and crack us up when you go all statue on us- find a spot and stand perfectly still, slightly turn your head to the side, stare at the floor and pretend that we can't see you. 

Your Pappy and I hope you never stop crying to stay with us when your Mommy and Daddy say it's time to go.  

It's even okay that you have started to call me MeMe and Rex Poppa.  We aren't sure if it's because Grammie and Pappy are hard to say or if you just didn't like those names for us and are proving you have a mind of your own.  Either way, we promise to always be there for you and answer when and whatever you call us!

Me, Penelope and Rex
Can't get enough of her kisses

Rest up sweet girl, there is so much ahead for you.  And when you're ready remember... 

The Lord your God is living among you.  He is a mighty savior.  He will take delight in your with gladness.  With his love, he will calm all your fears.  He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.
-Zephaniah 3:17 

Happy Second Birthday Penelope, we couldn't love you any more!
aka Grammie, MeMe, Pappy & Poppa
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