Friday, 14 May 2010

SURPRISE!

I'm home in Minnesota!

My baby brother's graduating salutatorian from High School at the end of the month and it was looking like there was no way I could be here for him until my mom decided to surprise EVERYONE and bring me home in secret!!

It was the longest journey home in my life. I left Gloucester where I'd been looking after my friends' kids for the week on Monday afternoon by bus, spent the evening in London, then took a bus out to Heathrow Airport about 11:30pm in order to get my early morning plane. After boarding the plane at 8:30, we were told that because of the volcanic ash from Iceland we would have to be rerouted around the cloud and because of the huge line-up of aircraft waiting to take the same route around, we would be grounded for at least 2 hours. I quickly texted my mother in the states to let her know of my later arrival so she could adjust whatever stories she was telling people to explain her trip to Minneapolis to pick me up from the airport without anyone knowing! The new route then added an hour and a half to our journey so by the time we landed in Toronto, Canada, I'd missed my connecting flight to Minneapolis and so had my second night in a row of wandering around an airport all night to contend with, pushing my surprise arrival back a day and extending my travel time to a span of Monday afternoon to Wednesday late morning!

But perhaps it made the surprise arrival all that much more exciting!

My mom picked me up at the airport and we headed straight to my sister's, stopping by her hubby's work for a hug hello since it was on the way. When we arrived at Hannah's house, Mom went in just as she normally would, and I snuck up to their living room window and started singing loudly a lullabye I've always sung to my nieces ever since the first one was tiny :) I couldn't get through the first 2 lines before my sister and 5 year old niece were running out the front door exclaiming, "Auntie Leah's here!" Emmy (3 years old) was so enamored that when the travel-weary, jet-lagged and exhausted auntie asked if she could have her first shower in days, she said, "I'm going to come with you and watch!" hehe :)

video

Oh, I cannot tell you how precious their cuddles are to this very doting auntie!!!


Mom and I then drove the rest of the way back up home and she made sly phone calls trying to suss out where everyone was and how we might surprise them. We discovered my older brother Josh was going out for dinner with his family and we actually met them on the road driving in to the restaurant so we pulled up beside them and I waved nonchalantly as if there was nothing out of the ordinary about my riding in a car in Northern MN :) They quickly pulled my little nephew Tucker out of his carseat and I had my first cuddle since I first met him when he was 4 months old! He is like a whole different person to me now at 1! But we're fast friends again :)


As we were standing around in the parking lot, me cuddling my little man again, my dad just happened to drive by and look over to see his family in that parking lot and me amongst them! He quickly pulled in and got a hug and started masterminding how we would surprise Jonah-- the main reason for my home-coming this time. He called him into town to "help him with something" and told him to meet him at Dairy Queen where he was getting a bite to eat, promising him a DQ blizzard when he got there. Then he, Mom, and I headed over to the DQ to wait. Jonah really didn't want to come. Haha. Not even with the offer of his favourite ice cream treat. So dad changed tactics and told him he'd run into someone from our old town whom he wanted Jonah to meet. Meanwhile, I hid in the bathroom. Then, once Jonah was sitting down at the table with Mom and Dad with his back to me, Dad rang me and I came out of the bathroom to sneak up behind him and throw my arms around his neck! Goodness, I love this kid...


We rang my other brother Caleb and his wife Danie. He's stationed in Missouri at the moment and Danie's making their home in Kansas. We'll be visiting them just before I return to Europe!

One of the best ones was surprising my mom's parents. They came up on Friday for Abby's 5th birthday party here on the ranch. My mom had this very specific image of Hannah, Jonah, and I sitting around the kitchen table playing cards when they got in (my grandparents have taught us to play cardgames with them since we were little kids!), but we didn't know when they would get in and couldn't coordinate all of our schedules to get it just right. When they did arrive, I just HAPPENED to have gone upstairs for a moment. My mom quickly ran up and ushered me out of the house behind their backs and sent me into town. Haha. She thought that Hannah and the kids and Grandma and Grandpa and she would go join me at the tennis courts where Jonah was having a match. But by the time I got there, the match was finished and Jonah was on his way home! So, we changed tactics. Jonah and I came home, I snuck in while they were saying their hellos, and Hannah called G&G up to the kitchen for a game of cards. I slipped in to a seat beside her and Jonah joined us, so we were all posed when Grandma got up to the kitchen. She saw me from the living room and asked who that girl was, and as she got closer asked, "Well, what's going on?!" with a smile. Grandpa took longer, but as he took the few steps up to the kitchen, his eyes met my big smile and his face was PRICELESS. Just wide-eyed shock that stopped him in his tracks :) Oh Grandpa! As I hugged them and said, "Surprise!" he asked, "Are you home for good this time?" and said that he prays everyday I'll come home... Oh dear... Probably slightly counter-productive. But his protectiveness is heart-warming nonetheless.

I've been home to celebrate my niece Abby's birthday for the first time since she's been alive. She turned 5 on May 13th and we celebrated with a birthday party on the ranch this weekend!

And it is very precious to have time with the family and back on the ranch in the summer sun :) The Lord is whispering many things to my heart. And I am here trying to hold my arms wide open and not let them close too tightly around any of it, but just be thankful for it while I'm here!

Know this Love; love this Lover...
Leah

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

A Special Wedding and A Special Week

I'm writing this post from back in my lovely England. In Gloucester, in fact, my English 'hometown'. I haven't really the words to explain how good it is to be 'home.' I feel like I'm more fully myself here amongst these friends who are like family from all over the world. My heart just comes alive with love and compassion as I soak His presence in through the presence of my friends.

And my friend Ali's wedding was such a blessing to be involved in. I arrived in Gloucester Thursday and hit the ground running as we prepared for the Hen Do (like a Bridal shower/bachelorette party) and the wedding, being one of the Bride's 2 right-hand-ladies. (My 'official' title, as she said in the reception speech, was "the Best Woman's Best Woman"-- my friend Abbie was her Best Woman/Matron of Honour). I was so blessed to be asked to be so closely involved-- doing everything from last minute shopping with the bride, to decorating our college for the reception, to singing on the wedding worship team, to doing the bridesmaids hair and getting them dressed on the big day!

This wedding was incredibly encouraging to me because my friendship with Ali was born out of a desperately difficult time when her husband, whom I went to college with, left her and their 3 girls nearly 3 years ago. I have stood beside this incredible woman through the deepest darkest pits of brokenness, and my heart has broken for her and her beautiful girls again and again as they have sought the Lord for how to climb out of that pit. Seeing Andy take vows to love and support all 4 of them (he literally said vows to the 3 girls after saying them to their mum... I definitely cried) was like witnessing a beautiful healing and restoration from our faithful God right before my eyes. They ended the service by showing a slideshow of photos of their new family frolicking about together and my heart could have soared with joy for them. These are precious precious people... And I am so blessed to know them and be a part of their lives!

And it was blissfully fun to let loose with friends at the reception at college after, dancing and laughing the night away. Oh God, You are TOO good to me!

(The whole wedding party and the vicar overlooking the signing of the register)

(Leading worship at the wedding with my lovely friends reunited to form a worship team! Love it!)

(Marge, Abbie, and Amanda-- precious college friends for life-- raising the roof to 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun' at the 'disco' after the reception)


The next day, after bride and groom had long since disappeared, 4 of us cleaned up the college together, went out for lunch and reminisced, and then went back to college and curled up under a warm duvet all together on a cold, damp, English afternoon as we continued to catch up and enjoy one anothers' company. Goodness, I am blessed blessed blessed by the friendships the Lord has woven into my life, where I can just be myself... and randomly instigate big bed parties. (The Lord uses these people to show me what it's like to be comfortable in my own skin.)


And now I am continuing this journey of blessing in serving that the Lord has me on by keeping house and home for Ali while she's away on honeymoon! I'm playing mum to her 3 lovely girls, ages 15, 13, and 11. I feel so honoured to be given such responsibility and trust. I was quite nervous about it a few weeks ago as I may know the mum very well, but hardly knew the children. And I realize this is a rather emotional time for them, seeing their mom remarried. Would I have what it takes to be what they need in their lives for these 10 days?

I felt like I got my answer to that at the wedding reception only a few days into my time here when the middle daughter, Abi, came up to me out of the blue, wrapped her slender arms around my neck and said only, "Thank you, Leah." I hugged her back and asked, "You're so welcome, sweetie! But... what for??" She laughed a little and said, "I don't know. Just for being you."

My heart sighed a prayer of thanks to our beautiful God. This week is going to be MORE than okay.

And I'm breathing in and out His blessings in my England :)
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