Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Clare Got Married!

I was waiting until I could find a pic of Clare and myself before I posted to my blog, but there isn't one yet.  That's what I get for not taking my camera.  The point is that Clare and Mat got married, Mat moved out, and all I got was a huge bruise on my foot. Just kidding, I also got some good booze too.  Okay, okay and the opportunity to be part of something so amazing only God himself could pull it off.  Seriously.

I vividly remember chatting with Clare on the way back from Georgia (if you read my blog, you know what trip I am referring too, end of April 08).  She was telling me about this guy she'd met online.  Now I've always been quite skeptical on the online dating thing, but in this case, I'll let it pass.  Mat is such a great guy, and absolutely 100% in love with one of my best friends. 

Last August, Mat moved in with us and became a part of our family.  It's been weird not having him trample up and down the stairs the last couple of days.  Clare, of course, was already part of the family.  My kids call her Aunt Clare, even though it's against my husband's will. 

The wedding itself was beautiful, in all that it symbolized as well.  Of course about 5 seconds after I arrived, I stepped on a stilleto heel and severely bruised my foot...nothing a liitle ice, ibuprofen, and booze couldn't solve.  Actually wearing heels made it easier considering the bruise was in the arch of my foot. 

Mat didn't cry, but it didn't matter. I still couldn't hold back.  Thankfully, TJ broke the sappiness by tweeting a picture of the nuptuals from her unique perspective.  Really, it wouldn't be a Mat & Clare wedding without twitter.  But still, when Mat said his vows, not only to Clare, but to Reese too, I lost it...completely humbled by the display of grace at that altar.  God was moving in that place.(And Mat & Clare were moving in different ways a little later).

All in all, despite the mishap with my foot, it was a fantastic event.  I knew you all would like the pic.  As soon as I get a pic of the bride and myself, I'll post it here. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Much Needed Date

Yes, I went on a date tonight, with a charming man.  Of course he happens to be my husband, but everyone needs to date, especially after marriage.  I think it's so easy to forget that.  We get busy, especially with three kids pulling us in every which direction, and when we finally remember, we have to nail down a babysitter, come up with a plan, and spend the afternoon prepping the kids and the house to be gone.  And I wonder why we don't get out much.

But tonight, thanks to our wonderful friends, Joyce and Tim, we were able to escape.  And even if it was for just a couple of hours, it was worth it, refreshing, exciting.  I was reminded of why I married this man, why I devote my heart to him, why I spent the last 4 years of my life multiplying out our lives by having 3 beautiful children.  No matter how stressful and cluttered life gets, it's important to invest in the people around us, and for me, the most important relationship in my life (aside from my relationship with God) is my husband, Neil.

We spent our evening in Ellicott City, a quaint little town that sadly seems to shut down at like 5 pm.  In fact, we found ourselves dining at the EC Brewing Company.  Beer was good.  Food was okay, probably not a great value over all, but the conversation made up for it (oh and the beer was good).  Then we strolled up and down (literally) Frederick Ave window shopping (since the stores all close so stinkin' early...I said that already, didn't I?)  Actually we were in search of a place to have dessert.  Well, he wanted dessert, I wanted coffee.  We ended up at a little cafe called Bean Hollow where he got this chocolately croissant thing (as close to Baklava as he could get) and I got Cafe Au Lait, which I forgot to order decaf.  Yep, I'll pay for that later.

After dessert, we walked to the bridge, which crosses over the Patapsco River and talked about everything from life passions to parenthood to sex.  Neil might not be a man of many words, but he does listen. And lately I feel like my life has been on fast forward, it was nice to slow down for a bit and process, to connect the dots a bit.  One of the attributes that annoys me the most and yet draws me in all at the same time is Neil's wisdom.  It might take him forever to make a decision, as opposed to my split second reactions, but when he makes it, I can trust that it will be the absolute best decision for that situation.  Sometimes I get so focused on the annoying part, the waiting, that I forget to trust the process.

All in all, a good date, and one that was very much needed.

Monday, September 21, 2009

My Poor Atlanta, Home Wet Home

I had no idea that the flooding was this bad in Atlanta, and especially out in the areas where I grew up. It's almost surreal to look at the picture above and think, "I've driven on that interstate a million times."  I can't imagine it being underwater.  And what about all those cars just sitting there at the edge of this lake.  Did they just get out and walk home?

Honestly, I must be lost in some sort of alternate reality.  Literally I had no idea it was even raining there.  Heck, it's been beautiful here the last few days.  I guess I should call my sister in the morning just to make sure things are okay on her end.  From what I've seen, my family and friends are safe over there in Marietta, though I'm sure they're starting to question whether or not they should build an ark.

I'm praying for you guys.  And I'm telling my Maryland peeps to life you up as well (Did y'all here that?)    

I think tomorrow we might change our lesson a little and talk about Noah.  Owen loves Noah.  He wonders why we can't live on a boat.  Maybe I should suggest to Neil that we move back to Atlanta and buy a house boat.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

God, What are you doing?

A few months ago, my pastor, TJ, told me to pray, "God, what are you doing?"  As opposed to always asking why, this way I'm asking God to reveal His plan.

Sometimes I just have to sit back and watch.  What else can I do?  Right now, I feel like my life is on autopilot, or God-pilot.  I'm not sure even how to explain it.  If you had asked me two weeks ago if I would be where I am today, I would have thought you were crazy.  Then again, you might actually be crazy, so there you go.

Regardless, it's crazy.  Two weeks ago, or a little more than, I was a mom and a camp director.  I had very little time left over for anything else, including play group, politics or neighborhood associations.  When I "resigned" from camp, it was almost as if I was walking down a path in the woods and suddenly it opened up into a large, beautiful, open meadow, a clearing per say.  The box shattered into a million pieces.  Suddenly, I'm not sure what the future holds, but I'm absolutely positive that the Lord is all up in it.

First, there is More than Moms.  Wow did that take off?  I never realized there was such a need for an organized, community like group until I created it.  There are some hungry moms out there, and I am one of them.

Then there is politics, something I've struggled with for a long time.  Finally, I felt the freedom to throw in my hat (not that I actually wear one), and I've found the doors opening left and right.  I'm able to write, which is super fun, for the local Republican blog.  I'm planning events for candidates...okay, just one for now.

And now there is the neighborhood association.  I know, I know.  I said I would only do one, either politics or the association, but as long as it doesn't interfere in my priorities, why can't I do it all.  Wait a second, Hillary, I thought you were frustrated with the board.  I was, I am, but in a conversation with the seated president this afternoon, I found that I can actually have more of an impact on the neighborhood if I'm part of the board.  Plus, it helps that Susan asked me to run for Vice President (not that it's a competitive election or anything).  I talked it over with Neil and we decided it was a good idea.  You know I'm always full of ideas and this way, I actually have a forum to voice some of those ideas (and even the power to implement some).

Still not sure what God is doing, but I have a strong feeling that all of these things are connected.  One day I'll look back and go "ooooohhhh, now I get it."  Until then, I'm simply going to enjoy the ride.  It always makes me feel good to know that my God-given talents are being put to use.  I guess one could say I like to be used.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Leaning to One Side

I have to say I'm pretty stoked right now, and definitely leaning towards local politics versus the community association.  Why?  Well, I haven't met with our association president.  I will do that on Sunday, but nothing invigorates me more (save my family and my faith) then being able to have a direct impact on the world around me.  Two things I absolutely love to do; write and plan events (the programmer in me), and through the local Republican scene, I now get to do both.

I told you how I was asked to blog on the PVRC (Patapso Valley Republican Club) Blog.  Since Monday, I've popped out 10 or so posts and am loving every second.  Actually on Tuesday, we broke an all time site visit record.  Yay! I'd like to think they're coming to read my stuff, but really, I chalk it up to mere activity.  Regardless, I get to put my opinion out there as well as bring awareness to some issues going on in Catonville, Baltimore County, Maryland, and even on the national front.  I could so do this whole blogging thing full time.  Too bad people don't pay you for that.

Today, Steve Whisler, candidate for Baltimore County Council, asked me to help plan his "coming out" event.  On October 19, he's going to officially announce his candidacy and I have the unique privilege of helping to plan the event.  I'm so excited, I feel like I'm stumbling over my words.  Can you see why I'm leaning in this direction?

I'm not sure that the Oak Crest Association can top it.  I'm not sure what I can do there that will really make an impact.  But we'll see what comes out of my meeting on Sunday.  Maybe there is a way to stay involved with Oak Crest while turning my attention to More than Moms and local politics. I don't know, what do you think?

Buy Yourself a Big Tree

Thank you Steve Whisler, Candidate for Baltimore County Council, District 1, and Michelle Mazzocco of Catonsville Voices for the heads up. Maybe now we can replace the huge oak taken down this summer. Don't worry, it was dead! See!

Overstock of Big Trees from the County's Reforestation Nursery will be for sale on Saturday, September 26 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Oregon Ridge Park, Lodge Area (while supplies last). Big Trees are familiar native shade trees, such as oaks, ash and pine. They need more room to grow and take longer to mature, but they provide greater and longer-lasting benefits to homeowners when properly sited. Big Trees add value to your property, provide shade, soak up excess rain water, and provide habitat for forest birds. Trees are 1" caliper, or 3-7' in height; clearance prices range from $20 -$35. Sale is sponsored by DEPRM.  Read the attached Species List and flyer and bring your neighbors to the sale event!

Native Big Tree Species Descriptions and Habitat Requirements

Chestnut Oak

(Quercus Prinus) One of the most distinctive features of this beautiful oak is the vertical pattern of thick raised plates and deep furrows on the dark brown bark of the trunk, which becomes more prominent with age. The species, which can reach 80 to 90 ft. tall in the wild, thrives in dry, rocky soils, but also does quite well in ordinary garden soils with good drainage. This major forest tree is typically not offered outside the forest nursery trade.

Green Ash

(Fraxinus pennsylvanica) A graceful, fast growing (2-3 ft./yr) shade tree reaching a height of 50 to 60 feet. Leaves, dark green in summer, turn yellow in fall. Prefers moist bottomlands, stream banks, and sunny uplands. Once established, it tolerates high acidity, salt, drought, and sterile soils.

Northern Red Oak

(Quercus rubra) A handsome large (ht 60-80’ w 40-50’) symmetrical fast growing shade tree with heavy ascending branches and dense dark green foliage turning deep brilliant maroon-red in fall. A heavy crop of acorns produced every 2-5 years provides food for a variety of wildlife. Prefers deep moist well drained acid soils (loamy, sandy, rocky or clay) and slopes facing north or east, but tolerates a wide range of growing conditions. Transplants easily and should be pruned when dormant. With adequate space, it is a good choice for open space urban plantings. It is tolerant of pollution, soil compaction, and salt.

Pin Oak

(Quercus palustris) Moderate to fast growing, straight-trunked and symmetrical, this stately tree grows to 50-80’. Lustrous dark green leaves turn russet, bronze or scarlet in the fall. Prefers rich loamy, well drained soil, pH 5.5 to 6.6, and sun to part shade. Thrives in the small spaces typical of urban landscapes. Tolerates polluted environmental conditions.


(Cercis canadensis) Whether planted alone, in a clump or border, or a naturalized setting, redbud is a striking small tree (H: 20-30’ W: 25-35’). The trunk often divides close to the ground; branches ascend, gracefully spreading, and are lined with outstanding purple/pink blossoms for 2- 3 weeks in April. Heart-shaped leaves are green in summer, yellow in fall. Prefers sun-part shade and deep, moist, but well-drained soils.

River Birch

(Betula nigra) This attractive, multi-trunked tree can reach 50 to 75 ft. in height with a spread of 35 to 50 feet. It prefers moist acid fertile soils, bit will tolerate drier sites. Wedged shaped leaves are lustrous and medium/dark green with double-toothed edges. The paper-thin exfoliating bark adds great beauty and interest to the winter landscape.

Swamp White Oak

(Quercus bicolor) One of the fastest growing oaks, which can grow to 75 to 100 ft. tall in the wild, this species reaches about 75 ft tall with a 50 ft . wide spread in residential gardens. It does well in moist sandy loams, but also in silty clay loams with poor drainage. The species is resistant to urban pollution, drought, soil compaction, and road salt. This beautiful tree is hard to find in the retail nursery trade.

White Ash

(Fraxinus americana) Its height is usually 50-80 ft with a spread of similar proportions. Its growth rate is 1 to 2 feet per year. Leaf color is dark green above and paler beneath, in summer changing to yellow to deep purple and maroon colors in fall. Prefers deep, moist, well-drained soils but also withstands soils which are not excessively dry and rocky. It requires full sun for best growth.

White Oak

(Quercus alba) The Maryland state tree, White Oak is one of the most handsome and long-lived oaks in the region. It grows with a full, outspread canopy from between 50 to 80 feet in cultivation, but may reach 100 feet in height in the wild. Best growth occurs in full sun in deep, moist but well-drained, acid soils, but can also tolerate dry, upland soils. The largest known White Oak in America was 31 ft. in circumference and had a 1-acre area dedicated as the Wye oak State Park in Talbot County, here in Maryland, for its protection.

White Pine

(Pinus strobus) This fast growing evergreen with soft blue-green needle-like leaves, often reaches a height of 50-80 feet, with a crown width half its height. Prefers fertile soil.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Meet Barry

Blake, Madison and I had a ball at the mall today.  I'm not one to typically hang out at Columbia Mall.  I'm more the Arundel Mills type, better deals to be had there.  But today? Not too shabby.

We arrived just before 10 and headed to the Lord & Taylor Court for Story Time, only to find out it had been moved down by Nordstroms.  No worries.  We got there in plenty of time to grab ourselves a carpet square and find a seat.  Ms. Julie got started by introducing the theme of the day, Bees.  We sang, listened, danced (well not Blake so much) and buzzed along.  Madison started getting a little antsy about 3/4 of the way through, so we made a break for it.  Just as well though, we had quite a few things on our to-do list and a limited time to do them in.

Next I headed to get my ring dipped in Rhodium.  Turns out the trace amounts of nickel in my wedding band are causing my finger to break out.  Apparently a quick dip will cure that problem right up.  Only when I got to the place that is supposed to be able to do it while you wait, they said that their "guy" wasn't in until after 2.  Don't they know about naptime?  Oh well, off to Victoria's Secret I go.  A few posts ago I told you about a deal where when you join Pink Nation you get a coupon for $10 off $35 and a free beauty travel kit.  Today, I used my coupon and treated myself to one superb bra that actually fits (which was still on sale) and 5 pairs of NON-MATERNITY undies for around $30.  Yay, I feel like a woman again.

Then we were off to Build-A-Bear.  Blake picked out the dark brown bear and named him Barry.  He's still too young for all the accessories and junk, but I did find a pair of swim trunks on sale for $3.  All in all, we got the experience and a surfin' Barry for $8 and change.

Lastly, we met up with my good friend Tanya and her beautiful little princesses at the Food Court for a quick bite to eat before we had to pick up Owen from school. All in all; good day!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

One of THEM Days

Today was as the title states, one of them days, a day when your kids are destined to test every last nerve you have, a day when whining seems synonymous with breathing, a day when you wished you wouldn't look freakish if you actually did pull out all of your hair.  That was my day.  Guess when it started?  Nope, you're wrong, it was 4 am.  Sadly it wasn't the child screaming downstairs that woke me up, it was my nose running constantly through the night like a leaky faucet.  In fact, it was because I had just been up blowing my nose that I felt obligated to take care of one screaming Blake.

I don't know why Blake randomly starts crying in the middle of the night. It's not every night, and most of the time, we can change his diaper, get him a drink of water, and tuck him back into bed.   I tried this routine several times this morning to no avail.  The child didn't fall back asleep until just about 6:00, and by then, why bother trying to catch a few zzz's.  Of course if I had known that the rest of the brood was going to sleep in until 8:30, I would have rethunk my previous thought.

Despite the fact that I had been up for 4 hours, I still lost track of time (probably while watching Gossip Girl on the internet) and ended up rushing out the door at 8:50 to be at the gym by 9:00.  Needless to say I was a few minutes late, but I still managed to get in a good workout (6.9 vigorous miles on the bike in under 28 minutes).  Then the day just fell apart.  I simply lost the motivation to do anything.  Granted it is that "time" of the month, but I should have at least found the energy to take Blake to the nature center for the Butterfly event.

Honesty I flat out wasted about an hour of my day sitting in the parking lot at Target.  I did, however, run into Kohls and picked up the cutest lamp for Madison's room on clearance for about $9.  Then, and this is really the highlight of my day, I stopped by Michaels to look for scrapbooking ideas for our More than Moms scrapbooking party and ended up finding the perfect solution to bill organization.  I had been thinking of putting some kind of sorter in our dining room so I'd have a place to put "paper" that needs to be "done."  I really wanted it to have drawers basically so the clutter wouldn't be visible, seeing as it's in my dining room.  Michael's had this white, 3-drawer craft storage that was just perfect for $15; could not pass it up; had to have it. Went right home, after picking up the oldest at school, and assembled it.  I even used a screwdriver.

Now I'm getting tired, so I'll skip down to the part when the boys flooded my bathroom.  Oh no, you read right.  I was upstairs cleaning when I hear O screaming that he needs toilet paper.  Wait a second, I just put 4 whole rolls of TP in that bathroom this morning.  Lightbulb goes on and I fly down the stairs to find the bathroom completely soaked, O standing in the middle, pants down, asking for TP.  It seems that one or both of my lovely children thought it would be funny to put all 4 rolls of TP in the sink and turn it out.  The rest, as they say, is history.  I snapped.  My day had culminated in this?  Great!  I sent the boys to their room to pick it up while I cleaned up their mess (though I did have O help as much as possible).  And then I just walked away. They were not to come out until I said so, which ended up being at least 15 minutes.  Heck, it took that long for my heart beat to return to normal.

Yep, it was one of them days, and I survived!

Blog Highlight: Design Girl

My friend, also from my days at Camp All-American, Beth, has started her own business, Design Girl, creating blog templates, stationary, scapbook kits, and more.  And oh, it's absolutely adorable.

So this is my chance to give her a shout out, especially since it is her birthday week and she's having a contest.  That's right, she is giving away free stuff all well.  How much fun would it be if  I won?  Well, maybe not so much fun for you, but it would be awesome for me.  Although, it would also be cool if one of you won, so go check it out.  Get yourself a new blog template and see what else she has going on while you're there.

Today, she is highlighting the Monogram Chick and giving away a monogrammed travel coffee mug.  I could so use one of those too.  From the looks of it, the Monogram Chick specializes in babies and brides.  I think I need to place a little order for a certain mom I know getting married next week.  I know I mentioned this before, but I do love a personalized gift.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Great Debate

Though my heart still breaks into a million pieces when I think about leaving camp, my world is all of sudden wide open to pursue things that were, just last week, on the back burner.  Opportunities I've wrestled with for well over a year are now actually possibilities.  The problem is that I have to sort through them, filter them through the vision of my life.  Where can I be more effective?  Where can I explore my passions, use my gifts and talents, and best bring glory to God?

So here's what's out there looming.  First we have the Patapsco Valley Republican Club, a great way to get involved politically, as well as with my immediate community.  Second we have the Oak Crest Community Association, a place I've been involved as much as I could be the past year, but frustrated by the lack of response I get from the leadership.  In both, I have the unique opportunity to be part of the governing boards, but which should I choose?

Just so you know, my current bias is towards the PVRC, mainly because my efforts with the Oak Crest association seem futile and seem to be waste of my time.  A little background, but not much, I don't have all night.  For the past year, I've committed to design and layout the community newsletter, as well as chair the Summer Picnic committee.  Due to a lack of communication with the association president, I've been unable to perform either tasks.  The last newsletter we put out was last January or February.  I worked on one for the Spring but was unable to complete it despite several attempts to finalize.  And the picnic, well that's just a whole other story. Let's just say that I don't have high hopes of that one happening, at least not this year.  I plan on sitting down with the association president this week to talk through some of these issues that I've been having, and see where I feel comfortable going from here.  The whole point of being involved in the association was to meet people in our community and be able to positively impact it.  In my current capacity of service, I just don't see how I'm accomplishing either.

Actually I've been thinking today that maybe I don't need to be as involved with Oak Crest.  More that Moms certainly provides me with more than enough connections in our surrounding area, and it's certainly open for me invite moms from my neighboring blocks.  And the PVRC gives me the opportunity to impact my community through the political spectrum, changing it from the inside out, which kind of sounds better to me then being spoon fed excuses every 6 months as to why we can't have sidewalks on Edmonson Ave.

The bigger picture is that this is where we live, and soon to be where we worship.  This is our community, and I want to be involved as much as I can, to spark connections, to leave an imprint, to facilitate change.  The great debate is where!  I obviously know where I'm leaning, but am continuing to pray for God to make it clear.  Is there a way to do all of it?  Could I maybe be a Street Rep in Oak Crest while remaining active with PVRC?  Of course, More than Moms is not part of the debate, it's just part of the consideration.  Does it meet a need that makes one of the options obsolete?  I don't have the answer, but I'm willing to ask the questions.

A Park Lacking and My Response

Today was the first playgroup for More Than Moms, A New Kind of Playgroup.  We met at the Catonsville Park over off Rolling Road.  I’ve been here several times, but I guess I haven’t stayed long enough for my son to need to go potty…until today.  If you’ve never been here before, you should know that the bathrooms are located across the parking lot on the outside of the Senior Center building.  Want to guess where I’m going with this?  Yep, they were locked.  Now, granted my 4 year old is a boy, so he’s used to just whipping it out and peeing where ever he would like, but let’s just say, I’m lacking experience in that particular form of art.  I was mortified that the moms I was with had no where for their kids to relieve themselves except on God’s green Earth.  Beautiful, just beautiful.  Oh and the water fountain down by the volleyball courts had obviously been “out of service” for a while now.  Good thing I travel with water bottles.
After arriving home, lunching up the kids, and putting them down for nap, I drafted this email to Councilman Sam Moxley.  I’ll let you know if he responds.
Dear Mr. Moxley,
I am a resident of the Oak Crest Community in Catonsville. Today I organized a playgroup at Catonsville Park on Rolling Road.  I was mortified to find that the bathrooms were locked when I went to take my 4 year old to the restroom.  In the time that we were there, approximately 2 1/2 hours,  I noticed more than 30 people in and out of the park area.
In my opinion, there should be some sort of facilities available for park-goers to use the restroom.  I also noticed that the water fountain down by the water fountain was not working and looked like it hadn’t worked in a very long time.
The people or Oak Crest do a tremendous job keeping the park clean and well kept. I expect that when we use the park, especially in the middle of the day, that we have access to public facilities. If that is too much to ask, I’m hoping you would consider at least putting in a portable potty equipped with a washing station or at least hand sanitizer.  I was very disappointed and embarrassed that my friend’s children had to relieve themselves in the woods.
Please let me know if there is anyway to remedy this situation.
Hillary Pennington

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Solution for Both Sides

Look at me being Bipartisan here, at least for the moment.  I've thought long and hard about this whole political blogging thing, and I definitely want a place where I can vent my frustrations, pump up the people, and babble on and on about all things political.  My personal blog is just not the place for that, and I'm not to psyched about starting a new blog.  That's just a lot of work.  But there is a solution.  The PVRC, Patapsco Valley Republican Club, has asked me to write on their blog.  What a perfect win-win, right?  I don't have to do anything but write and you don't have to read it if you don't want to.  See, aren't I so diplomatic.  Obama could learn a little something from me.

That being said, check it out. I've added it to my links as well.  So visit as often as you would like.  I'll be dealing mostly with local politics, though I'm sure some of the national BS will filter down as well.

Thanks to all of you who voted in the polls.

Deal of the Day: Free Pics

Snapfish has a fantabulous deal for new users (just use a different email address).  They'll give you 50 free prints, plus use code FREELABOR (by the way, labor is never free, but whatever) for FREE SHIPPING.

I think I'm finally going to get around to updating the picture frames in my house with pics of the third (and second) child.  Yep, I'm really far behind.

Voice Defying Weekend

So yeah, I've spent the better part of yesterday and today completely voiceless.  Notice how I didn't say speechless.  Laryngitis has not kept me from talking.  It's just kept me from being heard, and made me smell & taste weird things.

Let's see if I can recap a most fantabulous weekend.  I already told you about Friday night, which only made me regret not attending the DC Tea Party on Saturday (which I heard from untold #'s of people that it was eye opening and certainly an experience people will tell their kids about for years to come).

Saturday night was the Aaron Shust/Chris Sligh concert at First Baptist Church in Laurel, MD (our old stomping grounds).  Joyce and I bought VIP tickets which promised a CD, t-shirt, and a private concert before the concert with Aaron & Chris.  YAY!  Only thing was that no on told us what time to be there.  We showed up a little before 6 since that's when the doors opened.  I'm guessing that we should have actually been there much sooner considering the private concert was almost over.  Oh well, we still got to hear a few songs.  As we walked in, Aaron made eye contact with me, and to my surprise recognized me immediately.

Now let me just interject here.  Yes, I worked with Aaron for 3 years at Perimeter and while there, I would have said we were working buddies, but it's been 6 years.  I wasn't sure at all if he'd even remember me, especially without being prompted.  But he did! Yay!

After their set, he pulled Joyce and I aside and we caught up for a bit (literally a bit) before he ran off to grab a bite to eat before he was up. At this point, I have to say I was quite jealous.  Normally we eat around 6ish, so by this time, I was pretty stinking hungry.  Oh well, there's always later, right?

Katy, Wes & Neil met up with us at 7 for the concert.  Okay, Neil was a little late because he went to the church's old building which was not where we were.  He was also supposed to bring Owen with him, but O decided he'd rather play with Ashleigh & Carly, the babysitter.  He'll regret that decision one day.

First up was a new guy, Andrew Witt, great sound, highly recommend.  I fully plan on owning his CD.  Honestly should have bought the 4-pack of CD's featuring all the artists like JOyce and Katy did.  Kicking myself now.

Next up was another new voice, Lanae Hale, the only girl on the tour.  Boy, does she have her work cut out for her.  She was just down right cute, from her hair to her shoes.  Her southern twang brought me right back to the South.  Dang it, really should have bought the 4-pack of CD's.  It was only $30! Kicking myself again!

Although I have to say that I've never been to a concert where people mostly sat unless they were told to stand.  I always thought it was the other way around.  Then again, I haven't been to concert in years, since I left Georgia, I think. Well, at least Joyce, Katy and I broke the barrier.  Then again, we were also tweeting through out the event, and mostly with Aaron & Chris...and each other.  I did find out from Aaron that Brian Duffy was on tour with him.  Duffy used to make coffee for me every morning back at Camp All-American.  Oh, those were the good old days, fresh Starbucks and the world's best jump roper pouring it for me.  Now I have to pay $10 to see him play in his big old band.  Oh how the tides have turned (insert over exaggerated rolling eyes)

Chris Sligh popped up next, though it begged the question, if it's his tour, then why isn't he headlining.  Now, I didn't know much about Chris Sligh.  Since I don't watch American Idol, I honestly didn't know who he was until I saw his name next to Aaron's.  But this guy is impressive.  His heart is so transparent for the Lord.  I admire his choice to give up the lime light for a tour cross country in stinky vans.  Plus I hear he has a gorgeous wife.  Not sure why that's important, but that's what I was told.  Do with it as you please.  Quote of the night, "The 20th century had the zipper, the 21st has twitter." Come on, now that's funny stuff!

Last up, headlining, was Aaron Shust.  It was really cool to hear him sing in this capacity.  It's been 6 years since I've sat in a church and listened to him lead worship.  This is a man I respect, for his music, his heart for God, and commitment to his family.  He certainly hasn't let the celebrity go to his head.

Seeing as I've gone on and on, I think I'll stop here for now.  I'll tell you about the Arts & Craft festival and my decision on political blogging in my next post (which may be in 15 min or 6 hours, depends on naptime).  Pics are coming from the concert.  I'm waiting on Joyce to send them to me.  Joyce, if you're reading, hint, hint!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Free Tonight?

I probably should have posted this earlier.  I'm still getting used to this.  There's a concert tonight at 7:00 pm at First Baptist Church in Laurel, MD.  It's Aaron Shust & Chris Sligh (from American Idol), Back to School Stimulus Package Tour.  I don't know much about Chris Sligh, but Aaron is an amazing singer (and person).  He led worship at Perimeter Church when I worked there seveal years ago.  I guess we'll see tonight how well he remembers me.  Anyways, if you're not busy, it's only $10 and you can buy tickets at the door.  We're taking Owen and leaving the other two at home with Carly. 

On the Brink of What?

Last night I attended the Patapsco Valley Republican Club's Patriot Day Reception with my wonderful, supportive husband and about 140 other concerned citizens of Baltimore County.  Now I realize that not everyone who reads my blog is a conservative, or even gives a hoot about politics in general, but right now I happen to be pretty fired up.  I'm debating whether or not to start a new blog that deals strictly with my political musings.  Can I really keep up 3 blogs?  Who knows?  I do have a lot of extra free time now, and I've enjoyed getting back to roots of why I started the Hills of Chaos, a place for me to process all the muck inside my heart and mind.

Let's just say I took the plunge and created this new blog, what would I write about?  Honestly, I think I'd stick to local candidates and issues that impact my family directly.  Believe it or not, President Obama has very little effect over my everyday life, though as he expands government in general, he certainly is more threatening than any other president in my lifetime.  Councilman Moxley and State Delegate Malone's decisions impact my kid's schools, our property taxes, whether or not Edmonson Road ever gets sidewalks, the recycling program, and more.  And I'd personally rather see people in those positions who are more fiscally and socially conservative, who are more in touch with the vibe of the people.  Last night, Steve Whisler announced his candidacy for County Councilman of District 1 in Baltimore County, replacing Sam Moxley.  My first reaction?  "Steve, anything you need, you just let me know."  In fact, I think my first blog entry will be on Steve himself.  Hhmm, guess I'm going to do this blog now, huh?  Now I just need a name.

I'd love to see more young families get involved in the local scene. We get so tied up in our everyday lives that sometimes we forget that we actually have a say in how our tax dollars are spent, or even how our communities are shaped. We forget that our government works for us. I think it's time for some evaluation, accountability, and maybe even a little overhaul. 

Funny story:  I have many Facebook friends from the PVRC that I've never actually met before.  Allison Baird is one of them, but as soon as she walked in with her husband, Shawn, last night, I recognized her from Facebook, so I introduced myself.  She knew who I was as well, and even asked about More than Moms.  We'd been talking for about 20 or so minutes when Neil walked in.  As he's being introduced he has a funny look on his face.  "Um, I don't know why, but you look strangely familiar."  "Yeah, you look familiar to me too."  Okay, not exactly something you're expecting to hear.  How in the world does my husband know this woman?  A few minutes went by as we're all racking our brains of where they may have met. Then Neil says, "Chick-Fil-A?"  Immediately we all erupt into laughter.  Of course, we see each other at Chick-Fil-A every Tuesday night. We connected when I was still pregnant over the fact that our daughters have the same name.  Sadly, in 30 minutes of conversation, we never made the connection...and they live within walking distance.  I smell a new friendship! Yay!

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Rainy Day Blues

What a busy weekend ahead; tonight the Patapsco Valley Republican Club's Patriot Day Reception; tomorrow the Aaron Shust concert...both events sans children.  Yet here I am, curled up on the couch with a glass of tea and my computer dragging through the day.  It all started yesterday.  I felt tired, like pregnant tired, and then I got that coated feeling in the back of my throught, the kind where you know it's going to hurt.  By the end of Bible study, I officially felt horrible.  At first I thought it to be allergies since I was sneezing constantly, so I went searching the house for benadryl.  Now you know you're desperate for relief when you're willing to down two Children's Benadryl Perfect Measures.  Those things are nasty.  I don't understand why my kids love them.  Anyways, no relief at all.  I found my self drifting off to sleep just as my nose would start to drip.  Thus began a seemingly endless cycle of up, blow, wipe, drift, drip.  Finally I was able to prop myself into a position where my nose stopped drifting and I was able to get to sleep.

In a perfect world Moms would be awarded full night's sleep when sick, but we live in a fallen world, right?  Around 2:45 this morning, Owen crawls into bed with us.  At first I was willing to just ignore the fact that there was a child in our bed, but his tossing and turning and moaning and groaning sent me over the edge.  I sat up in bed, and was about to drag him back down to his bed, when I felt overcome with dizziness, so I did what any good mom would do...woke up his dad.  Not even 20 minutes later, Blake was whining up the stairs, literally.  I actually coaxed him to the top of the stairs and then made the same mistake twice.  Maybe he'll just lay down and go to sleep, then I'll take him back to his bed and skip the whole crying fit at 3:15 in the morning.  Nope, this child got into our bed and started on the same path his brother had just taken, toss, turn, moan, groan.  This time I didn't want to wake Neil, so I carried the ornary 2 year old back to his bed, changed his diaper, got him a drink of water, and laid down beside him.  In about 5 minutes, the boy was out like a light.  At 3:45 AM, I plopped my achy body back into bed and drifted off into oblivion.

I pulled myself out of that same bed limb by limb at 7:00 am this morning.  My head floating, my muscles aching, my scalp tingling, my throat hurting, and I've been dragging ever since.  I'm hoping a late afternoon shower will wash away some of the yukiness, and slipping into my pretty black dress for tonight's reception will once again make me feel like a woman (and not an infestation of snot).

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Where does Possibility End?

I spend so much time wrapped up in a to-do list that isn't so much an actual list as it is a conjumbled mess in my head. Sorry, I'm just not that organized, not that I don't try to be. I can't tell you how many calendars I have that started out filled to the brim and fizzled out over the next couple weeks. I'm one of those people that would do awesome with a personal assistant, but since that is in no way reality, I just have to deal.

Anyways, not my point. I spend all this time thinking about the mundane tasks of life that I forget to dream. Bring part of the new church plant, I've done nothing but. It's been amazing to sit around and brainstorm to no end. There is no box, no definitions, no constraints (at least not yet). We're just dreaming, and I hope we never stop. I hope the walls don't close in confining us to certain molds. There really should be no end to possibility.

Brainstorming with TJ about what the church building should look like, or function as, got be thinking about this whole playgroup idea is different light. In a way, I feel free to pursue. What? I don't know, but I'm excited to find out. I'm normally the down to earth type of gal. My BFF, Jo, would say that she spends most of her time in the clouds and I'm holding on to her foot attempting to pull her back to reality. She's the dreamer, and I'm the realist. But recently, in the fog that is my life right now, I get to dream. I get to say "why not?" I get to ask questions without fear of rejection. I get to explore the very talents and gifts that God has given me. And had Grace decided a different way, had I been able to stay with camp and go with new church, I may not have been able to experience this freedom. I may not have been able to commit as much of myself to the movement that is Fusion.

That being said, I'm praying today for a building, and not so much a church building. My friend Aaron was talking about the possibility of turning the old music store in downtown Catonsville into a place where the community comes to together (and we happen to use once a week to worship). I know that the elder team has been looking at office space in Elkridge, but why not in the middle of a city center? There certainly is a bunch of space in downtown Catonsville. What about a coffee shop/play area? Do you know how crazy busy that place would be on any given day? I don't know, maybe I'm the only mom who would love to have a place to hang out with my friends and watch my kids play safely. That would be awesome. And what if this same place, had a multi purpose room that the community could use...a mom's day out, an after school program, a place for groups to meet on the cheap, a swap n play (to be explained later). The sky isn't even the limit, because there is no limit to possibility. Yea, I'm praying for a place that people don't even know is a church, except by the people they meet there. That is the community I dream of, the family I want to be a part of, the Jesus I want my kids to know, the legacy I choose to leave.

Even if you're not part of the church plant, I dare you to dream with me. What would you do if you could design a "church" building? What would you use it for? What would it look like? Where would it be? I double dog dare you.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What Now?

If only one could see all that is flying around in this small little head of mine. Seriously in the past week, I've been sad, confused, excited, sad again, lost, found, stressed, sad again, relaxed (not too much of that), and on fire. I've literally run the gamut of emotions. Who would have thought? But mostly, I've been praying for vision. I feel lost without one. I'm still not sure what role I'll play in new church, at least not in the long run, but I'm excited to do whatever I can to help. In the meantime, I feel like I need something to pour myself into. But what?

My first thought was my family. I know, it seems like a given right? And it should be, but pouring myself into my family would isolate me from the rest of the world. I'm not much of a loner. Okay, I really don't do good at all when I'm away from "adult" human contact. Yes, I am that strong of an extrovert. So i started thinking of ways that I could invest in my family and still have strong, interpersonal relationships with other moms, women, human beings.

Then I get an email from evite. It's the RSVP summary for playgroup. Playgroup, huh? And I started thinking? What if playgroup wasn't just a playgroup? What if it was more purposeful, more defined, more about supporting each other than just playing? Hhhmmm, this certainly gave me something to think about. But what would it look like?

So I started praying, and brainstorming, and chatting with others, and more praying and came up with More than Moms. Define it how you will, whether it opens us up to dads and nannies or implies that we're not just moms, but strong, intelligent women created by God to love Him and love others. Aside from continuing to host playgroup and creating a Facebook page for the group, I'm still in the brainstorming phase. If you have any ideas, please let me know. I see so many possibilities, such potential.

Please continue to pray for this new venture, and where ever God would have me long term. Also, pray for Camp as it evolves without me. Not that it's going to suffer, but there will be some changes and I pray that the Vision Team and leadership will have the wisdom to know how to move forward.

I also covet prayer for the new Fusion Church. This Sunday we're back at Grace. Pray for those still undecided as to where their community lies, where they want to invest. Pray for the interim elder team who are discussing things like name, location, doctrine, etc...! Wow, there is so much to pray for, I could go on and on for days. Let's just say...PRAY!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Gathered for a Movement

Fifty or so people gathered on a hill tonight, ready for whatever God had in store. You know what I think? This community, where I am considered elderly at 31, is destined to impact the Kingdom in mighty ways. How? I have no freaking idea, and that there is the beauty of it all. It's frightening and exciting all at the same time. Heck, we don't even have a name yet. Maybe we'll just use a symbol or simply call ourselves "new church." We have no real place to meet, and to be honest no concept of what that place is supposed to look like. So here we are, a gathering of people with no real definition other than the fact that we possess hearts for God and love for the communities surrounding us. All we know is that this is where we are called to be; many of us required to make sacrifices to get here, to leap over hurdles, to leave things behind, to take up our cross and follow Him.

After tonight I know that it's worth it. Being at camp, a part of camp, I knew I was part of something so much bigger than me. But tonight I had the distinct sense that I was part of a movement, and one that I get to embark on with my entire family and not just myself. Admittedly I shed quite a few tears tonight because the sacrifice was evident to me. I gave up a whole heck of a lot to be there, and the reality of that came crashing down on me several times through out the evening. To some people, church is where you go on Sunday mornings, a place you belong to like the YMCA. Through this whole ordeal, I've come to learn that the Church is the body of Christ plain and simple. It's purpose? To build up believers so that they can be light in the world. For us, church is our community, our family, so much more than where we go on Sunday mornings (or in our case evenings).

If it were just about attendance, I probably would have made a different decision and gone to Grace mornings. At least that way I could have stayed with camp. Sure, if I viewed church as simply a place to worship, I could have kept pursuing my passion, but it's not that simple. I'm honestly not sure what would have been harder, to leave camp or to leave our community at Fusion. Seriously.

Tonight was our first official meeting as a church plant. We met up around 3ish at a park in Ellicott City, then divided out and stormed the communities of Catonsville & Elkridge with prayer warriors, walking the very streets we hope to see God work in and through. Neil and I had the opportunity to walk with Tanya around our very neighborhood. How convicting that we've lived here over a year and this was the first time we'd prayed for our neighbors. Yikes. We even managed to pray all the way to Opies, a popular neighborhood ice cream & sno-ball joint.

After the prayer walk, we met back up at the Pavilion was a bit of worship, sharing experiences and stories with one another. What are we excited about? What struck us on our prayer walks? What are we looking for God to do? And then we worshipped, and boy did we worship. Sitting up on this hill that overlooked the very areas we hope to reach, storm clouds rolling in, we knew God was there.

The future is foggy to me, not sure what it holds. Where can I serve? Where will God use me? I have no freaking idea, but I know that He will, and I'm excited (and terrified) to find out. And I'll let you know when I do.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Break in the Silence

I know I've been quiet lately, not in person so much as in my blog. There's been so much going on in my life, very little of which I could even discuss, much less blog about. Today I received some closure to the largest issue and not am able to open up a bit. Writing is like therapy for me. It allows me to drain the chaos swirling around in my brain, and ironically provides an opportunity to process what's there. I warn you though, I'm not sure how or what may come out, so be on the look out for road blocks, sharp curves, and abrupt stops.

A huge chapter of my life came to a close today, and it happened to be the chapter that spoke to my passion & ministry in life...Grace Adventures Day Camp. Shocked? I was too. Well, maybe not as shocked. It's not like I didn't see it coming, but sometimes no matter how much we prepare for a particular situation, we can never project exactly how we're going to feel when it happens. I knew my dad was dying, but when it actually occurred, when my heart and my mind met, it was devastating to say the least. Today I am heart broken, literally. Camp was a precious gift wrapped up in a glorious vision, given to me many years ago. I had the amazing opportunity to watch it come to fruition, to be part of something so big, it was doomed to fail lest God be in it, a small glimpse of heaven on earth. Please don't get me wrong. It is not camp that is coming to an end, just my role in it.

You might ask why? Why, Hillary, are you leaving something so precious to your heart? I've told you about the new church we're planting in our community, a branch off of Grace Community Church. Honestly, there was no question in our minds if we'd go, a no-brainer I'd say. We would probably have never left GCC on our own, never even crossed our minds. Sure, it's a trek down to Fulton, but that's where our community is, that's where we call home, our family away from our family. However, God decided to move our "community" to our actual community...like I said, no brainer.

It then came up that it might not be okay for me to remain in leadership over Camp and go with the new Fusion. I've known this question was out there for about 5 weeks now, and I'm happy to say that it's drawn me to the Cross, allowed me to lay down my fears, anxieties, and insecurities at His feet, but grappling with the choice of passion vs. community? I mean, how do you chose between two callings? Ultimately though, there is no real choice. I can't ask my family to uproot itself from their community in order to follow my passion. So when the choice was put before me today, I could, with confidence, chose my family, my church, my community.

Of course just because it was my choice does not in any way mean that I'm not completely devastated. Camp was my baby, my vision, my ministry. Leaving it will be one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do, right up there with moving to MD and watching my Dad slip away. But God is still God, sovereign, faithful, just. And it's clear to me and even to those around me that He is doing something big in my life. I have no idea what it could be, but in the midst of my sorrow, I'm excited to see what He has in store.

Throughout my life there have been many monuments, even before I was a believer, that I can look back on and see God's hand. It's in this time that I will choose to look back and see what He's done, to know that He's faithful, and that He is good. This summer I was given a verse, just days after these issues arose, a verse I cling to still today. "I am CONFIDENT that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Be strong; Take heart. Wait on the Lord."

I feel like the theme of my Summer was confidence. All my life, I've struggled with that very word. What is confidence? What does it look like? How can I be confident without being arrogant or self-righteous. I've realized that I'm not to be confident in myself, but in the Lord and who He has made me to be. "Being confident of this that He who began a good work in you WILL carry it on unto completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Phil 1:6)" At first I thought that I was to be confident in my position at camp. After all, I'm 100% sure God called me there. And He did, but now it's time to move on. Does that change my confidence? It shouldn't. I'm to be confident, not in my circumstances, but in my God. Whatever road lies before me, whether I'm to focus solely on being a mom, or to dabble to bit in other interests such as writing or politics, or take on a huge role in this new community...I have no idea, but I'm confident it's going to be a bumpy and joyous ride.

For now, I'm going to focus on the positives, and doing what ever I can to close up shop in such a way that ensures success to my successors. I covet your prayers in the days to come. As I mourn, I ask that you lift me up, especially when the enemy comes and attacks my securities, and lies to me about the circumstances. It's so easy for me to buy into the pity parties. Please pray that I remain confident in Him who is good. And while your at it, lift up Camp. Pray that it too continues to be a glimpse of heaven on earth, that the vision will live on.