Sunday, January 19, 2014

Our Christmas Story

It was a dark and stormy night...

I give up on ever trying to prepare for labor. Having now birthed three children, here's my advice for labor prep...don't count on it happening as planned. With all the great options of mood setting and background music for relaxing, I got to labor to a backdrop of tornado sirens. Brilliant. But don't worry, the sirens were frequently drowned out by the torrential rain pounding on the window, tree branches breaking, thunder rolling, walls shaking, and the wind screaming. Needless to say, it made for an exciting drive to the hospital.

At 2:20am on December 22, the cacophony of wind and rain sounding outside was completely silenced in my mind by the first cries of our newborn son. At 7 pounds 12 ounces and 20 1/2 inches long, Gabriel Muriithi made is grand debut. Muriithi (pronounced Mur-ay-thee) is after my Dad, Stan Granberg. Meaning shepherd, Muriithi is the African name my Dad went by during his ten years of mission work in Meru, Kenya. We want to honor him for his work for God's kingdom and for the example of a man of God that he is for our son.

A few hours after Gabriel's birth, and just a few miles down the road, those gathered at Ethos heard about a different Gabriel. 2,000 years ago the angel Gabriel announced peace to a people in turmoil, light to cities enveloped in darkness, and salvation to a dying world. Immanuel, God is with us. Glory! Our prayer for our son is that each year around his birthday, he hears this story and recognizes the power of the words spoken by the angel Gabriel.

And now, what you've all been waiting for...
Gabriel Muriithi
First glimpse of baby brother
Sydney is a very proud big sister. She loves the responsibility of helping
with the baby always wants to hold his hand.
Jade is absolutely enamored with Gabriel. Should could not pronounce his name for a long time and so called him "Bagel." She wants to be beside him, holding him, or on top of him pretty much all the time. Her normal stance now is holding out both arms and pulling her pointer fingers toward her in a gesture saying, "Let me hold him!!"
Gabriel and his namesake
Uncle Josh
Going home outfit...when I first put him in it I said,
"That just doesn't look right, my babies don't normally wear blue!"
Got home just in time to enjoy a relaxing Christmas at home as a family of five!

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Hard Work of Being Still: Part 3

What a journey this has been. I've been honored (and not a little scared) to have had the opportunity to share with you some of our most deeply personal and spiritual moments in this three post series about Being Still. I am so stoked to finally be writing the portion where we get to share some of the results from nearly a year of intense journeying.

What we know is that God had beautiful plans for this world, and He still works to usher in his kingdom on earth. We cannot help but to desire wholeheartedly to be a part of His kingdom work. Because what he desires for us are lives of power and beauty made radiant in relationship with Him. My new favorite image from scripture of God's hand upon the earth is from Psalm 85: "Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other..." He has not only the power, but the deepest of desires to bring restoration to broken lives and a broken world to make this image a beautiful reality in our cities and homes.

This is our drive. Through a phase of humbling ourselves we came to focus on this vision, solely on God's work in and for the world, allowing our role in that work to become hazy and unfocused on the edges. From this we've had a change in trajectory from European missions, which has been on our hearts for so long, to domestic missions. We are on a path to head back to the Northwest, probably the Seattle area, to begin a church plant (after another year or so in Nashville). Six months ago if presented with the opportunity to plant a church in the NW I would have said (OK, not would have, I actually did say) "Nope!" I'm not even sure if I could explain why I felt that way. But through a beautiful, and seemingly impossible, process God has closed doors to London and opened them to Seattle. The impossibility of it all, based upon where we were several months ago, is that we are both ecstatic about it. And the beauty of it is how our path to London was the perfect path to prepare us for work in Seattle. So much of our preparation for London fits not only well, but better.

There are, of course, a million different odd and ends about this process that have led to this decision, but I'm not going to get into specifics. We obviously spent a long time (nearly a year!) heavily discerning whether what we were facing was a holy discontent from God or an attack by Satan through which we needed to persevere. We struggled through the emotions of what a change in direction would mean and the lies Satan took the opportunity to whisper to us: "This is just taking the easy way out" or "You are a failure." By God's grace we were able to cling to His words and promises in order to drown out the doubts from Satan. And now those accusations seem so absurd! First, making the decision to go to Seattle instead of London was definitely not the easy path. Believe me, it would have been much easier to stick with our European trajectory. And second, our brief venture into and away from London is honestly the most powerful and radiant part of our story. It's propelled us forward in ways nothing else could have. We are happy (and indeed eager) to have further conversations with any of you who want to know more, but this is all I want to leave you with for now. We can't wait to share more about our small role in God's kingdom work.

Oh, and you'll definitely not want to miss my next post in which I will hopefully be introducing our son to you! There won't be any of this heavy stuff, only really cute pictures that will make you want to snuggle something sweet and tiny.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Hard Work of Being Still: Part 2

After sharing part of our spiritual journey in this post about being still before God, many of our friends responded with encouragement, blessing, and eagerness to hear more. We've learned that so many have gone or are going through similar times of unknown and waiting upon God. Some have been brilliantly refined while others have resisted, struggled, and questioned. So many have contacted us personally, thankful for our transparency, because through our post they were able to put words to some of their own story. A question that were heard several times was, "What exactly did the act of being still before God look like for you?" It's not easy putting words to it, but enough of you have asked that we wanted to share as best we could in case our story can help anyone else along on their spiritual journey. Obviously, there's no one way to do this. No right or wrong way. This is just what it looked like for us.

This may get long, so if you aren't interested don't feel like you have to keep reading. But please check out part 3 of this Being Still series (next week) where we'll share some of the results as we are coming out of this phase. When you humble yourself enough to allow God to work mightily in you, you can definitely expect something unexpected and exciting!

Physical offering of stillness:

It's easy to say, "I'm just waiting on God." But actually coming up with something tangible to give up before God changes the game. It adds a new dimension for God to use, refine, and empower in you. It could be actually physically making your body be still in meditation, or cutting something out of our "go, go, go" schedule.  It doesn't matter if anyone else knows about it, it's something between you and God. But some kind of tangible offering of stillness is important. For us, it was our finances. Jared was blessed with a job at the Nashville airport to help us get by while we started fundraising for our ministry with Ethos and future ministry in London. The plan was to raise enough support so that he could quit and dedicate full-time hours to ministry. After our survey trip in January, however, the door just seemed to shut on our plans. Before that time things were falling into place and we felt the Lord saying, "go, go, go," and then like a light switch it changed to "stop, stop, stop." We didn't know what to do or how to move forward. So, after a lot of prayer, we made a tough decision to  stay in our financial situation as a stillness offering to God as we worked through future plans. This meant a fuller schedule with less income (though we are thankful for the amount his airport job did provide). A pregnancy happening a little earlier than planned meant I had to put off plans to adjunct teach at a local college. All of our plans as far as finances were concerned were put on hold.

I went back and forth on whether or not I would share this part of our waiting period, because I do not at all want to appear to be flaunting our sacrifice. Honestly, it sucked and I'd prefer not to share it. But I thought being specific would be helpful. This was the best physical offering of slowing down our plans and putting them before God that we could think of, so it's what we did. I wish I could express the importance of this offering, but I'm not sure I have the words. I hope you are encouraged to come up with a tangible "stillness" offering to God if you go through a similar time.

Emotional phases: Silence and Confession:

We went through a 3-6 month period of significant silence. Silence between each other, with others, and with God. It's not that we were keeping secrets, but rather the journey we were going through just seemed to demand a time of silence. It was so weird not to share openly with each other. We've been blessed as a couple with great communication; we talk about anything and everything. But conversations about our ministry plans were so hard during this time. And I'm thankful for it. We've tackled so many life twists and turns as a couple, but this was one we each needed to tackle personally first. Looking back I can see how different our journeys were. We each needed to walk through this in a different way, and God helped us do that so we could be more powerful as a couple. We shared with each other some of the things we were doing in our personal study time, and we had occasional conversations. But for the better part of this year we each walked our journey with God, and He eventually brought us to the same place through very different routes.

We also struggled with how to share this journey with others. We just couldn't have the in depth conversations with our mentors (which is how we normally work through these kinds of situations). We did, however, tell people we were going through something big and invited them to pray for us.

Silence before God was a huge part of my (Laura's) journey. It's not that I didn't pray, in fact I spent more time in prayer. But I seriously had no words to my prayers. I set aside time with God and I would end it without having said anything. It wasn't planned that way, I just could not find a way to make the words come. I learned the power of Romans 8:26, "...the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express." I experienced the most powerful prayers of my life without saying a single word. This lasted about 3 months for me. I had no problem praying for other people during this time, but when it was personal between me and God, I just spent countless silent hours before Him.

After silence, which was tough and intense, came a time of confession, which was even tougher (but so good). I'm not talking about confessing sin, but being able to share with others the deepest spiritual journey we've been on. It's emotional. Our first significant time of sharing was at the Pepperdine lectures. We had previously committed to sharing about our plans for church planting in London. Obviously it was not as straight forward when the time for the lectures came around. So we shared about how we were on a similar journey as the Israelites when God called them out of Egypt. He led them powerfully with signs and wonders. Then when they were at Jericho, they could see God's promised future before them, but instead of charging in they were asked to spend a week circling the walls of Jericho. So, instead of sharing about a new church planting project (which was the title of the class), we shared about how we were in a time of waiting and circling the walls. Sharing the first "Being Still" post was also a significant moment for us. You can't imagine how much I agonized over writing it. Moving from going through a tough time to sharing publicly about it is a significant step and, if the timing is right, brings so much peace.

Tangible exercises:

OK, we're getting out of some of the heavier stuff now and moving into some of the specific exercises/studies that we did during this time.

1. Red letter words: During my time of silence I searched the Psalms to try to steal some words for myself. I was struck by how many talk about how great God's laws are. Did you get that, not how great God is (though there are plenty of those as well), but how great his laws are. So I wanted to meditate on his laws. I'm weird and love the boring Old Testament stuff, so I normally would have gone through some of the books of the law. But instead I decided only to read Jesus' words. I started in Matthew and only read the text that was in red. Wow. You may be surprised at what stands out to you when you do this :)

2. Asking questions: It is so important to understand that God allows us to ask questions of him. We are too often deceived into thinking that any form of question or doubt is wrong. But scripture is full of examples of God's faithful people questioning him. He is patient with us and our growth journey. I think it's important to allow ourselves this spiritual practice, as long as we do it in a healthy way. Otherwise, it would become easy to get caught in a downward spiral of questioning. I took my lead from the Psalms, where some of the most intense questioning is recorded. Here was my practice: 1) Ask my questions 2) State truths about God. Psalm 22 is a great example. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent..." This is some intense questioning of God! But it's then immediately followed by some truths, "Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel." Psalm 13 is another good one, "How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?...Look on me and answer, O Lord my God...But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation." So, ask your questions of God. But after you question him, state the truths you know about Him so you don't get caught in a downward spiral. (And just a warning, sometimes he may just put you in your place like in Job 38).

3. The Lord's Prayer: During a spiritual retreat away, a time dedicated to prayer and study, I only prayed the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). So, yes, that meant I prayed it about 1,000 times in those couple of days. But it had new power each time. Surprisingly it never got redundant or boring. In fact, it was such a powerful experience for me that I still often start off my prayers with the Lord's Prayer.

We both did other studies and journaling and such, but these were some of the practices that really stood out during this time. So, for those of you who asked or cared, there you have it. That's what our time of stillness before God looked like. Props to you if you made it to the end of this post :) Be sure you catch part 3 next week!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

ABC and 123

Any of you with Facebook probably remember the overwhelming theme on your newsfeed from a couple of months ago ... "Back to School!" It seemed like every post was a status update or a shared (and reshared...) blogpost about starting school in the Fall. It was so precious seeing pictures of kids trying to stand up straight while holding a backpack twice their size. And the Moms who had it together posted those great pictures of their kids holding a sign announcing their first day of 1st grade! Super cute.

As I read my friends' status updates about tears shed and kids growing up too fast, and read blogs about how to send your kids to school in a way not to worry about them, etc., I realized my sentiments didn't really match those of most of the Moms I was hearing from. My girls started a Mother's Day Out program two days a week at a nearby church. As I sent them off on their first day I have to say the only thing I felt guilty about was that I wasn't feeling guilty or emotional about sending them to school. But I had to remind myself that people are all different, which is a beautiful thing. And instead of feeling bad that my emotions weren't the same as most other Moms (at least who were sharing their feelings on FB or a blog), I had to make myself step back and just enjoy hearing about my friends' experiences, smile or laugh out loud with them at the responses of their kids, and just appreciate the dynamic tapestry of life being played out in that significant moment. So now, after enjoying hearing from everyone else, I'm going so share my own experience (only 2 months late...).
School time for our family has been a time of complete JOY! I have enjoyed every minute of it! Well, OK, so I don't really enjoy packing lunches or especially cleaning out the lunch box when they return. But I definitely never fail to appreciate how stinkin' precious it is to see Jade try to put on her backpack and walk to the car without falling over. And I always smile (while rolling my eyes) when Sydney, upon arriving at school and seeing a friend in the parking lot, immediately jumps out of the car forgetting her backpack and lunchbox, and even to close the car door. The girls absolutely love their school time, and I have to say I absolutely love my time at home when they're at school :) No tears shed at this home over starting school :)

I'm totally not one of those pinterest-inspired super Moms who took all sorts of cute pictures on the first day. But luckily, my friend Chelsea got a few pictures. Chelsea's boys, Logan and Koi, also attend the Mother's Day Out program and are Sydney and Jade's best friends. And yes, if they got married, we would have the cutest grandkids ever. Look at all those cute faces!!

Koi and Jade trying to figure out what's happening
Sydney and Logan totally rockin' their new school gear
Sydney is in the preschool class which is the oldest class at the school. There are 11 kids in her class, and, since she is our little social bug, she seems to be best friends with all of them. Her teacher is Ms. Joslin. Sydney absolutely eats up everything about school. She loves her teacher and her friends and loves learning just as much. Lately she transitioned from a coloring phase (one day she colored for 6 hours!) into a drawing and letter writing phase. She draws at least 10 pictures a day and writes random letters all over them. Among the jumble of letters I usually find her name and Logan's name, along with a few other small words she knows how to spell. I enjoy looking for words that she creates unknowingly in her random production of letters. One page had the word "poop" hidden throughout several times. Apparently she was learning about "P" and "O" :)

Sydney drew this before school this morning
Jade is in the youngest class, which is the 2-year-olds. Her teacher is Ms. Anna, and Jade talks about her all the time. Although Jade is very talkative at home, she is usually pretty quiet around other people. Ms. Anna has shared that she is enjoying hearing Jade talk more and more at school. Lately, Jade has apparently been singing a lot at school, because it's usually mentioned on the daily report. This is so funny and cute to me because, well, between the two of our daughters Jade did not get the singing gene... But it's still pretty stinkin' precious to hear. Her class has nap time at the end of the day, so it is always a great sight to see five little bodies passed out on their mats when we go to pick her up. They are pretty precious.

So there's a quick update on our joyful school months so far! My next two blogposts will be follow-up from the "Being Still" post, so be looking for them soon! And they actually will come out soon, because I've got a deadline by which to get them done (aka - before going into labor!).

Monday, August 19, 2013

The hard work of being still

"Be still and know that I am God..." (Ps 46:10)

These beautiful words have become ubiquitous in our Christian circles, but in the words of Inigo Montoya, "I do not think it means what you think it means." (Hey, what kind of a blogger would I be if I didn't quote the most quotable movie of all time?). We use it to create a state of peacefulness. Who can help but take a refreshing breath while a lazy smile creeps onto his/her face after hearing these charming words? It's used as a stress reliever in our overly busy lives. How convenient for us. We even have a beautiful song using those words, the tune of which exudes peacefulness. What a joy-filled, peace-inducing phrase. Right? I don't think so.

Being still is the hardest work you will ever do. Not a physical stillness, but a stillness that demands the inactivity of pride, a stillness before God that truly gives Him all authority, exaltation, and permission to work mightily as only the God of the universe can and as He wills. Glory! It may be somewhat easy to say, and to even shout 'Hallelujah!' after, but it is agonizing to do.

This post is going to be personal and raw for us, because this has been our life, our work, and our ministry for the past six months. Stillness. Stillness before God. I'm letting out a sigh right now, not a sigh of pleasant peace, but a sigh over the (hopefully) nearly completed hard work done in us during this time of stillness before God. I apologize for the length of this post, but since I frequent the blog world only about once a month, you can split it up and read a few paragraphs a week. Then maybe by the time you finish this post I'll have another (shorter) post ready :) It's important for me to write this though 1) so you can know what's going on with us and 2) as a necessary component of this oh-so-wondrous season of being stilled and humbled.

As most of you know we have a strong call to serve God in ministry to this world. We spent our first semester while Jared was at Harding School of Theology in focused prayer for direction in our ministry. From that time on we have been pursuing church planting in London. Our time during grad school was the busiest of our lives. During this time of insanity we saw God walking powerfully before us into work in Europe, opening countless doors since we had no excess energy to spend to help get there ourselves. From an encouraging survey trip in 2011 with clear direction, to wonderful support from White Station CoC and Kairos Church Planting, to friends and connections in the UK, to my schooling through the Uof Leicester... The path was being laid before us. We made the decision to step out on faith and to move our family to Nashville last year in the hopes of getting our last leg of valuable training with Ethos, a 2,000 member, four-year-old church plant working mightily for God in Nashville. After 3 months of a "getting to know you" period, we took on an official role with Ethos and were so excited to be actively en route to London and our future ministry there.

At literally the exact time that we became official planter apprentices with Ethos, we went on our second survey trip to London, and the boom hit. This trip was the opposite of our first survey trip. We dealt with negative feelings, closed doors, the realities of how much we can accomplish as Americans, and much more reserve from the British ministers. This kicked off a time of continually closing doors, uncertainty, and spiritual warfare. Obviously we've been wrestling with so many questions about whether this is God helping us change directions for the future or Satan working to prevent that ministry. At the precise moment that we thought we were actively heading into our ministry, we were asked to be still before God...

I cannot express how difficult it is to have an exciting vision become unclear and powerless. It has put us in a difficult position with fundraising, which has meant we get the added stress of dealing with limited finances through this time (brilliant). It's made things harder for our work with Ethos since we are unclear now what we are working toward. That's definitely not to say we have not been working. We've been working hard through all of this, both actively and joyfully with Ethos (hopefully we've been sharing this well through our newsletters) and on our own in an active state of stillness before God. Not a day has gone by when we have not worked ourselves into a sweat whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually. It has been a long, hard road to work ourselves into this active state of stillness before God. And I think both Jared and I will agree it's probably been the hardest six months of our lives. But, though no decisions have been made yet, we think we are coming close to working our way through to a clear and mighty vision for God's kingdom and our future work.

Here's some things we've worked through and concluded so far:

1. God has been leading us and we've been obediently following his guidance to get us to where we are now. We absolutely trust in what he was doing during our time at HST which led us here. Whether he intends to use this path to renew our vision for the UK or alter it for another work, we're unsure. But whatever we decide we won't feel like we've made the wrong choice or been disobedient to His call either now or in the past few years.

2. We have a heart for lost people and will work in ministry to them. If we don't go to London we will most likely do church planting stateside, probably somewhere in the Northwest.

3. We are working on seeing either decision in a positive light (I can't say we are necessarily there yet). For months we felt stuck in a lose/lose situation. On the one hand we could go to London and have a strenuous work ahead of us, isolated from family, spending years breaking into a proud culture, possibly seeing few results...or on the other hand we could change direction which would seem like starting over, failure, etc. Those negative feelings are not from God, and we have been trying to see both paths as positives. Exciting works for God's kingdom. What wonderful opportunities we have before us.

4. We could not have been in a better position to develop this practice of being still before God. The relationships we have made during this year have been priceless. We are so in love with our friends here and will treasure them our entire lives. Doing kingdom work alongside Ethos has been awesome. We are learning so much and being spiritually fed while watching countless people develop faith. We have learned from past difficulties how to cling to each other in tough times, so our relationship is beautiful. We could not have asked for more precious girls, and we have the joy of a wonderful baby boy on the way. Only through the work of the Holy Spirit can I say through this "agonizing" time, life is good!

5. As hard as it was to try to express how agonizing it can be to be still before God, it is even more difficult to help you understand the amazing things that happen when you learn to stay in that position. I'm just not good enough with words to do it justice. I can stutter out some words that come to mind: power, growth, strength, glory, lessons, peace (aha! there is peace in that phrase!). Through all the little lessons in life, I can name a handful of overarching life lessons that I learned during a phase in my life. One in high school, one in college, etc. I can count 4 of those major lessons from within the last 6 months alone, lessons that would normally take years to learn and meld into my life. Seriously, I could write a book.

6. Not only do good things happen in you when you dwell in the stillness of knowing that he is God, but you invite him to work. You want to know an even better verse about being still before God? Zechariah 2:13 - Be still before the Lord, all mankind, because he has roused himself from his holy dwelling. Bam! Please tell me you are jumping out of your seat and shouting Hallelujah! at that thought of God rousing himself from his dwelling to be active among us. It sounds absurd to think that we don't already invite God's action, but I can honestly say I didn't fully do that before this time, and I think it's the same for a lot of Christians. Even if it's hard to admit, we limit God and invite him to partial works that fit our ideas (though they can still be awesome and miraculous). It's only natural. People in the bible fell on their face before God's angel in terror. How much more terrifying is it to have God himself come down and work powerfully? Let me just say, whatever decision we make about the future, I cannot wait to share with you what is to come because of the might and majesty of God that will come out of this moment in our lives. Glory to God!

Ethos has blessed us with a weekend away for spiritual renewal and vision casting. Tomorrow we will drop off our kids with some friends and head out to a cabin for two nights. I want to beg some prayers from you over this time. I don't know if we'll come back with a decision about our future work or not, but I trust this is going to be a powerful time in our spiritual and ministerial formation. I'm so excited and can't wait to share more with you about God's work in our lives. I hope each of you will have the (excruciating) opportunity to truly be still before God.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Sydney's Fourth Birthday

Lasterday we had the joy of celebrating four years with our sweet Sydney. It is quite a conundrum that some days with the girls seem to drag on and on, and I find myself asking, "Will bedtime ever come?" But at the same time, the years go by in the blink of an eye. I wonder if I can somehow switch those two so that those rough days go by in an instant while I get to savor these precious years.

Pictures are worth a thousand words, even with my mediocre picture taking skills, so I'll let those tell most of the story. Let me just set the stage by saying we have been blessed with so many friends in each place we've lived. The problems with that blessing here in Nashville, however, were trying squeeze all those friends in our apartment and hosting a princess party for boys. Luckily Sydney made a new friend in Molly Jane just a few weeks before the party, so we were able to have one other princess come to the party, other than that it was all boys. So, of course, we slayed a dragon...

Birthday Princess 
After one sweet pose she felt the need to pose as the brave princess that she is

Slaying the dragon

Getting the goods

Look at that face; she was so excited for her princess cake


Trying out the bike Grandpa and Grandma King got the birthday girl

Sunday, June 23, 2013


Due to the fact that I am a pathetically inconsistent blogger (though with every intention of improving in frequency), I've decided it's time to introduce you to a word from my four-year-old's vocabulary. The word of the day is "Lasterday," which, roughly translated, means "anytime in the past." For instance, you could say, "Lasterday was Saturday." Or "Lasterday I was a born." The significance is, lasterday creates a flexible and/or vague idea of timing in the past. You may be beginning to understand why I want to introduce lasterday into my blogging vocabulary. Since I tend to run a month (or two or three) behind, I can now refer to the time as "lasterday," and you won't need to know how behind I am. I may be writing about yesterday, or something that happened a year ago. You may never know... So, with just a quick thanks to my brilliant daughter, let me dive in...

Lasterday, we got to spend the day in the happiest place on earth...Disneyland! Sydney has been once before when she was only six months old (twice if you count when I was 8 months pregnant with her!). So it was such a joy to get the chance to go when she was a great age to enjoy it. Of course, her greatest excitement came from seeing the princesses. She just glowed. We went with Babaw and Gramma (my parents), and even Babaw, who is her favorite person ever, lost popularity next to any princess. And by princess, I mean anyone wearing a princess dress, including every two-year-old girl dressed in a beautiful dress (she made one random girl's day by trying to get her picture taken with her because she was wearing a Tiana dress). We all agree that the best part of the day was the first thing we did: one-on-one time with Princesses Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Cinderella. Just look at her face...

Did you notice Jade's face? Just take a look at the above picture. That pretty much sums up her reaction toward the princesses..."who cares?" So, what, of all that Disneyland has to offer, did impress Jade? Mickey Mouse? The Dumbo ride? Pirates? Water? Ice cream? Nope, it was the random ducks wandering the park. The same kind of ducks she sees every day right by our house. I'm not even sure if she saw any other part of Disneyland. But hey, at least she showed excitement about one thing (and if you know Jade, you know that if she shows any excitement at all, that means she's pretty stinkin' excited)!

Jade's excited face (because of the duck in the background)
The rest of the day went exactly as you'd expect. Sydney was spoiled by Babaw. Jared tried to sneak off on as many rides as possible and yelled more wildly on all the rides than the girls did. Sydney pointed out every princess and Jade every duck, we spent way too much money on some delicious ice cream, and had pretty much the happiest day at the happiest place on earth. The only disappointment was about Brave (Princess Merida). She is currently Sydney's favorite princess, and the one she wanted to see the most. We finally tracked her down in the late afternoon, and were excited to see only about 10 people in line to meet her. Unfortunately, Brave spent at least 5 minutes talking with each little kid, which meant that was the longest line of the day timewise. When we got to be second in line they let a few children with special needs cut in front of us, and that was the end of it for Sydney. Worn out from a long day of fun, and tired of standing in one place for an hour, the sight of moving back in line was too much. She just cried and cried that she did not want to see Brave anymore. It was so sad, and made for a very disappointed Mommy too, since I spent an hour of our one day in Disneyland standing in a line for no reason. I guess this just means we'll need to go back soon so that Sydney can finally meet Brave.

The rest of our California trip was spent at Pepperdine, but I'll let you read Jared's (more punctual) blog about that if you are interested. I'll only add, apparently I am under some kind of curse that means I can only ever attend the Pepperdine lectures if I am also currently pregnant...