bunny season

with only a few days of bunny season left... we feel a celebration in our future!  we will most likely end the season with a live bunny! this makes two consecutive years that charlie the bunny "loving" dachshund has not "loved" one (or two) to death.  
chesnut rabbit was ours from a couple years ago. the sweetest family keeps him during the year. thank goodness, because a month of dog verses rabbit is about all we can handle. chesnut is a superstar! the tamest, gentlest, most photogenic rabbit ever.  

the sessions involve a few talented handlers :) paid hourly, most of the time in nail polish or trips to target.
at some of the all day sessions, two handlers are required :) 
these two ladies are the cutest, most talented ones that heidi graves photography employees ;)

win and lose

track season is in! 

anna katherine is a sprinter on the varsity team.  mary claire is still trying to find her best fit and has really cute shoes ;) all of the graves kids have to wear the motion control running shoes. it’s rare that these shoes are cute and fashionable. this year mary claire got lucky and scored some cute nikes. 
i begin swim season by apologizing for the long feed of swim pictures that all look completely the same except to the parents. i find myself taking so many just to get a few good ones.

sports pictures rarely pass the kid test of approval. if their face looks crazy distorted or if an action football picture is not cool... the kids will veto the picture. 

that doesn't mean the pictures are not posted. the providers of food, shelter, love, automobiles, cell phones, essentially life as they know it… those people choose what's posted ;)  

i am realizing that the BEST pictures might just be track pictures. editing the first meets left me in stitches!
the faces...

mixed in with the funny and the sweet!

mary claire. before i get to her, first let me say that anna katherine goes to practice, runs the meets,  is not overly competitive, takes advil when she is sore, and keeps the whining and complaining to a minimum.

mary claire. she goes to practice, runs the meets, socializes with friends, is very competitive, knows the rules, enforces the rules, all while giving you a minute by minute report of her comfort level, well being and if there is anything you can do for her. 

if bennett were there he would be looking for his uniform and shoes.
the first meet of her track career was. an experience. our school competed with two other local middle schools. i am not sure if the regulations were that "you have to be middle school aged" or "you have to be enrolled in middle school."  good grief the ability level of most races was lopsided.

some of the other runners  were so fast that i thought the mile had ended then two of our runners go by. pretty intimidating. some of these kids need to hop on over to the olympics!

before her race mary claire had been taking it all in.  "mom, these girls are so fast! i am going to lose." (yes honey. yes you are going to lose.)  trying to keep her spirits up and melt down at bay... i told her to run pretty for pictures and try not to lose by a landslide!

 SO, i didn't really say that.  i encouraged her to run her very best. and a pray.  and remember she had really cute (orthopedic) running shoes.

in swimming, the heats are separated by fraction of seconds.

this meet, the coaches said, "just pick a lane, any lane, any heat."  they too knew the odds.

i will give you one guess who won. 
or didn't win!
the loser didn't lose by a landslide so we consider that a win! 
it ended up being a nice first meet. the other runners had good sportsmanship and it was will organized. i think we lost. (i know we lost) it's all about the experience. (it's not completely about the experience ;)  i did get some amusing photographs.

two mites

i have been writing this post for what seems like forever. when a moment is this special, i want to make sure the words due the experience justice.i realize after attempting to tell this story for weeks, i will never due it justice.

this moment happened on our last day in ecuador. our suitcases were packed and sitting by the gates. ronnie and i were having our coffee on the outside bench while waiting for our ride to the airport. BOY had it been a week. this mission trip was encased in a million emotions. we had experienced the Holy Spirit hard at work. we had also navigated through serious spiritual warfare. so as we sat on the bench talking through our experiences… we admitted that we felt like we were leaving this special place with the wind out of our sails. 

as we sat, the only two guests at our pity party, we received an unexpected visit from two sisters we had met with earlier in the week. one of their husband’s mother was battling a terminal illness. you could see the weight of the world on his face. the family had asked that we meet and pray specifically for his needs.

 a big old can of prayer was opened! the Holy Spirit led our pray and guided our words so we didn’t miss a thing.  we prayed for him, his mother, his extended family, his work, his pets, the weather (not really the weather)…  i remember we prayed for so many things, not wanting to miss a single detail. that day, there was not a doubt that we all felt the Holy Spirit in that room.

 our meeting with their family had happened at the beginning of our mission trip. so many heavy things had happened since those first days. right before their arrival, ronnie and i had been pity partying it up mulling over the “bad” and breezing over the “good.” giving satan more attention.

the sisters had taken time off from their jobs to travel across town… just to say thank you. the husband we had prayed with said he finally felt peace. 

feeling the peace that only Jesus can give is an intoxicating feeling.

ronnie and i knew that we were not responsible for her husband’s peace. but we were used as messengers… and that brought back another intoxicating feeling. the feeling of being “His hands and feet.”  

(selfishly) we felt the wind was filling our sails!

then something unexpected happened. something i will never forget... one sister reached into her bag and handed ronnie a small painting. it was from her home.
then she reached up and took off her earrings and placed them in my hand. “these are for you.”

the story of the widow and her mites came to my mind.

"She didn’t give much—just two mites —or did she?" 

 the earrings in my hand and the painting in ronnie’s, were our two mites. they were not gifts worth large amounts of money. these gifts represented something that money could never buy. a selfless gift from the heart.  

when i arrived home, jeff attached the earrings to a special box. i love having such a powerful example of generosity on display in our home.

i thought of this gift and God’s perfect timing. i was so grateful to be sailing out of macahchi with wind in our sails. 

a reminder that God is THE giver of every good and perfect gift.

tour day

i think i am one, maybe two blog posts into my last mission trip. goals! (insert eye roll) i know it leaves many on the edge of their seat just waiting for more ecuador pictures (insert eye roll) i mean who doesn't love an endless feed of foreign scenery pictures and a handful of words (insert two eye rolls)

my only condition for selecting our tour day was  "to try to avoid a car crash." other than that, i was up for anything ;) we chose 
Lake Cuicocha
"lake of guinea pigs" 
on a scale  of 1-10 for near death experiences, our day in the van was a conservative 6. there were steep cliffs and two lane roads, but the traffic was light. i only thought we were going to die three r for times, so i consider a 6 a great day in the van

we paid 6.00 each for a guided boat tour and loaded the boat with a group from russia and their translator. how neat is that!? our guide hopped on board with a smile and an extra can of gas. he was just the sweetest!
our  guide had two stories on how the lake (a caldera) received it's name. one was because it was  shaped like a guinea pig. the other was more graphic and interesting. this was the lake that natives  used for sacrificing loads of guinea pigs in order to please the gods. he gave a lot of details :)

it was fascinating to see the constant gas omissions that created a sea of bubbles.

our tour guide (i wish i remembered his name) was eager for each of us to have our picture made driving the boat :)

a virgin mary statue tucked away on the side of the crater.

it was a nice tour. at the end we each received a cup of hot tea spiked with alcohol. not really!  but it was offered. we gave our share to our russian friends.
we ended tour day with a walk around the market and hot tea biscuits.

and a nice dinner by the lake.
it was a good day.

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