God has us on a journey. One of adventure. Of learning. Of battles. Of love. Growth is this journey realized. So here is our story.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A holiday as it should be

This Thanksgiving was everything a holiday should be...quality time with family, an abundance of yummy comfort food, cozy times around the fire, and plenty of laughter from kids playing. We couldn't have asked for more.
For the first time in 10 years, we got to spend a holiday with Brandon's brother Zac and his family (Hillary, Malakai & Kihana), and Brandon's mom and stepdad. We got a couple days with Z & H and kids in our home before making the road trip up to Grandma Jojo and Grandpa Gordon's cabin in Northern Arizona. Of course, we had to take Z & H to Sedona--our absolutely favorite place in Arizona. (I've said this before, right?:-) And it did not disappoint.It was so rewarding to watch our next generation get excited about hiking and nature!
Then it was 4 days out of civilization. No TV, no internet, no paved roads, hardly any cell phone service, and solar-powered electricity. Always an adventure, and always a retreat.
There was baseball, mountain biking, and horseshoes.The cousins even got to have Christmas morning together!And one of the most special things was getting to watch Soren and Malakai love on each other. They are almost the same age difference as Brandon and Zac, which of course reminded everyone of the Sawyer boys as kids. I'm sure Grandma Jojo was in heaven!At one point on our caravan drive to the cabin Brandon said, "Right now, life feels exactly as it should be." Thank you, God, for glimpses such as these.

What does Advent mean to you?

The meaning of Advent has been weaving through my inner thoughts over the past week. It's a term I rarely heard spoken as a child and definitely never celebrated in my Evangelical upbringing. But as an adult who now runs in more progressive/liturgical Christian circles, I hear this word regularly and only wish I knew of its meaning. It's more than calendars, small presents, and candle lightings, right? I am hoping that Advent is more than some "25 days of Christmas" sort of thing. So what is it, exactly?
My sister and her husband have decided to celebrate Advent this year by doing something Christmas-y each day in December...ice skating, going to light parades, making Christmas cards, etc.
A blogger in my church fellowship is writing on his personal journey with the weekly themes of Advent.My little home church welcomed the season of Advent last night with a candlelit labyrinth. We spent time walking and reflecting on our journeys and the things we carry, symbolized by stones we literally carried in our hands along the walk. We stopped at various stations along the way to offer thanks, appreciate God's goodness, participate in hope, and experience peace as we let go of the stones/burdens of our lives.
Yet still, I am searching for what is at the heart of the season of Advent. I have heard it is to be a time that we prepare for the coming of our Lord. Beautiful language that often evades me. And so I open up this conversation to you...
What does the Advent season mean to you this year?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Fall. Finally.

We made it. To November. For us Arizonans, fall comes a little late. I now know that I can count on refreshing, cooler weather by Halloween. We even got an extra little blessing this weekend with a cold front and rain, bringing the temp down to the low 60s. So out of hibernation we crawled, with hopeful hearts and a renewed sense of love for this desert land.Just the 3 of us frolicked through our local farm's fall festival. The simple joys...

milking fake cows...

climbing on tire towers...

petting real cows...

kissing another fake cow...
...oh yes, and measuring Soren's height for the year. He made it to a full 3 feet!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Our little hiker boy!

I (Brandon) couldn't be more proud of my little guy this week! It is finally cooling down enough in the mornings to have fun outside so I took Soren on a hike. He was so excited to go. We got his Ranger Rick binoculars, his camo shoes, his gecko tanker, and he was ready to go.

We started out by trying to head down a normal trail, but Soren was not having that. He started pointing off the trail into a dried river bed saying: "I wanna go that way!" After trying to lead him back on the trail for a few minutes he ended up laying in the dirt crying. So I gave in and we started our adventure the way Soren wanted to do it. For the next 90 minutes we did not see the trail. He went up and down ravines, over rocks, and through bushes. Any obstacle you can think of he went straight for it. Many times I tried to hold his hand down steep and rocky sections and he got so mad at me. He is a such an independent little guy.

Our local hike was just the start. On Saturday we took a day trip to Sedona and went for a beautiful hike. Sedona is just an amazing place! Such a gem of Arizona.

We brought our carrier, but Soren wanted nothing to do with it for the first hour and a half. We hiked a good 1.5 miles up and down some very rocky and hilly terrain and he just charged it. We would stop to take water breaks every once in a while and Soren would get a quick drink and say: "I wanna hike!" So off we went.

I really haven't pushed him to be so much of a "Sawyer" but he is turning out to be quite the adventurous little guy. However it happened it makes me one proud Dada. I am a truly blessed man with a wonderful adventurous little guy.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Finding my voice

This week at my immersion session (where we get together for several intense days of class) I had a different and profound experience. Our class was split into two groups, each with a professor, and we ventured into a day and a half of group therapy. What happened there I did not expect. People opened their hearts in such vulnerable ways and revealed brokenness, pain, strength, beauty, wisdom, and love. I learned so much about others. We became like a family. And I learned so much from watching some pretty uncomfortable conflict between group members and the leader. I pondered a lot on my silence in the group and what that means. How much of me is insecurely shy and how much of me is confidently quiet? What is my voice? What do I have to contribute to the group, my clients, all those in my life? I don't have any answers yet. But I am pondering. I want to know who I am more clearly, more confidently. I want to speak out to others with intention, not pushed by fears, insecurities, or expectations of others. I want to know in every crevice of my soul that my voice is worth being heard. And I wonder if my greatest calling is to help my clients, and others, find the gift of their own voice as well.

Why I run

Yesterday on my run Soren asked me: "Mama, why you running?" And I gave him the short answer: "Because it's good for my body. It makes me healthy and strong." But someday I'm going to give him the long answer:

San Diego

Jumping on the trampoline...a sweet new friendship between Soren and Quinn...creative beer at Alpine Brewing Company...a luxurious (and free!) date night downtown...a small-town parade on a beautiful fall day...
Just another wonderful weekend in San Diego.

However, there was a tinge of great sadness in the air that weekend. Our sister-in-law's father was suddenly critically ill and in the hospital. He is now making a miraculous recovery, and if you'd like to know more of his story you can visit his Caring Bridge page. Please pray.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

My top 10 of Arizona list

It's been a year. A year since we moved to the Phoenix area to start over, chase our career dreams, and make a new life for ourselves. That hot, dark night in August...where we stood on our new doorstep at 1am frantically trying to turn the electricity on, where we fell into our sleeping bags upstairs, trying to let sleep take us when the inside temperature was a sweltering 95 degrees... It seems like yesterday, but then it seems like so far away when I think of all that has gone on in our lives since then. Classes done, friends made, mountains hiked, cities explored, things learned. We have learned a lot this past year, about ourselves, each other, and the journey of life...but what I wanted to tell today is what we have learned about Arizona. So here is my top 10 list of things I've learned about AZ!

10. Everyone knows Arizona is hot. But nothing could have prepared me for the oppression that summer brings. It starts in late May and goes through October. That's right--last year Halloween weekend was the first time it dropped below triple digits. The heat never ends. Even in the wee hours of the morning it's still pushing 90. That means there is never a good time to exercise outside. So we hibernate. For 6 months.
9. It actually gets cold. It's already hard for me to imagine, but I have these vague memories of wearing wool sweaters during the day, and bundling up in all of my fleece (including a fleece ear warmer!) to run in the mornings. But I will never complain about our cold. We welcome winter with open, desperate arms.
8. Phoenix is enormous. Brandon kept telling me that Phoenix was going to be much bigger than San Diego, but I just didn't believe him. I kept denying that fact until I experienced Phoenix traffic. It's quite simply horrendous. And besides that, the Phoenix metropolitan area, with over 4 million people, spans across 9,000 square miles. Which means that it can take up to 2 hours to go from the Southeast corner of the valley to the Northwest corner.
7. Religion is big out here. There are churches on every corner (in the suburbs this is not an exaggeration). And a big trend is advertising your chosen church on your car. Of course your sticker must have a cool mega-church name like "Rock Point" or "Real Life".
6. This is Mormon central. I was shocked to find out that the communities of Gilbert/Mesa are home to the 2nd largest Mormon population outside of Utah. This means LDS churches on every corner, lots and lots of kids in the neighborhoods, and up until recently not being able to order alcohol at restaurants on Sundays (so I've been told). What we have learned from being in this heavy religious culture is to visit our favorite restaurants and play places on Sunday morning--when everyone is in church!
5. And here's another very real implication of a religious culture: extremely conservative politics. I'm gonna try to keep my emotions out of it while I simply state what Arizona politicians have been up to lately: cutting our state Medicaid for all single persons, cutting mental health services (after Jared Laughner shot Congresswoman Gabby Giffords), naming a state gun, ruling that guns be allowed in bars, and you are all familiar with SB1070--the law allowing cops to question a person's citizenship, especially if they look like they don't belong.
4. Arizona Mexican food is entirely different than California Mexican food. It's referred to as the Sonoran style, as opposed to the Baja style I'm used to in San Diego. But I'm still not sure exactly what the difference is yet because I'm having a really hard time just trying to find good, authentic Mexican food at all here.
3. The desert is beautiful. It took me years of visiting my in-laws in Arizona to begin to grasp the mysterious, enchanting beauty of the desert. The vibrant orange-purple-pink sunsets here far surpass any sunset on Sunset Cliffs in SD. And the purple mountains standing so majestic in the distance take my breath away almost every time I glance to the East.
2. Sedona is our state gem. It's a tourist haven, but for very good reason. The magnificent red rock structures that surround the little town of Sedona are of another world. Divine. I say the scenery is just as good as anything Utah's got.
1. Haboobs. Just say it with me:-) Borrowed from the Arabs, this term describes the crazy/nasty/massive dust storms that devour our valley regularly each summer. Last month a gnarly haboob came through--basically a wall of dust 2 miles high that brought visibility to 0, turned the sky dark brown, and put sand in our teeth. They even shut the airport down! Just google it...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Fresh start

A new semester begins. Starting the school year, getting into a new routine never ceases to capture my excitement. I get pleasant butterflies reminiscing about colorful falling leaves, dry land swim practices on the football field, and new notebooks and pens. Even now, in grad school, in the desert, I love the feel of a fresh start. I love knowing I'll be settling into a cozy routine that I can depend on. It's a constant rhythm between school work, play with Soren, errands, workouts, study dates with Karen, family dinners, evening walks or swims, Dexter nights with Bran, and Sunday morning breakfasts. It's contained chaos...and I love it. The seasons of nature (albeit very subtle in Arizona) and the seasons of the school year give me a steady peace in the continuity of life. I feel sustained in the familiar routines and hopeful for what may come with this fresh start.