Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Brief Highlights

I have no idea what to blog here. Like a million and five things have happened, but I've been really trying to "be in the moment" in my life. Like, not doing it from behind the phone camera lense, but to actually be involved actively in every second of my life. It seems like it's flying past now.

Some highlights:

The Little Flower has upgraded from sticks to the cowbell. I've been researching songs with cowbell in them like crazy. Her art still blows my mind.

The Number One Son is a skateboarding, camping, football playing, basketballing growth spurt eating everything and running to and fro like some kind of pinball. He never stops, even preferring to eat on the move.

The Wonder Twins are both licensed drivers. Nayhuh promptly had her first wreck totaling her new-to-her car in just two weeks of getting it. Everyone was all right. Well, the car not so much, but the humans are good, and that's all that really counts. She really let it rip when she did it too--like there was a pond and some foliage and a tree branch or two, and to hear Lilly tell it, there was some Dukes of Hazzard-like "yeehawing" happening from her mouth as they flew down the embankment.

Sister is in her senior year. That alone is enough to give me the hives. She's turned 18 and is gracefully moving into adulthood one day at a time. (I can't even believe that I have a kid old enough to graduate high school. It's like some kind of sick joke.)

We have two yard dogs and one indoor dog. The cat was voted off of the island after she couldn't stop peeing on everything. (When you have eight people and four animals everyone MUST hit the bowl and not the floor.)

All is well in Johnsonville. I hope 2017 is another wonderful year for you all.

Washington D.C. 2017

Well, we finished a whirlwind tour of Washington DC with Chilton Christian Academy. Had a beautiful time of it. The kids and adults were all spectacularly well behaved and on time and in good spirits. It was easy traveling with 25 people who were all ready and willing to have an adventure.
So many things were amazing that it's hard to narrow it down to one overall favorite, so instead I think I'll share my greatest overall impression--Majesty. The Capitol is a beautiful place. The memorials, monuments, and museums are all almost overwhelming in their grandeur. I'd never been before, so it was almost too much to take in.

We rode a large tour bus over night Monday night and arrived at noon on Tuesday. We toured two Smithsonian museums--the National Air and Space Museum and the National Museum of American History. Both places had so many human success stories and amazing things accomplished in the name of curiosity and an unfailing spirit of exploration and determination. We are a people of great perseverance. We win mostly by refusing to quit or ceasing to strive for something better, greater. It was moving to witness the American spirit of sheer grit on display in room after room of history. Paul Revere, the Wright Brothers, Neil Armstrong, Washington...and on and on.
That evening we ate at the Hard Rock, Washington DC. Then we toured monuments by evening/night. We saw the Jefferson Memorial, where I was reminded that a handful of dedicated patriots changed the entire world with the documents that forged our nation's beginning. We saw the Washington Monument from a distance--several helicopters low flying in the setting sunlight--reminding me that freedom is never, ever free. The West Potomac Park was beautiful with the cherry blossoms in full bloom. They made the whole place feel surreal and magical. 
Walking through the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial where the man's story was so profound it required seven acres to do it justice was moving. Then going into the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and being reminded that one man with a dedicated spirit can literally change the world was humbling.
We traveled out of the city and stayed in a really nice hotel that night. (I've never been so glad to see a shower in all my life.) Our bus driver, Lisa, was quite incredible. She maneuvered that enormous bus through dense traffic deftly without a single hesitation. It was impressive.
The next morning the entire crew was loaded and rolling at 7:30 for Mount Vernon. I wish we'd had an entire day instead of until lunch to tour. There was so much to see! The home, the grounds, and the museum were beautiful. Seeing how the Washington's lived and what he was willing to sacrifice to leave his home for literally five years to fight to establish our new country was moving. The precedents he set for how the President of the United States is addressed and dealt with, and how the peaceful transfer of power is enacted--so many things he did that define our current presidencies. It's breathtaking the influence that this family had on our founding.
From there we traveled to Ford's Theater and the Peterson House to see where President Lincoln was assassinated. His impact on our nation cannot be understated either. Washington may have been pivotal in our founding, but Lincoln may have single-handedly saved the Union of the United States. His legacy is remarkable.
After those tours, we were supposed to tour the US Capitol Visitor Center, but through a series of unfortunate events, we couldn't get tickets. The tour company and our own efforts were unsuccessful. Several people mentioned that the National Cathedral was amazing, so we tried and succeeded in getting last minute tickets. Again, God was watching over us--at our scheduled time there was the shooting incident at the Capitol and all tours were cancelled. We were at the church instead. :-) This was the single most moving, beautiful thing that I personally saw. I can't even explain what it felt like to stand in that enormous room and see the efforts of dedicated, motivated, creative, talented artists come together to make a masterpiece that honored God and our nation at the same time. Everything from the hand cross stitched kneeling benches to the carved screens and altars. I can't even explain what it felt like in that place. It was jaw dropping.
We ate at the most interesting Italian joint--Bucca di Beppo--the food was excellent but the decor might have even topped it. We laughed, talked, ate, and had a wonderful time enjoying our experience. After eating, we rolled back to another round of monuments. We started in daylight at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. To say that is a holy place is an understatement. So many lives lost and documented all over Washington, but the feeling of sadness there was almost tangible. WWI had a clear objective and we were rallied to fight evil, but Vietnam has a muddier history. It made the losses feel heavier somehow knowing that Steve's uncle's name was on the wall and my father's could have been. It was very moving.
From there we walked to the Lincoln Memorial. I knew it was large, but standing there in the flesh I couldn't help but be awed by the enormity of it. It's overwhelming. And gorgeous. And sort of a happy, hopeful memorial. Looking out over the lawn to the Washington Monument in the setting sun felt extraordinarily patriotic. And joyful.
Then we went to what was perhaps my favorite thing on the trip, the Korean War Memorial. I wasn't that interested at first discussion, but the artistry in that display was spectacular. And moving. And disturbing. And awful. The artists who placed the 19 larger than life men walking in full infantry gear, ponchos, weapons, squinting against rain and wind in juniper bushes that simulated a rice paddy was...was...well, awful. The flag flying overhead in a full wind, watching the statues in the low light was a totally different matter. My heart literally stuttered in my breast at the overwhelming gratitude for the men and women who have served in the military. Their daily struggles and sacrifices for something Greater Than are often taken for granted. Standing there looking at that monument reminded me again that there are always things bigger than self that are worth fighting and dying for.
From there we walked to the WWII Memorial, which is amazing in its majesty. As understated as the
Korean and Vietnam memorials are, the WWII Memorial is as grand as anything could possibly be. It was lovely.
The grand finale of our evening was a stop in front of the White House to take photos. Again, I'm so thankful we live in a free nation where protesters were right on hand next to families taking photos of the President's house. :-) So awesome. We live in an amazing nation!
Thursday morning we were packed up and rolling at 7:45 a.m. headed to Arlington. Words can't begin to describe the feeling one has in that physical place. We watched the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier which was moving and crowded with people standing in total silence, honoring all of the men and women who were lost and left. We toured Robert E. Lee's house and several monuments including the US Marine Corps War Memorial or Iwo Jima as it is more commonly known. I didn't know how large it was in person and was moved. The flag unfurled in a stiff wind--you could literally see the veins in the men's hands as they raised the flag captured forever in bronze. It was inspiring to say the least.
From Arlington it was on to the National Archives where we saw the founding documents in the flesh. Again, some things are beyond mere words and seeing proof of the forefather's foresight was a gift and a privilege. I wrote this just so I'd have a record of it for later when my memory dulls a little with time. If you ever have the chance to take this trip to our nation's capitol I strongly encourage it. I am not the same for all I have seen. Over and over the message was the same--be willing to sacrifice every thing for some thing greater than yourself.

John 15:12-13 (Jesus speaking)
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
A big thank you to everyone who traveled on this adventure--you made it even better just because!