Monday, September 26, 2011

18 months!

Ellie recently had an 18 month photoshoot with our amazing friends The Heatons.  They did a great job capturing Ellie even though all she wanted to do was run around and play.  Just thought I'd share some of our favorites... I posted a bunch more over on Facebook that you can look at if you're my FB friend.









Saturday, August 27, 2011

11/11/11 is coming quick!

I just wanted to give you guys a quick update on how things are going with The Scripture to Music Project, my goal to write a song for every book of the Bible by the time I turn 30 on 11/11/11.

The other day, I dropped Ellie off at Mother's Day Out and went to work.  I re-wrote and re-recorded my Leviticus song, wrote/recorded a song from 3 John, and finished/recorded a song from 1 Thessalonians.  At the end, I sat down and worked on a song for Daniel and I think it's pretty much finished, but I still need to record it.  They aren't all the best songs I've ever written, but that's ok.

So, after productive day, I have 14 songs left to write and record - 5 from the Old Testament and 9 from the New.  11/11/11 is about 11 weeks away.  I feel good about accomplishing my goal, as long as I keep the right attitude (it's not about me) and I'm ok with pulling an all-nighter or two.

These are the books I still have to cover (if you have any ideas of what I should write about, let me know! I'm being serious!!)...

1 Kings
Amos
Obadiah
Haggai
Zecheriah
2 Thess
1 Timothy
2 Timothy
Titus
Philemon
1 Peter
2 Peter
1 John
2 John

Here's a song from Isaiah I wrote this month that I'm excited about... It's from a passage that is rich with good news for me and you.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Girly Girl

First off, I apologize for being such a terrible blogger of late.  I took a nice, kind of unintentional break from reading blogs and writing this one as I worked on getting this one over here up and running.

Sooooo.... I think we have a girly girl on our hands:

Exhibit A: Heels [video]


Exhibit B: Purses [video]


Exhibit C: "Pedicures"

Exhibit D: Baby Dolls

And I didn't even mention the way she loves to play house, hates to be dirty, loves to look at her outfits in the mirror, and loves trying on different shoes.... All. Day. Long.  Oh man, what is this no-makeup, shopping-makes-me-feel-panicky, tomboy mom going to do? :)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Take Refuge from God in God

"We must hide our unholiness in the wounds of Christ as Moses hid himself in the cleft of the rock while the glory of God passed by. We must take refuge from God in God. Above all we must believe that God sees us perfect in His Son while He disciplines and chastens and purges us that we may be partakers of His holiness." 
- A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy
I've been reading and studying the minor prophets a lot lately... yep, those scary books full of God's judgement and phrases like "consuming fire".  When I signed myself up to write a song for every book of the Bible in a year, I was mostly thinking about writing songs from the Psalms, etc.... and I've had several "oh-crap-these-books-are-intense" moments while trying to write songs from the minor prophets (not to mention Leviticus, eh?).

But as I've studied these books - specifically Joel, Zephaniah, and Malachi - in the past few weeks, I have seen a major theme emerge: Even as God sends His all-consuming wrath against sin, He sends a refuge from that very same wrath.  We cannot hide from His judgement, because we all fall short of His holiness.  And yet, He says "hide here."  Hide in the wounds of Jesus and hide behind the cross.

What I'm trying to say might be best summed up by a chorus that I wrote for "A Place to Hide" (the song I wrote for Zephaniah, see below to listen and download):

Oh He’s both the refuge and consuming flame
Oh He brings the judgment and He mediates
Oh He sends the justice and He justifies
Sends the wrath that finds you and the place to hide

You know that verse that Christians quote from Zephaniah?  The one that says "The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing"?  When put in the context of God's just judgement, His wrath and His consuming fire, this verse becomes very, very good news and so much more than a feel-good verse that reminds us of God's love.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

June 1 a Year Ago

The below is from my journal June 1, 2010, which was my last day of work at Gordon-Conwell and just a few days before we moved back to Texas after being away for 4 years.  I was really overwhelmed about moving to Tyler, mainly because we hardly knew anyone here besides Nick's family... It's just amazing to see how God has answered this prayer:

"God, we pray for community - real, authentic - that would encourage us toward You.  We pray for a sense of purpose there, and we pray for a church and an opportunity to be a part of Kingdom work..."

God, thank you for our community here in Tyler.  The way you put it right in front of us almost immediately - it's really amazing how quickly we have gotten to know these friends here.  And thank you for giving us purpose - I know that I have never felt more purposeful with music than I do right now with this Scripture to Music project, and my mom gig is so fulfilling.  Thank you for the opportunities you have given Nick so far.  We are still trying to figure out our total purpose here, but we are catching glimpses.  And thank you, thank you for our church - the way you led us right to it, and the for the amazing people there.  And thank you for the opportunity to share your love and your story with high school kids through Young Life.  Thank you for your love and care for us, even in the smallest details and the hard moments too.  Amen.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Why The Scripture to Music Collective?

I know I've mentioned something called The Scripture to Music Collective here on this site quite a bit.  But what is it exactly, and what's the purpose of it anyway?

It all started when I made a personal goal this year of writing a song for every book of the Bible by 11/11/11.  I wanted to do this project for several reasons, but a big reason is because I wanted to begin to tell God's Story - the whole story - book by book.  Even the hairy, messy parts.

But then I thought, why would I keep this project to myself?  If more songwriters joined in, if this were a collective project instead of an individual one, we could tell the Story more thoroughly and more vividly.

If you listen to popular Christian music, you won't hear very many songs that come straight from specific narratives and passages in Scripture.  Sure, you'll hear lots of songs that draw from Scripture - one verse here and one verse there.  There are also several musicians out there who write music for Scripture - word for word - to help with Scripture memorization.  There is nothing wrong with these approaches, but The Scripture to Music Collective aims to do something very different.

The point is NOT to rewrite or even enhance Scripture, but to engage with all of Scripture and to encourage the Church to engage with it as well.  It is about keeping the truths of Scripture as of primary importance, but allowing the songwriter to take these truths and "riff" a little bit, if you will, using perspective, feeling, and context.

The video below illustrates what I think The Scripture to Music Collective could be.  The people at the Johnny Cash Project have created this beautiful music video using one of Cash's songs and images from thousands of artists all over the world. If you watch the video, you'll see that the song and the images are cohesive and consistent, and yet the artists' renditions of the individual frames are unique and so evocative.  The artists are all telling the same story, but the story is richer and more vivid for the efforts of the individual artists. That's what I think The Scripture to Music Collective is about!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Things We Want to Remember...

A short little list about all the things we want to remember about 14 month old Ellie...

1.  The funny way you stick out your tongue, and how you think it's hilarious:

2.  The way you show us your belly
3.  The way you "growl" when you see a dog or an animal:

4.  You are nurturing and sweet, giving kisses and hugs often to your mom, dad, family, and friends.  We treasure those, even though your kisses are a bit slobbery.    
5.  You never meet a stranger, but wave hello to everyone in the grocery store, at the park, & at church.  
6.  You're starting to say "daddy":


7.  Your first bike ride.












8.  Your first boat ride (at least since you've been more "aware").












9.  You are "communicating" a lot, telling us what you want - so expressive...
10.  Your hilarious obsession with cheese.  You would eat it breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack time, if I let you.
11.  Your funny definition of "toys":












12.  Your enthusiastic way of signing that you are "all done".

13. Your nicknames: Ellie Bell, Ellie Belly, & Els.  Your dad calls you Sweet Pea and Beautiful a lot too. I call you "Love" and "Lovey" a lot.
14.  How you love to "read", oftentimes in your chair, and especially your favorite book Brown Bear, Brown Bear:



Catching up on real estate news?












Friday, May 13, 2011

Free Download of Far Beyond Me


Dear friends.... Yesterday was a BIG day for me.  As I mentioned before, yesterday marked the halfway point for my year-long goal: to write a song for every book of the Bible by 11/11/11.  And as of yesterday, I've posted 35 songs from 33 (out of 66) books.  I can't believe I've made it this far!  I'm humbled and excited and I feel privileged to get to tell God's Story.

To celebrate, I am giving away HALF of my albums for the amazing low price of....FREE!  

You can download my first album, Far Beyond Me, here for a limited time.  Just click download and follow the directions, and it's all yours!  As a bonus, I've also included two hidden songs from the Scripture to Music Project.  You'll just have to download Far Beyond Me to find out what they are. 


Please pass this on if you'd like.  I am just so excited about getting halfway, and I thought this would be a fun way to celebrate.

Monday, May 9, 2011

happy mother's day!

We just got home last night from a fun weekend in Houston, celebrating Mother's Day with my mom, my sisters, and their families.  Nick and I have wonderful moms, and we are so thankful for them!  Now that I am a mom, I am all the more thankful :)
  
Notice the matching outfits... my mom likes the matching outfits quite a bit.
Family shot.
Ellie and her cousin Charly.  Ellie LOVES her cousins!
The four moms on Mother's Day.
Swimming at the pool.  Again, notice the outfits :)

Halfway!

I can't believe I actually get to write this post!  I am really excited to let you know that I am HALFWAY DONE with my goal of writing a song for every book of the Bible by my birthday on 11/11/11.

This Thursday, May 12, I'll post a song from Job on The Scripture to Music Collective site.  This song will be the 35th song that I've posted and the book of Job is the 33rd book of the Bible from which I've written a song this year.  

Sometime this week or next, I'm going to post a really big "SALE" of all of my music to celebrate getting to the halfway point, so be on the lookout!!  The Scripture to Music Project has kept me very busy and I had no idea what I was getting into when I said I would do this.... BUT I have found great joy and purpose in telling God's Story again through songwriting.  

I did hit a wall just a few weeks ago, and felt really down and overwhelmed.  I couldn't think of any melodies, and songwriting was draining me rather than energizing me like it usually does.  I felt like I was fighting with the songs - wrestling with them - instead of having them come naturally and shaping them like a sculptor might shape and mold his clay.  

In an especially down moment, I did something that I - unfortunately - had not done much of lately regarding this project: I prayed...."God, would you just give me a song.  Let me decrease, and you increase.  I'm sorry that I've made this about me."    

It was really crazy, and it was an answer to prayer, but I had a major breakthrough that same week... I finished two songs that I had been "wrestling" with and I recorded those two and two others within the few hours that Ellie was at Mother's Day Out. 

This has been an amazing experience so far and, although I've never celebrated my half birthday before, I am definitely celebrating this one!

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Fun Giveaway via a New Friend!

Just wanted to let you guys know that for the next few days, you can enter to win both of my albums - Sing and Far Beyond Me - over on my friend Katie's blog.  It's easy to enter, and you just might find a new blog that you love to read.

I can tell you that every time I read Katie's blog, I am encouraged by her honesty, her love for her family, and her trust in God despite some really hard challenges with their two precious kids.  Here's a little bit more about Katie, taken from her blog.... I really appreciate the last paragraph:


"R & I met in Spain in 2000 and have been married since 2003. If you're new to our blog, you can find the beginning of Will's story here, documenting the point in our pregnancy at which Will was diagnosed with a very rare syndrome affecting all four of his limbs. Will knows no limits in life. You can read about Will's birth here. Will is full of contagious smiles and laughs. His zest for life brings us immeasurable joy.

Ellie Grace is the newest member of our family. She was born in August of 2010. She too brings us such joy with her coos and smiles. Ellie was diagnosed with AMC affecting her joints and causing her to have a limited range of motion. You can find the beginning of Ellie's story here.

Our story continues to twist and turn but ultimately we know the Author. We believe He is a creative Creator who has designed each of our children uniquely and with great purpose. He has blessed our family through each of our children in more ways than we can imagine. This is the story God has given us and the one we have to tell.  So glad you're here!"

So, go on over to Katie's blog and enter! :)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Easter 2011

This is a little late, but I wanted to post some pictures from our Easter weekend.  We had a great time with friends and Nick's family, and spending our second Easter together as a family of three.

Hanging out in her Easter dress after church.
First Easter egg hunt - she actually figured it out!  Ellie loved to put  eggs in her bucket, then throw them out again.
Ellie with her Smith cousins.

I thought it would be fun if Ellie played in the sprinkler.
Nick thought it would be fun if she was in the nude.
Both were fun.
Saturday night dinner and wine tasting with friends & no kids.
Really thankful for this time and the way God has provided us with these friends.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Thankful #71-90

I haven't written a post about thankfulness in a long while... too long, in fact.  As I write what I've been thankful for, I want to remember to be thankful in all things, not just in the good things, or the things that look good on the outside.
 
#71 Time alone and outside in Arizona
#73 Struggling with, but hammering out, 2 new songs
#74 Time on the front porch
#75 Being ridiculous together
#76 Friends who babysit
#77 A special night with friends - no kids
#78 Ellie walking
#79 Redefined purpose
#80 Support for music from new friends
#81 An open door
#82 Playing in the sprinkler
#83 New life and new cousins.
#84 These two. Together.
#85 He laid death in his grave
#86 1 Corinthians 15.  All of it. Wow.
#87 An understanding husband.
#88 A thoughtful husband.
#89 Nick's family and spending time with them over Easter
#90 Hope

Friday, April 22, 2011

Why is Good Friday So Good?

To celebrate Holy Week, I am going to try to post a video a day, similar to the one below.  I hope it helps you dwell on what was accomplished for us on that Sunday so many years ago.  


Why?

Because Sunday's coming.


Video by Igniter Media

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Heavy Load to Carry

To celebrate Holy Week, I am going to try to post a video a day, similar to the one below.  I hope it helps you dwell on what was accomplished for us on that Sunday so many years ago.  


Just last week, Nick and I went to Arizona.  He was on business and I... well... I mostly just sat by the pool.  :)  What was cool though is that I also got to spend a lot of time working on songs for the Scripture to Music Project - one for Hebrews and one that I'm currently calling "Gethsemane", taken from Mark 15:26-52.

For "Gethsemane", I tried to both describe what is happening and also capture the feeling and emotion and angst of what is happening.  It might sound a little presumptuous, but put yourself in Jesus's shoes on the night before he went to the cross, just for a minute.  Late on Thursday night, and into the early morning on Good Friday.... He knows He is about to be betrayed by Judas, and He knows the painful death that approaches.  It's dark and growing darker, and the weight of what lies ahead lays heavy upon Him.

The song ends on Friday, and it doesn't allude to Sunday at all.  I think we often skip ahead to the end of the story - to the resurrection - without dwelling on the darkness and sadness of that Thursday and Friday.  The cross Jesus carried was much more than just a physical object - it was all of our mess and sin and grief, and it was a heavy load to carry indeed.    




I climbed a mountain with three friends
Feel the darkness pressing in
I ask them to please stay awake
And I go off alone to pray

Father, please
Would you take this cup
It’s a heavy load to carry
But not my will
But what you want
Until I’m dead and buried

Sweat and blood they fall like tears
It seems the last star’s disappeared
Death it comes to separate
And my friends can’t stay awake

Father, please
Would you take this cup
It’s a heavy load to carry
But not my will
But what you want
Until I’m dead and buried

They came with clubs to capture me
An old friend he kissed my cheek
And all my friends they ran away
And I’m alone, denied, betrayed

Father, please
Would you take this cup
It’s a heavy load to carry
But not my will
But what you want
Until I’m dead and buried

My God, my God’s forsaken me
Hanging broken on a tree
Who can save you now they laugh
The darkness comes, I breath my last

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Power of the Cross

To celebrate Holy Week, I am going to try to post a video a day, similar to the one below.  I hope it helps you dwell on what was accomplished for us on that Sunday so many years ago. 


We used to sing this song by Keith and Kristyn Getty at our old church in Boston, and it is rich with truths that I know I need to meditate on as Easter approaches.  I love a particular line in the last verse:


"Oh to see my name, written in the wounds..."


What a LOVE, what a COST.  We stand forgiven at the cross.




I'm not really familiar with this song, but Keith Getty describes it as a prequel to "The Power of the Cross", so I wanted to post it here!  It makes the good news of the first song that much better.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Come Awake

To celebrate Holy Week, I am going to try to post a video a day, similar to the one below.  I hope it helps you dwell on what was accomplished for us on that Sunday so many years ago. 


If the message of Easter is true, if Jesus' resurrection laid sin and death in the grave, then why do we often live as if it's not true - as if those things never happened?  Shackled, sleepy, and bored.

There is a great song called "Christ is Risen" by Matt Maher, and my brother-in-law Rob's company Igniter Media did an amazing video using it.  Re-watching it just now filled me with hope and excitement for Sunday morning.  Seriously, make sure you watch til the end.

I love the last part: "O Church, come stand in the light.  Our God is not dead; He's alive!"

Monday, April 18, 2011

He Laid Death in His Grave

When I get the chance, I like to read blogs by songwriters that I really respect and look up to... a more recent find being Audrey Assad.  I read this post by her the other day, and it has stirred in me since, particularly the words she quotes from John Mark McMillan's song "Death in His Grave" (see video and words below).  


As Good Friday and Easter Sunday approaches, I am trying to dwell on this thought... that death is defeated and one day we will no more feel its sting.  Instead, we will experience LIFE full and complete.  Hard to imagine....  
The DEATH of death! 


To celebrate Holy Week, I am going to try to post a video a day, similar to the one below.  I hope it helps you dwell on what was accomplished for us on that Sunday so many years ago.  


PS - I just wrote a song the other day about Jesus' experience in the Garden of Gethsemane, and I'll try to post it at some point this week.  



Although the earth cried out for blood, what satisfied her hunger was
Her billows calmed on raging seas for the souls of man she craved
Sun and moon from balcony turned their head in disbelief
That precious love would taste the sting, disfigured and disdained.On Friday a thief, on Sunday a King;

He laid down in grief, but awoke with the keys of hell on that day;
First-born of the slain, the Man Jesus Christ laid
Death in his grave.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Tribb is Here!

With his big brothers and sister.
Our newest nephew, Robert Tribble Thomas ("Tribb" for short), is here!  He was born on Thursday morning and weighed in at 8.1 lbs.  Ellie and I had the privilege of going up to the hospital on Thursday to check him out.  He's super cute!  Praise God for a healthy baby, no complications, and new life.  Just needed to do the via the blog :)

#4 for these guys.
My sweet sister who was looking forward to her 4 day "vacation".


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

What Does It Matter Anyway?


Don't see the player?  Click refresh or click here and listen to it on Bandcamp.  PS - Download it for free!

I wrote this song the other week from the book of Ecclesiastes.  It's called "All is Vanity" and that's pretty much the subject of the whole song (and the whole book of Ecclesiastes!).

Which got me to thinking...

Throughout time and history, billions of songs have been written and sung.  99.999% of them die away quickly and many are never even heard by a wider audience than.... like... the person's mom.

Plus, there are so many great songs out there already.  Songs that move you, songs that make you dance, songs that make you laugh. It's like we have all the songs we'll ever need covering every topic you could dream up.  As Solomon says in Ecclesiastes, there is nothing new under the sun.

So, why write another song?  Who really needs another song when we have bazillions to choose from already?  Who needs another everyday songwriter, yet another voice?  Is it all, to quote Solomon again, just "striving after wind?"  Is it all "vanity of vanities" and meaningless?

I've been asking myself these questions lately and, to be honest, have been pretty discouraged.  In the last week or so, I've felt my creative energy drain away - maybe it's all the work we're doing on the house, maybe it's writer's block, or maybe it's just these questions getting to me?

Maybe it's a combination of those things, but here's the TRUTH that I'm trying to preach to myself:

As a Christian, I don't work and toil so that I can write the next great, lasting song.  I don't write to gain fame or so that people will know my name.  So why do I write?  And why do I sing?

It is not gain significance under the sun.  
For I have already gained great significance in Him.
Even more, He infuses everything under the sun with significance.

And so I write.
And so I sing.

To chase my own glory would be like chasing the wind.
I would come up empty every time.
But in His love, He has chased me.

And so I write.
And so I sing.

Why do you write, sing, blog, paint, mother, cook, work, design, study?  What does it matter anyway?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Walking Girl!!

Ellie took her first steps on March 14, about a week and a half after her first birthday!  She's been really cautious since then, not ever wanting to do it - especially not on cue.  But, the last few days, I think she's realized that walking is pretty cool and has been doing it a lot. :)

I finally was able to get a few steps on video the other day.  When you watch it, please ignore my screaming.... I mean, wow, can you say excited, obnoxious mom?

When I see Ellie walk, and especially when she walks toward me, this wonderful sense of joy and excitement and delight wells up in me.  I scoop her up and hug her and say in that high-pitched, excited-mommy voice, "GOOD JOB!  You did it!".

Do you think this is how God feels when He sees us doing something that He created us to do, especially when its risky?  I wonder...



PS - The couple in the video are our good friends (and soon-to-be neighbors!) here in Tyler, Carolyn and David.  Ellie LOVES them, and she loves their son Hutch.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

These Days

Packing.
Painting.
Our new house!  Inside you will find lots of boxes.
Running a fun 10K in our new neighborhood.
Spring springing.
Loving our boots and the weather.
Learning to use the sippy.
Hanging with Hutch.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

God's Hidden Hand

We recently studied the book Esther in my Tuesday morning Bible study, and I was so encouraged by its theme:

God's plans may be hidden, but his hidden hand is always working for His glory and for the good of those who love Him.


I sometimes wonder... why did this or that happen in my life?  God, why have you moved us from Austin to Dallas to China to Boston and now to Tyler, TX?  Why have we moved every 2-3 years?  Why did my businessman husband go to seminary?  How in the world did we end up in Tyler, where we never thought we'd be?

Could it be that one of the many reasons we have moved to so many places so that it has provided me with a larger audience of people to (hopefully) encourage with music?  Maybe...

Could it be that one of the reasons we went to seminary in Massachusetts was because, there, all fertility treatment is free for those who have insurance?  Did God, in His sovereignty, so sweetly work that out for us, all behind the scenes?  I will never forget that feeling when I realized God's tender and providential care for us in this.

Could it be that Nick went to seminary at Gordon-Conwell not to become a pastor but to serve in other ways?  What those ways are, we don't fully know quite yet... but we are seeing glimpses.

Could it be that, in Tyler, we are exactly where God's hidden hand has guided us to be for now?  To serve our church?  To love high school kids?  To make new friends that will deeply affect us and live life with us?

God is telling a Story and, crazily, He is using our small stories to tell it.  We can take great comfort in knowing that the Story maker's hidden hand is working, even if we can't see what it is doing, and it is working and moving for our good and His glory.

This song from Esther reminds us of this truth... I hope you like it!


Can't see the player?  Click refresh or go here to listen, even on your mobile phone.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ellie's 1st Birthday Party

Ellie turned 1 this past Sunday!  So hard to believe.  We had a little party for her on Saturday, and it was really fun.  

I had been excited about giving Ellie a one year birthday party for months... I can't explain why exactly... I'm not usually one to get excited about this type of thing.  But, I think I just was so excited for her.  I couldn't wait to celebrate her life.  It's been one amazing year, and I think all of that pent-up joy, delight, and effort needed to get out somehow... and somehow it turned me into Betty-Homemaker-Cutesy-Party-Thrower.   Hmmmm.

Ellie's invite was my first-ever Photoshop project, which takes care of #18 on the "30 before 30" list!
I was proud of myself.
Having just moved back to Texas after 4 years away, I thought it would be fun to go with the "Texas" theme, which I know all of our out-of-state friends will think is just so.... well, typical.  Texans have their state pride, that's for sure.  Who else frames their flag and hangs it on their wall?  No one, apparently.

That flag is always there, by the way!  See? Texas pride.
Ellie already owns her first pair of boots, courtesy of Target.
We had a Texas flag cupcake cake, PBJ sandwiches cut in the shape of Texas, pink Texas-shaped sugar cookies, Dr. Pepper, sweet tea, layered dip, and yummy ham and cheese sliders from Annie's Eats (not a Texas thing, but still... soooo good!).
Texas flag cupcake cake, made "girly" by using pink and turquoise instead of red and blue.
Hmmm... what to think?
She loved it!
All the friends and cousins, minus Felicity.
Melting down.
Future BFF Felicity who drove all the way in from Dallas.
We are so thankful for Ellie's first year, with all the ups and downs.  Thanks Thomas and Bozeman cousins, Flarey, and Mimi and Papeaux, for driving in from so far away just to celebrate Ellie with us!  And thank you to all of our friends and Nini and Papa here in Tyler for being there.  We love you.