Sweet Huit

getting ready wedding.jpg8 years ago I woke up in my childhood bedroom, more nervous and excited than I had ever been. Quite literally. I stared up at the same ceiling I had stared at for YEARS – praying to God about who I might marry and what he might be like. I had ideas and visions and dreams just like any other teenage girl. I asked God to make sure he was hott (two t’s), to make sure he really loved Jesus, and it would be also kind of super great if he had a sense of humor because I had a laugh that could wake the dead and I wanted him to love it.

I got out of bed, looked around my room full of dance ribbons and neon picture frames and marveled at what day it was: my wedding day. 15 months ago I started to date a guy who was hott, loved Jesus, and was kind of scared of my laugh (bless him),  10 months into our dating we got engaged, 5 months flew by and now here it was: THE BIG DAY. I was marrying John Lavoie. I was going to be a Mrs. by the end of this day. My heart leapt into my throat as I heard my mom and sisters bustling around in the kitchen and after about 2 minutes of pondering and marveling I was just so ready. SO. READY. My excitement practically catapulted me down the hall into the welcoming company of my bridesmaids and in a blur the day ushered me to the church, down the aisle, to the reception, to the honeymoon (BOW CHIKKA WOW WOW), and so began our adventure together.

Today I wake up  in the bed we’ve shared for 8 years, I reach my arm across to your side of the bed that’s already empty because you’re already gone for the day. Never in 8 years have I worried about your commitment to provide for me, and now for Samuel too (even during seasons of unemployment and Lord knows we’ve weathered that together more than once). You work harder than any one I know.

I say a prayer for you, thank God for you and eventually peel myself out of bed. You and I are in the middle of an ordinary, supernatural thing. God has given us a remarkable life, built upon the foundation of that one promise, “For better or worse, in good times and bad times, by the grace of God for as long as we both live.”

You have witnessed my better and my worse, you have walked faithfully in good times receiving lineand bad times. You have depended on, been rescued by, and pointed me to the grace of God throughout all of it. I have witnessed you at your worst and your best, I have not forsaken you in the dark waters of depression and I have cheered for you loudest as you have conquered obstacle after obstacle. You do not cease to amaze me.

Sometimes throughout our marriage we’ve missed each other. Not just missed hanging out with each other but missed out on the person we married. We  have been caught up in the whirlwind of life full of work hours to complete, dinners to make, appointments to keep, diapers to change and laundry to wash and we have passed each other like ships in the night. Then we just kind of resign ourselves to being strangers and we hide behind our phone screens or books because it’s just easier, you know? It’s so hard to be intentional when you feel bitter or lonely. Thank God for His new mercies every morning and the Holy Spirit that helps us get over ourselves. We have fought many of the same fights over 8 years together. And we have fought for each other too. We don’t always feel the warm fuzzies, but we understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ and it has strengthened our commitment like no amount of self-help or self-sufficiency ever would.

beach picI do not want to do this with anybody else. I promised you that 8 years ago and I’m sticking with it.

Let’s promise, by the grace of God, in the midst of the mundane world of dentist appointments and dirty floors that need cleaning we will lift our chins and find each other. Thank you for keeping your covenant to me. You honor me with your love, you assure me with your integrity, and you delight me with your friendship.

I love you, John.

Happy anniversary!

Farewell, Fanny

John’s grandma died yesterday. She was 95 and managed to live like she never passed 50. I didn’t know her in the way a grandchild knows her grandma. We don’t share many memories together and our conversations, though sweet have always been brief. Yet, her faith and her hands have shaped someone who has become the most important person to me. Apart from his mom, John’s grandma was the most influential woman in his childhood. She lived with him for his first 12 years of life and raised him and his siblings. She disciplined him, loved him, and prayed for him.

I owe a great deal to Fanny Gialdo, a woman from Trinidad who had faith that burned ferociously. The ferocity of her faith did not leave people scathed and wounded however, but rather drew people towards her… towards Christ, with warmth and wisdom. She had her faults, like all of us. I don’t know them in particular so I have the happy job of remembering how her example changed me in profound and beautiful ways.

I met her on our wedding day. She wore a lovely blue dress, comfortable white shoes, and a warm smile. She was the one who made John break down in tears that day. Not his blushing bride, mind you. Looking as radiant as a thousand freaking suns while vowing her undyng devotion to him. (I am totally over it, by the way.)

There was a bet going among the groomsmen concerning when John would cry because (bless him) he’s a crier. I thought for sure he would break down at the vows. He was a little shaky but there were no tears. Enter: grandma. There we were in the recieving line right after being pronounced Mr. & Mrs. –  I saw John stoop down as her tiny, strong arms looped around his shoulders, speaking of her love and affection for him. He straightened up with a shining grin and tears streaming down his face. “Way to go, grandma!” I thought. It is only appropriate that a woman so deeply nestled in the heart of my new husband would open the floodgates. No hard feelings, Fanny. Nothing but love.

A little over a year into marriage, I saw her over Christmas. These are where some of my most favorite moments with her were unwrapped and tucked into my memory.

One day, I saw her sitting on the front porch, hands folded in her lap, looking out at the road. I was a little intimidated by her, I’ll admit. John told me stories of her voice carrying with it a thousand daggers when he would get in trouble as a boy.  She was a sweet woman, but not to be messed with. I approached her and commented on the weather because that’s what you do when you come into the presence of someone you want to be like, but you also want to be cool about it so they like you back. I’m certain she would have laughed if she knew my palms were kind of sweaty. Once we talked about the weather I just jumped right in with, “If you could give me any marriage advice, what would it be?” (I’m so good at transitions.)

She continued to look out at the road and while I can’t remember her exact words, here was the gist: “Forgive. Let it go. Know when to hold your tongue and keep your peace.” It sent all these red-hot flags flying in my brain, “I WILL SPEAK MY MIND SO HELP ME! I hope you tell JOHN to know when to hold his tongue too because he’s not perfect!” Instead I smiled and nodded and (God help me) dismissed her notions as maybe a bit dated or old-fashioned. Full disclosure: As it turns out, her advice comes straight from a heart that actually understands the gospel of Jesus so if you need me I’ll be eating crow until… forever.

The next morning, I walked into the kitchen and saw her at the small breakfast table, hands raised, face lifted, and thanksgiving spilling from her lips like the sun spilling across the kitchen floor. When she instructed me to “hold your tongue and keep your peace” she was most certainly not referring to my prayer life! Fanny did not hold her tongue when she was giving thanks to God. She had a relationship with Jesus that I could almost see emanating from her. She loved Jesus. Unapologetically.

She kept company with her Savior in such a peculiar and compelling way. As if he was there, eating breakfast with her – wrapped in all of the intimacy and familiarity we feel when sitting with a close friend and sharing a cup of coffee. Yet she was worshipping him. He was familiar to her and holy to her. She revered him and she trusted him like a bosom buddy. The two were inseparable. It was awkward for me because I sort of felt like I had stumbled into a moment that was supposed to be just between her and Jesus. But Fanny did not bend to her surroundings or the people around her, she bent her knees and her will only to Jesus. So if her praying out loud made you uncomfortable that certainly wasn’t her intention but she certainly wasn’t about to stop. Political correctness be damned, Christ be exalted.

Gosh I want to be like her.

The final memory I have of Fanny during that visit still makes me cry. We were all gathered, a bunch of family, in one of the large rooms in the house. People were sporadically sharing about what was going on in their lives when someone asked John about seminary. At this point we were about halfway through that journey. John answered honestly – seminary was hard. One of the most exhausting and draining seasons of John’s life. Fanny could sense it in his answer and responded to it with singing. Because, of course.

john at weddingIt started sort of soft and low, then grew stronger and louder. Fanny stopped all surrounding conversation, ushering everybody into a thick silence and we listened as this woman’s love swept over her grandson. Her john-boy. John and I’s tears poured out as our ears opened up all the way down to our hearts and one promise found it’s way in: God will take care of you.

“Be not dismayed whate’er betide,

God will take care of you;

Beneath His wings of love abide,

God will take care of you.

 

God will take care of you,

Through every day, o’er all the way;

He will take care of you,

God will take care of you.

 

All you may need He will provide,

God will take care of you;

Nothing you ask will be denied,

God will take care of you.

 

No matter what may be the test,

God will take care of you;

Lean, weary one, upon His breast,

God will take care of you.”

She ignored the squirming in the seats and the darting eyes that didn’t know what to do with this old woman filling up the room with notes that may not have found the right place but words that certainly did. She was about doing God’s work and she never asked for your permission to do it. Again – never from an aggressive posture but in a surrendered and obedient one.

She finished up and the room exploded in “Amens” and “Thank you Jesus” and I sat, her words covering me like a warm blanket, assured that God will take care of me.

Fanny meets SamuelOur paths would cross a handful of times after that. She “met” our darling Samuel thanks to the wonders of the internet. Oh! How she smiled and laughed as she said his name and told him how beautiful he was. I told him over and over, ‘That’s great-grandma Fanny, buddy! She helped raise your daddy and boy do we love her A LOT!’ He smiled and reached for the computer screen as she leaned in so close to the camera I thought she might fall right on through and land in our laps! (if only!) Many times I have talked with Fanny over the phone. Many times her words, steeped in a rich Trinidadian accent, wouldn’t be fully understood by me (essentially the most un-accented person on the planet. thank you, central Virginia) but her meaning would come ringing loud and clear: “I love you. God bless you. God bless your child. I pray for you, take care.”

FannyI will miss your prayers, Fanny. Your impromptu worship and your frank wisdom have left in it’s wake a legacy of faithfulness, service and joy. You changed this world. You did it gracefully, amidst adversity and trials I know nothing about. You did it imperfectly, with your own baggage and prejudices that tripped you up along your journey. I will never fully know, this side of heaven just how much your prayers changed the course of my life by changing the course of my husband’s. Thank you. Thank you for showing me that following Jesus means loving people even when it’s weird or (especially when) unreciprocated. Thank you for all of the times you approached the God of the universe and laid John, me and Samuel at His feet. Asking for His love, His wisdom and His protection over us. We are left to grieve you, but we look forward to seeing you again.

I picture you now at a breakfast table with Jesus. Talking as friends, learning more about Him than you could have ever imagined. You are happy, whole, vibrant… and home.

In a moment

IMG_0162I emptied the dishwasher this morning. It was the first time I pulled your brightly-colored spoons from the silverware tray and I just paused and smiled when I thought about all of your banana shenanigans. Face-onesie-bib-bumbo-mom – all things that ended up smudged with banana goop. Ahh but your toothless grin as you smack your gums and grunt for more. In a moment you’ll be holding a grown-up fork shoveling in spaghetti or chicken or other foods that you have no concept of right now. You’ll be asking for permission to leave the table (hopefully you’ll have manners!) and you’ll run off to play outside or ride your bike with friends and I won’t have to wipe your face or smush your sticky fingers between the jaws of my wet paper towel before you go. In a moment, kid. Just like that.

I puttered around the house as you napped and picked up the green hoodie sweatshirtIMG_0168 we bundled you in on our walk this weekend. I stared at it as I stood in the middle of our living room. Where should I put this? Where does it belong? It doesn’t make sense to place it folded into the drawer next to the footie pajamas you’ve already poked toe holes through. We put it on you a lot nowadays, might as well hang it up next to our coats by the door. I casually walked over and hung it on a hook before stepping back and seeing it there for the first time. In a moment, you’ll be grabbing your athletic sweatshirt hanging up in your closet and take your dad’s 20 year old civic to a nearby park for some pick-up football with your bros. I won’t need to be there to wrangle your limbs into the arm holes. You won’t need me to fight the zipper or remind you to look both ways. In a moment, buddy. I will have endured (and often encouraged) your independence from me. I will applaud your successful shoe-tying. I will rejoice in the day you get accepted into college. I will trust you with a curfew and wait as the sleepy minutes tick by until the door creaks open and you fall asleep in your teen boy-smelly room.
IMG_0151So in this moment I’m gonna scoop you up and place you on my hip. I’m going to play peek-a-boo with you a thousand times til I think you may have giggled yourself to oblivion. I’m going to choose to laugh as you roll onto your tummy, bare baby buns in the air as I try to put on your diaper. In a moment, my love. This will all be over.
We are not guaranteed any tomorrow moments you know? But if God wills, we are running into years of moments that will stay safely tucked into their places in time.  We will feel and learn new things about each other. We will relate differently. I will lose my temper, you may call me names. There will be ugly moments, I’m sure of that. I was a teenager once too and I mastered that eye roll. Don’t test me.
But most importantly? More than colorful spoons and midnight curfew moments I want you to know — in every new chapter there will never be a moment where I ever stopped loving you so deeply, so imperfectly yet so wholly. In every moment you are covered in my prayers, wrapped in my very skin, loved to your very core. Never think otherwise, my sweet boy – not even for a moment.

The Measure of a Man

My husband turns 30 today. Over the past few weeks we’ve had some really great conversations about this past decade of his life, what he wants to achieve in the next, and have laughed about some of the more ridiculous memories and moments from his life. I have 3 takeaways from reflecting on his life:
1909941_516673594967_5122_n1. There is a lot of wilderness in your 20’s but it can be a fun wilderness if you’re in it with the right people. Your 20’s are so often about trying to figure out who you are yet it makes it challenging when you graduate college in your early 20’s but it takes you several more years to actually shake out what you want to do for a living. If you’re in your 20’s and still confused as to what the heck you’re doing with your life – you are in such good company! Just don’t assume it’ll never work out. My best advice would be to try stuff. Just try it. If nothing else, you’ll figure out your strengths and weaknesses through trial and error. Also – personality and strength assessment tests are my FAVORITE! John and I have taken several and they are so helpful in affirming your best and worst qualities (everybody’s got both let’s not pretend otherwise).
2. If you can look back on mistakes you made without an overwhelming sense of guilt or shame, you’re becoming comfortable with your humanity and the grace of God. John made mistakes in his 20s, just like you did/are doing! But what I love about remembering them with him is remembering how he handled them. Sometimes life is messy and finding your way out of the mess can be difficult – but man, I’m so proud with how John handled not only mistakes but real challenges in his 20s.
3. At the end of the day, it’s people we remember. People who shape us and 183498_1831365553179_2236008_nbreak us and build us up. While talking about many memories from John’s first 3 decades of life, so many of them involved people that I am so incredibly grateful are in his life. Men and women who know how to get John to laugh, who don’t hate on him when he cries, and who value him as a person. No matter how old you are, strive to be someone who errs on the side of loving people. You may find yourself getting hurt more often than those who choose to close themselves off from others but OH will your life be so much richer and deeper. We are all flawed. We are prideful, overly judgemental, and ultimately insanely insecure. So work on being comfortable enough in your own skin that you are willing to allow other people into the softer, more vulnerable and most precious places of your heart. When you find people who know you and love you in spite of yourself, you are richly RICHLY blessed.
Last night John and I watched the GOP Presidential debate together (which counts as part of my birthday gift for him, by the way. 2 HOURS OF MY LIFE.) While parts of the debate were entertaining, the overall impression I got was desperation. Men who are desperate to be the best, most perfect, most powerful, most polished man on stage. I mean, I get it. You’re presenting yourself as a candidate to be President of the United States. It’s a very big deal and you have to be confident. But there is a difference between being confident in who you are as a man versus being confident in how unreliable and petty everybody else is. When I looked over at John while we were watching this debacle (half giggling and half shaking our heads in disbelief) I was struck with how truly and completely grateful I am for him. For the man that he is.
DSC02660More than just turning 30 (age ain’t nothin but a number) and more than just having fancy bachelor’s and master’s degrees and more than just the money in our bank account – I have a man who is immeasurably more than I could have asked for. He has integrity, he lives out of his convictions when it’s hard and unpopular, he weeps for people who are hurting, he gets so much life from encouraging people. When he sees something you’re doing well – he loves celebrating that and challenging you to take it to the next level. He’s my biggest cheerleader! He has embraced his role as daddy with gusto – and Samuel is soaking it all in.
My husband is a man I am proud of and a man I am crazy in love with. I have only been in his life for 8 of the 30 years and I am grateful to every person – family and friend – who has loved him and encouraged him to be who he is along every step of his 30 years.
I love you, John! 30 is the new 40! Oh wait.. woops. Whatever. Any decade looks good on you, babe! Just remember, I will ALWAYS be younger. ❤

Pregnancy, unfiltered.

I’ll be 37 weeks tomorrow – AKA FULL-TERM!! So close and yet so far from holding my dear son in my arms. So before the munchkin arrives I wanted to share a little about my own pregnancy journey in a no-nonsense, no instagram filters, kind-of-way. This is probably the longest post I’ve written. Read at your own leisure/risk etc.

Your intestines – Jumping right in, let’s talk about bowels. During the first trimester I swore my body forgot how to poop. All my intestines basically stopped what they had been doing for the past 26 years to just stare at this new little lima bean growing in my womb while my digested meals were like, “Uhh. Guys? Are we just supposed to wait here?” Two words for you ladies: Stool. Softener. This became my first (of many) unglamorous companions of pregnancy. It was the friend I didn’t want other people to know I was friends with but secretly we had the best of times. Thank you docusate sodium, you were/are a game-changer.

Also? Heartburn. It happens. Especially in the third trimester. TUM TA TUM TUM TUUUMMS! But wait! There’s more! Gas. You thought it was bad when you ate that questionable Tex-Mex? Giiiirl. Just wait til you have a BIG BIG appetite and a SQUISHED SQUISHED intestinal tract. Every meal you ever eat will somehow manage to leave it’s mark on the environment around you. If human beings farted confetti, let’s just say pregnant women would be leading the parade. Just let your man know now — it’s gonna be death con 5 in the third trimester. And from what I’m told, it may never get better. So… who’s ready to snuggle?!

Your brain – Say goodbye to complete sentences and embrace the awkward pauses that will now plague almost every conversation you have (including those you have with yourself). To-do lists are a cute idea but if you’re like me, they just get lost with everything else, and the ones on my phone are no exception. One day I checked my phone and I literally clicked accidentally on a to-do list. And then as I read this list I felt increasingly useless and inadequate and incompetent as a mother-to-be and cried into my chocolate milk. Which leads me to the next thing.

Your hormones – Every woman experiences these suckers in a different way. I’d like to think I was pretty, you know, “low key” when it came to crazy emotional outbursts. But then John snarfed on the water he was drinking when I mentioned that perspective and I now realize I may have been a little more.. ahem..  unpredictable than I had imagined. *Note: The only time it’s OK to talk a pregnant woman out of a hormonal situation is when she’s convincing herself of what a terrible mom she’s gonna be/what a disaster this is etc. That’s no bueno. But if she just wants to rant for 5 minutes about how stupid bees are or needs to show you half a dozen hallmark commercials while sniffling into your shoulder.. just let it be.

#sexyandiknowit #cankles

#sexyandiknowit #cankles

Your extremities – This last trimester, I’ve convinced myself that my body is allergic to walking, thinking, breathing, existing anywhere that is not air-conditioned. When I walk for any amount of time in the heat, it’s like my hands and feet are all like, “Oh. So THIS is how you’re gonna be huh? THIS is how it’s goin’ down? Yeah. Ok. You can kiss your size 10 shoes GOODBYE. And I hope you weren’t planning on handling anything like a pen or your car keys because all of your fingers gonna be the size of a roll of quarters mmmk?”  So, hello cankles. Apparently you’re a real thing.

You can't see it very well but this is me sporting my new bedtime companion! We tried a variety of brands and sizes. I still snore.

You can’t see it very well but this is me sporting my new bedtime companion! We tried a variety of brands and sizes. I still snore.

Your sinuses – Ugh. This one was a real blow for me, ladies. Before becoming pregnant I had already woken up my husband more times than I could count with my snoring. And he um… he already wore earplugs to bed before we got married. (God is sovereign). Things got bad in the second trimester in terms of just how often I was waking him up in the middle of the night. I joked that I was preparing him for life with a newborn! He wasn’t buying it. And so enters, unglamorous pregnancy companion #2 – Breathe right strips. I had tried these in the past but not with much success. Still, I was desperate and I wanted to make it look like I was at least trying to silence the grizzly bear within. They helped a little bit. I still wear them to bed but I think they may only be operating as a placebo effect. John sees it on the bridge of my nose before falling asleep and thinks, “Well. Something is better than nothing.”

Your wardrobe – Let’s just say the number of maternity undergarments that inspire you to “be the best, sexiest you” based on their flirtatious patterns and designs are just… nowhere. Am I grateful for those who have thought about the comfort of the mama-to-be by creating underwear the size of circus tents? Yes. Very grateful. But I’d have to say that maternity underwear is my unglamorous companion #3. Do the words “granny panties” mean anything to you? They mean EVERYTHING to me right now.

DSC02471Your body image – Being pregnant has legitimately challenged my self-esteem when I look in the mirror. The truth is, you gain weight when you’re pregnant! It’s healthy and normal and good for the baby. But maybe when people say you look great, you acknowledge it with a smile but then run away from iPhone cameras and selfies and embrace taking pictures of anything else. Ladies — I feel you on this.  I weigh the most right now that I have ever weighed in my entire life. And even though it’s “normal” and “good” it’s also been hard and embarrassing. And it’s revealed to me how much it matters to me what I look like. Vanity is sneaky that way.

 

I’m still a work-in-progress on this one. I have resolved to step in front of the camera, to celebrate this season, and to drown out lies about unrealistic body image with the truth and wonder of being a vessel for new life. It helps when you have a husband who is so excited about your growing belly, too. And it always helps to laugh when you find yourself squatting to reach for something (unsuccessfully) or grunting like an old curmudgeon every time you get into and out of a chair. C’est la pregnancy! I bet my baby won’t give one thought to what I look like. He’s just gonna want to be taken care of and loved on like every child in this world. And I can confidently tell you, as I look into the mirror and smile at my reflection, that I am the BEST woman for that job.

So, as a recap – pregnancy upsets and shakes up and messes with you and your body. And pregnancy is a miracle. A big, granny-panty-wearing, stool-softening, cankle-forming, snoring, farting wonder. I raise my bottle of water fast-food cup of Coke to you, fellow mamas-to-be out there. In solidarity we shall waddle to the finish line and celebrate the tiny little munchkins that will set us on yet another journey: To motherhood! To stool softener! To YOU.

To the man who puts up with all of it. I love you!

To the man who has put up with this whole journey and reminds me of how much he loves me and is excited about our son – I LOVE YOU. Thanks for loving me in every season.

My Valentine is 29!

Let's grow old together, shall we?

Let’s grow old together, shall we?

John —

Happy Birthday! I am so grateful to be your wife and watch you grow into someone who is becoming more like Christ. I am so grateful for the beating of your heart that pulses life into your body — and for all the times I snuggled close and just listened to it. I am so grateful for the days that have added up to another full year of life for you. 29 years! Woo! That is OLD. You are a wonderful gift to me.

Also? I know you aren’t perfect. You aren’t a perfect son, or brother or friend or husband. In your past you have said and done mean things that hurt people, you have thought bad thoughts and acted selfishly. You have been driven by insecurity, motivated by fear and pride, and consumed by the darkness of your own sin. (If you’re anxious for me to reach my point, I promise it’s coming!)

I guess I wanted to remind you of all of those things, of your own imperfections, so you can know that even though I know about them… gosh I love you times a million. I haven’t been around for all of your mistakes but after almost 6 years of marriage, I’ve been around for some of them. When it comes right down to it: I’ve seen you at your worst and ugliest and you know that. You know that because you’ve seen me in the exact same places – ugly, dark, and selfish places. Yet every morning when we wake up to tackle a new day, I look over at you and whisper a thanks to God that He has given me you.

You and all of your OCD cleaning techniques. You and all of your spreadsheets (heaven help me). You and all of your terrible jokes. You and your ability to get away with everything because of your stupid mischievous grin. (related: I’m gonna leave all the disciplining of our son to you ok?)

When I think about our friendship over the past several years, I don’t quite know how to sum it up. You don’t complete me because we’re all created in the image of God and we each have all we need by the grace of God through Jesus — with or without a spouse. You don’t complete me, but you’re slowly becoming a part of me. In some ways, the fingerprints of your love and influence in my life show up in quite obvious ways — I have trained for two half-marathons and successfully completed one! The chances of that happening without your incessant guilt trips accountability are slim to none. I’ve started using phrases and adopting some of your mannerisms; which, I’ll be honest – is creepy. Also, I haven’t turned into a bowl of ice cream! When left to my own devices, that would have probably happened within one year of graduating college. And, most obviously and recently — I’m carrying our first child! So, I mean. There’s that.

But your influence in my life goes beyond just the tangible, physical things. You inspire me by the way you live and work. You have incredible insight into the world around you and the people in it. You see needs and you solve problems and you pray for wisdom and you remind me of how important it is to have integrity, take initiative, and love people even when it’s awkward and messy. Because, most of the time, intentionally loving people IS kind of awkward.

Sometimes when we’re just kind of humming along in life, one ordinary day after another, I’ll come home to you sitting on the patio or listening to music on the couch. I’ll sit down next to you, hold your hand as our stupid cat jumps into my lap and you remind me for the millionth time, “We live like kings. God has given us way beyond what we could ask or imagine.” I know you aren’t just talking about stuff. You’re talking about our lives — the people in them, the gifts we get to share, the memories we cherish, the hard moments that have shaped us, the promises He has made to us that we always underestimate. I love when you slow down and give thanks. It never fails to teach me and challenge me.

When God gave me you, it HAS been more than I ever bargained for asked or imagined. As you begin living your 30th year of life, as we prepare for the arrival of our son, as we continue to plan and dream about the future, I will be right next to you. We move forward together, we fall backwards together, we mess up together, we forgive together, we cry together and sing together and, by the grace of God, we die together.

Happy birthday, valentine. And thank you. Thank you for loving me.

Sorry, not sorry for this. It makes me laugh every time.

Sorry, not sorry for this. It makes me laugh every time.

 

Thank you for Thanksgiving: A Tribute to the Hostess

The Kids Table, Circa 1994.

The Kids Table, Circa 1994.

Dear Grandma Barbara,

For as long as I can remember, sitting in the backseat of the family van or  in Dad’s “banana boat” grand marquis, we would take the windy roads back to “the Farm.” As the tires crunched the gravel and the dogs barked we all clamored out of the car to participate in a family greeting that would take at least 5 minutes. We would hug and exclaim, “Good to see you!”, we would scratch behind the dog’s ears, get lost in one of Pop-Pop’s bear hugs ’til we finally found our way up to the porch.

Sometimes you would be standing there at the screen door, eyes laughing, face lighting up and flour on your apron. Most times we would find you in the kitchen, bustling around from fridge to counter to stove to fridge to sink and back to counter.

You always opened your arms to us, inviting us into a warm hug spiced with turkey seasonings and pumpkin pie.

As we played away the afternoons on go-karts (which mysteriously seemed to get smaller with each passing year 😉 ), you would still be bustling and setting places, preparing and taste-testing. We wandered through the acres, exploring creeks and getting leaves stuck in our shoelaces, building up an appetite to end all appetites.

Eventually the words “Dinner’s ready!” would tickle our chilled ears and we’d race back inside to tables that were neatly arranged with lace tablecloths and shiny silverware. We always walked right past the pies as they were laid out neatly by the front door, taunting our tastebuds and daring us to skip the turkey.

As our large family scrunched into the dining room, a few stragglers in the foyer, dad would usually give thanks to God for family and life and health and all the other things we take for granted. I have to say though that when you read straight from the Book of Common Prayer a few years ago, tears filling your words and spilling onto your blouse, I had never felt the presence of God more clearly in that familiar and sacred dining room. Thank you for praying and for believing.

When we were all just a bunch of mop-headed rascals with no spouses or kids in tow, we sat in another room, making your fine crystal goblets sing as our fingers danced on the rims. There may have been a few times when food was tossed around and many a roll was fought over. Sorry for all of those messes.

Even after your grandkids’ shoulders broadened, and their legs lengthened and were eventually filling up your door frames, you rose to the challenge of filling teenage bellies, and finally setting a table for almost twice the number of people as we introduced significant others to “Thanksgiving on the Farm.”

This is the first year we won’t be tucking in a Thanksgiving feast around that familiar dining room together. So I wanted to tell you, thank you. Thank you for all of those feasts and for all of the preparation and for making a place that encouraged togetherness, conversation, and laughter. I don’t think I ever really thanked you enough. Not just for the turkey and pies and place settings, but for your spirit and your warmth that filled up your home.

Thank you for praying and taking care of us. All of us.

I know as the years pass that we will begin new Thanksgiving traditions with our families. We will set new tables with old recipes and invite loved ones into our homes. I just wanted to tell you that I am immeasurably grateful that you were the mastermind behind my childhood Thanksgivings. You have laid in me a foundation of warmth, cheer, hospitality and spunk. Grandma Barbara, you have played a special role in shaping me into the woman I am today and I should have told you this a long time ago.

I love you.

Thank you for everything.

Thank you for Thanksgiving.

Rachel