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!

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All About Dad.

When we had a son many people told me how he (Samuel) would most likely cling to me and need me and worship the ground I walk on etc etc… until he was about 2-3 years old. Then it would be alllll about dad. Dad. Dad. Dad.
They were almost right.
Since Samuel was born, aside from nourishment, poopy diaper changes, and the occasional affectionate moment with me – he was born ALL ABOUT DAD. I’m not trying to downplay my role or anything – I love Samuel and he loves me and that’s that. But this is Father’s Day so I get to talk about John and he doesn’t get to stop me (HA. HOPE YOU’RE READING THIS, JOHN.)
FD pic
When you become parents, each of you ordinarily operates in the realm of “Reliable, Comforting, Safe Parent” OR “Crazy, Risk-taking, Boo-boo making, Fun Parent.” Knowing our personalties going into marriage I was destined to be the fun parent and I just knew it (PLEASE. I AM SO MUCH FUN OK?). But I didn’t really know who I was parenting with until Samuel came around. I have met my match.*
John is a FUN. MACHINE. When he comes home from work Samuel just can’t even. It’s “DADDY!!! DADDY!!!” at maximum decibels.
From about 12- 18 months, Samuel would get so excited to see John he wouldn’t know what to do so he would sort of run towards him and then run away and ignore John altogether while smiling like his cheeks were in charge of holding up his eyeballs. The cutest.
John will wrestle and throw and play and come up with games (that I don’t even think qualify as games?) that Samuel just LOOOVES doing and they’ll do it together and I just kind of shake my head while I make dinner and thank God for the two goobers running circles in my living room.
Of course part of that is being a boy. John’s been a boy before so he gets little boyhood on a very personal level. But honestly? A big part of it is who John is. It’s the man that he is that makes him so awesome at being a dad. He wants to get to know Samuel. He really really cares about who Samuel is as a person. He disciplines and he sets boundaries and he plays and he cares. He’s an incredible dad.
So here’s to all the dads today. To the ones who are raising ankle-biters, or teenagers (po-tay-to, po-tah-to). To the ones who are done “raising” people and now just get a front row seat to their lives. To all the dads (mine included) who patiently helped with homework, filled up the gas tank, listened and listened and listened (Shout out to dads of girls. You are saints. We have alot of words and feelings.) Keep on keeping on, guys.
Thank you, John for stepping into the role of father with both feet and making Samuel’s life so much richer and better for it.
And thanks to my Dad, too. For all the years in my life where I was quite content to be your valentine and wake up to flowers and balloons at my kitchen chair. You taught me how to find a guy that would really enjoy my company – because for my entire childhood, you always did. Thank you. (I’ve found him, Dad! Thanks for setting the standard. 🙂 )
I love you both.
*to be clear – I’m a fun parent too. Just a different sort. LIke silly faces and tickle fights instead of shooting the cat with a nerf gun. Play to your strengths.

Baby Dedication – A Tale of 30 minute naps, 30 second prayers, and choosing to laugh

This morning at church John and I dedicated Samuel Charles to the Lord. It’s an important step in our parenting journey – the moment where we publicly acknowledge before our church family that our hope for our son is intimacy with Christ and life lived fully on His mission.

And this morning was a hot mess.

It started with Samuel waking up happy and bubbly as can be. I fed him and played with him and all was normal and fine until I realized – nap time is exactly when we needed to be at the church, standing in front of a bunch of people and solemnly praying over our son. Uh-Oh.

If there’s one thing John and I are so grateful for, it’s that Samuel now has a routine. He is so much more predictable than before. Yes it could change. We KNOW. But for now it is such a life-saver. With that in mind – whenever this routine is meddled with be it a doctor’s appointment, errands, or a baby dedication, our little munchkin doesn’t easily “go with the flow.”

And so, as he rubbed his sleepy eyes and yawned his ginormo yawns, I packed him in the car seat while withering under his icy stares and fussy protests. “MOM. THIS IS NOT MY CRIB. WHY DO YOU HATE ME RIGHT NOW?!” It’s OK though because mom and dad had this awesome game plan involving strapping him onto mom during the service in the hopes that he would fall asleep and all would be well. La de dah. Bippidi- Boppidi- NOPE.

Now we’re in the church parking lot. He fell asleep during the 8 minute drive to church BECAUSE OF COURSE. John looked over at me, standing in the parking lot with the carrier strapped on then back at our sleeping son and said, “Ugh. I hate this.” I did too but I knew he wouldn’t last in that carseat more than 10 minutes and the idea of pulling him out of the carseat just to bring him in front of the congregation wailing like a drunken Pentecostal was just not cutting it for me. So we strap him in, he protests only a little but is now extremely awake and had the scowl to prove it.

Then, seconds later, mama slips and falls on a patch of leaves scattered on a slope of the parking lot. I fell backwards (thank GOD), caught myself before my butt could actually slam into the pavement and managed not to tweak or twist any joint or ligament. It was just as much a debacle as a miracle. The greeters at the door gasped as did the people walking into church. “HA!” I said. “Of course.” This isn’t the first time I’ve slipped and fell in public (HELLOOOO High School Senior Awards ceremony) and it probably won’t be the last.

I took T-Swift’s advice, I shook it off. I also gave Satan the middle finger because he always deserves it. Especially on Sunday mornings where I’m convinced he works overtime to rattle God’s people. I have many pastor and pastor wife friends who will back me up on this theory.

 

Uhhh. What are we supposed to pray over our son? #NAILINGIT

Uhhh. What are we supposed to pray over our son? #NAILINGIT

We make it into the service and find our seats. The dedication is one of the first things of the service yet Samuel is getting more and more determined to remind us that he is tired and we’re making him miss his nap and he’s not amused. Our pastor finally says, “The Lavoie family” and we hustle to the front while I shove a paci in Samuel’s mouth and pray a silent prayer of, “Get us through this with no wailing and/or pooping, amen.” A part of the dedication was the parents writing a small prayer to pray over their child. I had sent John the prayer in an email yesterday once we had it all put together. 10 seconds before going to the front of the room, I saw it on John’s phone screen — he was ready.

Then we get up to the front and John (who just

Oh, Samuel. If there's one thing we know how to do -- it's laugh at ourselves. You'll catch on quickly.

Oh, Samuel. If there’s one thing we know how to do — it’s laugh at ourselves. You’ll catch on quickly.

loves public speaking, by the way) looks down at his phone and the email is gone. There is no explanation. So I fumble my phone from my butt pocket, locate the prayer, hand my phone to John who then asks the congregation to “Pray FOR me” instead of “pray with me” — and John and I just couldn’t help but laugh at how that Freudian slip was so well-timed and accurate. In fact, everybody laughed — the parents loudest and longest. We’re riding this crazy train together after all- SOLIDARITY.

John did such an awesome job praying over our son. Despite it all, it was a sweet, solemn moment that I will always cherish. Well done, babe. And another middle finger for Satan.

The rest of the service was spent with me walking all around the church both outside and inside to get Samuel to fall asleep. He did. For 30 minutes. Then he woke up right as communion was being served so I snuck into a room to nurse him before bringing him out as the service ended.

At the end of it all, we stood before our church

My favorite men. <3

My favorite men. ❤

family with our son and said, “We are in this and we need you.” And we received a collective, “We’ve got your back.” It was good and right and done well. Also – get a load of John and Samuel’s matching outfits.  SO MUCH CUTE.

**Many people told John after the service that they loved the prayer for Samuel so I wanted to share it with you here. If you’re a parent, I hope it encourages and inspires you to love your children towards the saving grace of Jesus.**

“Father, we acknowledge that Samuel was yours before we heard his voice or felt his heartbeat or held him in our arms. We ask that you would quickly and completely captivate the heart of our son. Create in him a heart that seeks your face, a mind that delights in the things above and a body that serves and grows in strength and humility. We recognize that the establishment and endurance of a life of discipleship ultimately belongs to to you, the Author of our Salvation. He must choose you for himself and not just piggy back on our faith in you. We ask that you compel him with your irresistable grace and give us wisdom as his parents to nurture his curiosity, encourage him in his gifts and disicpline him in his waywardness. Thank you for the privilege it is to raise this child, give us the patience and perspective to do it all with great joy. Amen.”

 

 

My Strengths: A Tale of Personality and Pancakes

Before marrying my husband I thought of myself as a fairly neat and organized person. Sure, I left the occasional pile but it was always neatly stacked and I tried to place them in inconspicuous, out-of-the-way places. Yes, my room got dirty just like any other kid growing up but when I cleaned it I would usually find great joy in re-organizing or situating my stuff.

Then I married John. I entered into a holy union with a man more fastidious than I thought possible. A man who would load the dishes in the dishwasher “just so” and wipe down the counters and sink as if we were planning on eating off of them later. Everything, right down to his bedtime routine, was purposeful, predictable, and tidy.  As you can imagine, my pile-making routine wasn’t going to cut it with Mr. Flosses-each-night.

During our first 2-3 years of marriage, John would sigh heavily when he saw one of my piles and ask me what it was doing there. To which I would look up at him, confused, and say, “It’s just sitting there. I don’t know what else to tell you.” Now he just walks by and looks at a pile and I’m all, “OK. FINE. GEEZ. Would you just TAKE IT EASY?! I’m moving it! I’m moving it!” before throwing it all into a drawer he’ll never open and going back to my business.

We’ve come a long way can’t you tell?

Bunny ears. A classic. 😉

I also learned quickly after getting married that my husband got his cleanliness and organizing prowess from his mom. One of the most generous, fun-loving women I know. She can cook, clean, organize, decorate, garden, host, and more — probably simultaneously while she flosses. It’s amazing. These people leave me speechless. And spotless.

Truth be told, my mother-in-law suuuuper intimidated me. If you made a comprehensive list of everything she is excellent at, it would almost line up verbatim with a list of things I’m just not excellent at. Early on in my new role as daughter-in-law I was terrified of being a disappointment to her. She raised my favorite person, her home is beautiful etc and all I felt I was bringing into the equation was “a great personality” and some mean banana pancakes.

She visited us last week, and something in me clicked about all of this “intimidation” nonsense. It was all coming from me. Never once has my mother-in-law looked at me and said, “I wish you were better at cooking. You’re house isn’t very clean, and don’t get me started on how you load the dishwasher.” She has been nothing but kind and helpful.

Dinner I helped make with my mom-in-law. It was delicious and simple and wonderful.

As we enjoyed her company last week, I realized that the only reason I was intimidated by her is because I was comparing myself to her. If you want a quick way to ruin any relationship — mix in a drop of comparison. I began to ask God for a genuine sense of appreciation for her and my husband and their cleaning/organizing impossible standards strengths. I was sick of throwing myself pity parties every time they were better at something than I was. My wounded ego was getting in the way of what could be really enjoyable learning opportunities.

So God, in His faithfulness, is taking me on this new journey of appreciation. It starts with being grateful for the strengths He’s given me — my sense of humor, gift of communication, scrapbooking swagger etc. And now it’s leading me to appreciate the people who used to intimidate me.

Comparison has no where to go in a relationship where two people appreciate each other. It sort of sulks in the corner, muttering empty lies about “being a disappointment” or “she’s so much prettier” or whatever. If you ignore those lies and replace them with the truth that we’re all created in the image of a creative God — differences become things that you celebrate instead of fear.

Isn't she lovely? :)

Isn’t she lovely? 🙂

This is a new thing for me. It’s not rocket science and I’m not the first to figure it out.  But just as I’m learning the power of gratitude, I’m teaching myself the discipline of appreciation for people who are strong where I am weak.

Is there a relationship in your life where comparison is hindering you from enjoyable companionship? Let’s walk out this new idea together and make the world a better place — be it through pancakes or organized dishwashers. It all counts.

 

 

 

 

 

The Best Parts of Life

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Last night we said goodbye to close friends we’ve walked through life with over the past several years. For John, he was saying goodbye to someone he’s been in community with for 10 years. And that’s hard.

After all the festivities of the goodbye celebration and putting away all the leftovers of their fridge into ours (what are good friends for right?), John and I sat on our patio to soak up the remainder of the unusually cool evening. It’s in moments like these when the pain that’s been throbbing in the back of your heart finally gets the attention it’s been craving. When life grows quiet we naturally find ourselves looking on the inside and assessing how we’re really doing.

We had sent our friends off with absolutely zero question in their minds of how much we loved them and are so thrilled for their new adventure. Our appreciation for them has grown from a place of countless gatherings, many tears as we stood by them during deep and dark waters of grief, and hours of laughter and encouragement. As I was processing this transition with John last night I recognized in me this compulsion to push aside the feelings of pain welling up in my heart and force myself to think of all the ways this move is wonderful and God-honoring etc.

I am a stubborn optimist but sometimes I can’t get out of my own way and just grieve. I struggle to let myself sit in the reality that I can’t pop in for a visit or spontaneously spend a Friday night with them anymore. It hurts to go there, you know? To let yourself think about it.

I’m learning that there really is no reason to be unnecessarily brave when your heart is breaking. Let it break. And over time, watch as it fills up with an appreciation for your life and the people in it that wasn’t there before. 

As a Virginia girl falling in love with the Lonestar State, as a sister embracing the role of “crazy aunt Rachel in TX” , as a friend learning to make sporadic emails and phone calls count for something, I am amazed at the resiliency of relationships. All of our hearts are so fragile and yet we willingly enter into each other’s lives because we need each other. All of those ugly cries in the car and quiet streaming tears on the back patio, are proof that you have chosen to invest yourself in something more important than your own happiness. Love is a beautiful, difficult giving away of yourself.

I have become too familiar with the throbbing pulse of “I hate this” in my throat as I enter into each new chapter of sending/ leaving/missing. Yet I have also experienced the balm of genuine friendship, laughed until I cried, held a brand-new human being and carried loved ones in prayer through those chapters. New chapters have always lead me to new loved ones because God is in the business of making sure we share what He has given us. The more of myself I have given away, the more I have experienced the best parts of life.

Last night I scooped up my rambunctious 3-year-old godson for the last time for a long time, planted a big kiss on his cheek and said, “Buddy? Do you know that I love you?” “Yes!” he responded, with joy sparkling in his eyes, “And I love you too!” As I watched him run off to play, I let my heart break. I admitted to myself that this was hard but I realized I didn’t regret one moment I spent loving that little booger or his family.

Love has a funny way of filling us up even as we pour ourselves out.

 

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  – 1 Corinthians 13:7

 

Rainbow Trout

Today I walked into Starbucks. The one where they know who I am. The one where I have spent many of the past 90 days, fretting over my laptop, crafting new cover letters, selling myself and second guessing and fuming and praying and meeting with friends and surviving. I sit here, smiling at the other “regulars” while sipping my white mocha. Everything is so the same. Except this time, it’s different.

This time I open my laptop and open the Evernote notebook that has recorded so much of this journey: the follow ups, the venting, the glimmers of hope, the first, second and third interviews. The people who have made sure I didn’t do it alone. I open a new document and smile as I write, “It wasn’t what I thought it was or when I thought it would be. His answer to my predicament makes me laugh and wonder at how he manages to  suspend the sun, dictate galaxies, and give me a job.”

That’s right, friend. I write this blogpost as an employed woman. Now accepting: all congratulations and celebrations and handshakes and hugs. I’ll tell you, because I know the suspense is killing you: I’m going to be working at a swim school as a front desk rep and swim instructor. Me, kids, and a pool. The possibilities are endless, y’all. There is fun to be had and milestones to achieve and high-fives to give and I will be happily swimming (bada BOOM!) in all of it. I’ll go through some intensive training before teaching  my own classes in the pool (obviously) but I find it just a little bit hilarious that I’ll be teaching kids how to swim. Because, really. Who saw this coming? NOBODY.

It just goes to show that God is doing His thing and I can only tip my head back and laugh with Him. Honestly, I can’t tell you how this fits into my grand plan of finding out who I am and what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. I imagine I will meet new challenges, discover new favorite things, and count new blessings. I anticipate that I will love it some days, and endure it on others. If my past jobs have taught me anything, it’s that I will learn more than just job skills. I will likely leave as a different person than when I started. Not in glamorous or impressive ways, but in the subtle tones of my character: like kindness, integrity, and confidence.  I can guarantee one thing: I am so thankful to close the chapter of October 15, 2013 –> January 6,2014. I’ll re-read it later, because there are so many lessons to learn and re-learn. But for now, I’m looking ahead and rejoicing in a new year, a new job, a new normal.

Yesterday I got my employee swimsuit and pranced around the house while wearing it, laughing and posing and enjoying the ridiculousness that is my life. John just shook his head and smiled, “They have no idea who they just hired. You’re gonna start a revolution.”

Things are happening in our world. Good things. New things. And I wanted to say, “THANK YOU!” to all of you who have propped us up with your prayers, who have met us with open arms and attentive ears. Thank you for listening and praying and hugging and caring and crying and being our friends as we have often fallen to bits these past few months. We still need your prayers (and always will) but we are aware of the integral role they played in THIS valley for THIS season, and for that we are inexplicably grateful.

Also: My “official” name at work is Rachel “Rainbow Trout.”

I know, I know.

It’s perfect. 🙂

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25

My dream birthday cake. ;)

Love this cake 🙂

Today I turn 25. A “quarter-century milestone” as it were. Honestly? Thinking that I’ll live to be 100 seems a little presumptuous to me but most people would tell me at this age, “You’ve got your whole life ahead of you!”

Not exactly. I have what’s left of my life ahead of me, not my whole life. I’ve already experienced 25 beautiful messy years on this planet and year 26  might be my last. I’m not saying that to be depressing, I’m saying that because it’s true! It may be my last day, week, month, or year this side of heaven.

Sure, there are a million items left undone on the half dozen bucket lists that I have yet to put on paper. There are memories I want to make, people I want to meet, books I want to write (wait.. what?) and lessons I want to learn. But none of those things come guaranteed. I don’t get to read ahead and see if all the days that were formed for me by the God who knit me together (Psalm 139) include all the things I think I need to live a full life. I don’t know if those days end in 2013 or 2063. I just know that the same God who wrote my first day also wrote my last day. And because of His great love for us my “last day” isn’t actually my last day — it’s the beginning of the perfect endless day. A day when I will hug Jesus with happy tears racing down my cheeks, swap stories with other saints, rejoice in re-born souls and sing in perfect harmony with a million other languages and tribes and cultures. And it will be perfect, because God is perfect.  And His timing is perfect, and His gospel is perfect.

I’ve argued with God on several occasions regarding His timing. I’ve been guilty of saying all the right things and believing none of them. God hears us when we’re angry and broken and fed up and tired and grieving and aching. But it doesn’t change the fact that we have no control over how many days we get or if they go according to our plan. We can eat right, drink right, sleep right, work right, play right and die tomorrow. That doesn’t make God unfair because God is not accountable to our agendas. But I am accountable to Him. And so are you. And so is the person next to you on the metro, and waiting in line at a grocery store, and crying in a doctor’s office, and hugging a soldier goodbye, and running away from home, and reading at Starbucks, and burying their child, and walking out on their marriage.

We are all accountable for the days we have been given to the God who gave them to us. And the only way your days will add up to eternity is when you take your plans, lay them at the foot of the cross and say, “Your plan is better, Jesus. YOU are better. I want the days that you wrote for my life, to read just like you wrote them. I’m tired of trying to edit them, add to them, and manipulate them. When you died on the cross I believe you destroyed my depravity and replaced it with your righteousness. I want you to interrupt my agenda and grant me the abundant life that is only found in You.”

And the whole “abundant life” thing? You won’t do that perfectly. In the past 25 years of my life I’ve been distracted and disillusioned and I’ve hurt people and lied and made excuses. I am an imperfect representation of the perfect loves that dwells within me.

Nevertheless, today I will walk into my 26th year of life with the God who wrote and numbered each of my days. I won’t get it all right as I follow Him and worship Him but I will rejoice in what I have been given with lots of ice cream, instagrammed moments, and heaps of gratitude.

Because it is always the little moments that remind us of the bigger picture.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:11-13