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!

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.

Walking with Jesus – through my refrigerator

 I’ve been walking with Jesus through this life since the tender age of 7. Twenty years you guys. 20 years of his companionship, guidance, discipline and joy! And yet every year – sometimes every minute – I am learning and surrendering all over again. It’s amazing what happens when you take the truth of God’s word and hold it up against the subtle habits of your life.
May we never ever get it set in our heads that we have arrived. That we have learned all we need to learn or have grown into or deepest intimacy with Him. It’s simply not true. There is always more of Him than there are minutes in our lifetime. The real question is – will you find Him in those minutes?

Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food; but God will do away with both… All things are lawful, but not all things EDIFY. – 1 Corinthians 6:13 & 10:23

I wrote this little note this morning and placed it on my kitchen counter because I am re-evaluating my relationship with food. Something so simple and ordinary yet crucial to my life. It’s a relationship in which I have begun to adopt unsavory habits, in which I have begun to place food on some kind of comfort pedestal in my heart. I have not done the hard work of truly examining what I eat and why because I know, at the root, there is a restless mistrust of God’s goodness and an incredible ability to justify my sin into oblivion.

I’m just beginning the work of taking a long, hard and honest look into my pantry and fridge and figuring out what it might be telling me about my heart and my mind. They’re so connected you know? Thankfully, I have not reached a point where I am truly depriving my body intentionally or obsessing over a particluar size or image that causes me to binge. If this is you – please please talk to somebody about it. Oh what a hard spiral you are in – but you CAN be free from it!
For me? I’m addressing my apathy towards what I put in my body – “So what if this has stuff in it that isn’t actually food? So what if I’ve only got one life to live and one body to live in? Whatever. I have a high metabolism so I don’t have to “worry” about that stuff.” Not OK. Not a healthy attitude towards the blessing and nourishment that food is meant to be for me and my family.
So I’m asking myself: What is my relationship with food like? Is it healthy? Do I have auto-pilot habits and reflexes that need to be re-claimed and re-trained? (Answer: YES) — this little picture frame on my kitchen will sit as a reminder that God can use anything and everything to edify (to build up and encourage) His children. That He has given me food for my body but ultimately He has given me Himself to enjoy and find soul-pleasuring sustenance in – for my whole eternity.

I’m figuring out what all of this looks like and while it’s awkward for me to share and it will probably make me feel even more insecure when I let the whole freaking Internet world know about it – I want to be an encouragement to that one other person on the other side of the screen who is thinking about this too.

Momma's motivation <3

Momma’s motivation ❤

All I know is – I want to treat my body with care, raise my kids on food that will nourish and energize, and never ever eliminate the joys of ice cream and peach pie from my life because God gave me 10,000 tastebuds and I ain’t wasting a-one of ’em.

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. ❤

6 Years

6 years ago today I was staring at a pair of oak doors through a white veil with my dad standing proudly next to me, smiling so widely and brightly it was rivaled only by my own goofy grin. I nervously chuckled as I heard our friends and family settle into their seats and the organist began to pipe out one of our favorite hymns, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” A memory briefly flitted across my mind as the doors opened. You had slipped a note to me during one of the Mason CRU meetings as we had all sang this song together. It read: “Come thou fount! He has given me every blessing and now he has given me you! :-)”
Dad down the aisleI squeezed my bouquet as my heart threatened to escape out of my chest and I walked toward you. Toward this life we have pieced together. Toward promises of “for better or for worse” and toward a groom I was certain was about to pass out as he nervously smiled and locked/unlocked his knees at the altar.
There we stood. “The surprise couple of the year” as our pastor and friend had stated during his message. What would come of a union between Mr. Quaker Oats and Miss Froot Loops? Only time would tell, I guess. We prayed together, exchanged rings, sealed our union with a kiss (or two 😉 ), and walked out of the church as Mr. & Mrs.
Today I’m staring out the kitchen windows of the first home we have ever owned, watching butterflies enjoy the flowers framing our patio and bikers and runners getting in their Saturday morning exercise on the street next door.  Our son is dancing in my womb, enjoying the chocolate chip banana pancakes we eat on most sabbath days and I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and a little bit of anxiety. A week ago you had walked into our home to find me crying at the kitchen table, looking out those same windows. I confessed that I was scared of what having a child would do to the life we had built together over these years. I like what we have now. I like our date nights and quiet sabbath mornings and spontaneous Sonic ice cream dates in the middle of the week. I like you. I like being with you and watching you get all excited when you talk about cars or when you share about having a great conversation with one of your students. I like taking obscenely long road trips with you to visit friends and family and looking up interesting places we can eat along the way while we talk about nothing and everything. I confessed that I was scared I’m going to sacrifice my marriage on the altar of my children.
You walked over to me, without missing a beat, put your hands on my shoulders and said, “It won’t leave unless we let it leave. Our relationship is gonna look different with children in the picture, but it doesn’t ever have to disappear entirely. Not unless we let it.”
IMG_4998So I’m taking a deep breath and surrendering to God all of my anxieties about what our next year of marriage will look like with our sweet son in the picture. I’m slowing down to remember and cherish and give thanks for the memories we’ve made and the hardships we’ve endured. I’m replacing lies with truth and I’m throwing joy in the face of fear. You still know how to rustle up the butterflies in my stomach and you’re a pro at making me unbelievably frustrated in the blink of an eye. You’re my best friend, for better or for worse. Here’s to year 7! I have no idea what it’ll be like, but I don’t want to find out with anybody but you.
I love you.
Happy Anniversary!

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.

 

For the Broken Bells

hanging_jingle_bellsI love this time of year! All the feel-good jingles and the festive sleigh bell jangles. Christmas is magical in so many ways! As each year has passed, Christmas is still beautiful and fun but the world around me has sort of lost it’s soft innocence I had enjoyed as a little girl. Back in the day where my biggest concern was getting to the JCPenney gift catalog before my sister did so I could mark all the stuff I wanted before her, I didn’t know about things like loss or grief or pain or sorrow.

There are days where I miss that innocence. Where I wish I could close my eyes and see the world with all of the naiveté of a 6-year-old. Where people didn’t hurt people so badly or where hard decisions weren’t weighing on my mind or relationships weren’t shattering and depression wasn’t suffocating and grief wasn’t so ruthless and final.

This world and every (every) person in it are messed up on so many levels and for all of the Christmas caroling and jingle belling that swirls around us, we just can’t fix it. So I sit in my car and listen to the lyrics of “O Holy Night” and beg the Lord to return, to break visible chains of bondage because sometimes it’s hard to care about the invisible ones. To stop oppression in it’s tracks and display his power by silencing all the violence. I praise Him for thrilling our souls with a hope that stays and for entering a world that was pining in it’s own desperate, depraved chaos. I ask Him for wisdom for His church because while the world certainly needs His law of love and gospel of peace, His church needs it too.

I could probably name a dozen reasons off the top of my head why I should feel bitter, angry, and confused right now. Some of the reasons are personal, some national, and others global. I have my list of “How do you explain this” circumstances that I have wielded in anger as I marched up to the throne of grace, demanding explanations.

I know that believing is hard, friends. I know that if you’re hurting right now then you probably don’t feel like decking the halls and it’s probably hard to dream of a White Christmas when you aren’t sleeping at night. The palpable, frenzied happy feelings that pulse through the air and radio this time of year may be cutting you like a knife and nobody seems to really get it.

I just want to tell you — somebody gets it. In fact, He’s the reason all of this celebrating is happening. Buried beneath the white noise of holly, jolly, ho-ho-ho, 50% off, buy-more-save-more is a baby boy sleeping in a cow trough, his mother exhausted and in pain on the cold barn floor and his father with deep lines of fatigue and wonder tracing his face.

I know it seems so ridiculous that a baby would save the world. Even more ridiculous to believe that God would become a man. Christmas is absurd, really. But God has never done things the way we expect Him to, or even demand Him to. He is not in the business of catering to finite, individual understandings of who He ought to be and how He ought to act.

He is in the glory business. The kind of glory which displays a radiant hope that pierces through thickening hate. Glory that takes deep pain and massages it gently into restored wholeness. Glory that sees lost causes as second chances. Glory that points to a God we just can’t summarize.

Christmas is about a God who saw you hurting and scared and tired and angry and said, “I am coming to heal that. Forever. Once for all.”

The sin that plagues you internally and externally is waging war so ferociously because it has already lost. It is frantic to distract you from Christmas, desperate to keep you from Easter.

In case you thought that Christmas runs only as deep as the warm-fuzzy feelings, I wanted to tell you how wrong you are. It finds the lonely, isolated, angry, heartbroken, and torn and says, “Ahhh yes. This is where I belong. I love you. You matter to me. Will you hear me? Will you believe that I came for you?”

I’m praying that you hear it, this year. The real sound of Christmas ringing through the cold, dark winter of your pain — a thrill of hope, a new and glorious morn.

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

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