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.)
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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.

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. ❤

Sometimes: Confessions from the first 6 weeks

6 weeks into being a mom. It’s time to get a few confessions off my chest. Maybe you can relate, maybe you can judge. The only thing I’m certain of is this “confessional” will get longer as Samuel gets older.

Here we go y’all:

Sometimes when I’m “shushing” Samuel I’m really just doing it to occupy my mouth and distract it from screaming in frustration or from saying the not-so-nice words that are bouncing in my brain as he claws and screams and cries a few inches from my face.

thumb_IMG_6761_1024Sometimes I set my child down in his crib and walk away from him for a few minutes to collect my composure and take a few deep breaths after trying (unsuccessfully) to get him to sleep for an hour.

Sometimes I’m not smart enough to take deep breaths so I end up sobbing over the crib and begging this tiny human being to “please please please for the love of God fall asleep.”

Sometimes (OK every time) I giggle when I hear John’s commentary on the size of one of Samuel’s poops or when Samuel spits up on him. Nothing like being married to a fastidious person to make parenting that much more entertaining.

Sometimes I choose to listen to my bitter flesh and I seethe and grumble about my husband sleeping at night while I’m awake with Samuel.

thumb_IMG_6476_1024Sometimes I sneak a moment of daddy-son time after John comes home from a long 10 hour day at work and I swallow back tears of gratitude because there is no better man for this job. I’m certain of it.

Sometimes my son makes me laugh so much and love so hard I think my heart is going to explode from joy.

Sometimes I have a beer even though I’m nursing.

Sometimes he’ll turn his head when he hears my voice as I enter the room and it makes me feel like the most important person in the world.

Sometimes I’ll scoop him up and chat with him while he’s awake and tell him about my day or about the squirrels scampering outside our window.

Sometimes I leave him propped up in the boppy or swinging in a swing while he’s awake and alert and I keep working even though his sweet little eyes are open.

thumb_IMG_6661_1024Sometimes my first thought when I hear him waking up is, “Oh s^@%.” instead of, “Mom to the rescue, buddy! You are such a GIFT!”

Sometimes I pray over my son with eloquence and passion and sincerity. Dreaming of who God has made him to be and delighting in the idea that I get to see his life unfold in front of me.

Sometimes I can only pray, “Help.” or “Forgive me.”

Sometimes I leave myself no margins. I am walled in by my own expectations and standards and am left pacing inside of them, constantly disappointed in myself.

Sometimes I wake up determined to show grace and I feel like a super mom the whole day. Just totally nailing it with the diaper changing, feeding, working rhythm.

Sometimes I wake up determined to show grace and then proceed to bungle every opportunity I’m given. Every dirty diaper is taken personally and at the end of the day I’ve convinced myself for the umpteenth time that I can’t do this.

Sometimes I resent my husband for having a life that takes him outside the walls of our home several days a week.

Sometimes I stop in the middle of my day and give thanks for my hard-working, hands-on, hilarious husband who is an incredible source of support and encouragement to me.

thumb_IMG_6626_1024Sometimes I wonder if it’s all actually worth it because I miss having stability and structure in my day. And dairy. I miss dairy. (this is only day 3 of dairy-free, by the way. So far I only daydream about cheese every 20 minutes or so.)

Sometimes I stay awake and watch my son sleep in his crib even though I know I should be sleeping because I’m overwhelmed with gratitude that I get to be his mom and I know that one day he’ll want his independence more than he’ll want my presence and I’m gonna have to let him go.

 

 

The Unexpected Plan A

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First time in my life that my feet have the appearance of being dainty. Is what I’m telling myself. #positivethinking

I’m 33 weeks pregnant. While I always wanted to start a family and have kids etc, the idea that I have a tiny human being growing inside of me still manages to take my breath away (literally and figuratively).

Before I got pregnant, I would always joke with friends and family about how quickly I would run to the anesthesiologist during labor and ask for an epidural before my cervix even had a chance to dilate. I know myself and I know that pain is not something I like to endure. I don’t have a military mentality about gritting my teeth and getting through it. “Hoo RAH!” Not so much.

I have very close friends, including sisters, who have given birth taking every imaginable course. Whether an emergency C-section, scheduled C-section, home birth, natural birth in a hospital, hospital birth with medication assistance – I’ve been around the mommy block when it comes to labor stories and opinions. I knew from the moment I looked at the two separate pregnancy tests both displaying two pink lines smiling up at me, that I was in for a wild ride.

In many ways I have had a stereotypical pregnancy and in some ways I haven’t. Spoiler alert: this is true of every pregnant woman and every pregnancy ever to have occurred in the history of mankind. Every woman’s body is different and so is every baby. I didn’t get morning sickness except for a little queasiness here and there. I know that means I have just placed myself firmly in the “Enemy camp” of many of my readers who spent 12 weeks hugging the toilet. I have no words for you apart from, “I’m so sorry. Can I bring you some ginger ale?”

I’ve had the occasional craving (FETTUCCINE ALFREDO AND CALZONES, PEOPLE). I’m convinced our son will come out saying, “’Ey Ma-MA! Wheresa mah fetttuccine?!” There’s not a drop of Italian blood in my body so I’m not quite sure what to make of this.

The one thing that has proven to be quite the opposite of what I had envisioned for myself is my birth plan. The once snarky, “HIT ME UP WITH THE MEDS, DOC!” girl has been replaced with the wobbly but determined resolution of, “I want to try to have my baby naturally. Plan A is no epidural, but I’m not dismissing Plan B entirely.” This decision has befuddled me to no end. My dear husband has been supportive (although the bill for my Doula/Labor coach about made him choke, bless him) and my family and friends have been all kinds of happy and excited for me.

I know that as long as my son makes it out safely, I’m gonna be so overwhelmed/exhausted/weepy/hungry it really won’t matter how he got there yet it will totally matter that he was given to me and John and we will do our darndest to love him to pieces the widdle wumblyrumpkin bubbabottom! I am SO excited about the nicknames too, you guys. I LOVE RIDICULOUS NICKNAMES. John and our dear cat Clara have been the main recipients but to have a little being who will be too little to understand and too tiny to run away from all of my gushy shenanigans is going to be a dream come true on so many levels.

In conclusion, as an outsider looking into the world of being pregnant, I was SO sure of one thing – getting an epidural. It was like the no-brainer of all no-brainers. The fact that as I have asked and discussed and prayed about what to do when my turn came to pay the pregnancy piper (oh man. weird visual. But I’m just gonna leave it there anyway) and I found myself leaning towards at least giving the natural route a shot… it’s flabbergasting.

I’m strangely at peace about it and, as with all of life, I’m holding it with open hands. Babies get to decide when and how they arrive so I may end up cradling my precious son after a C-section or after being induced or who knows what else. I thank God that I’m not the first person to ever do this. As I wait in the wings of my last few weeks of pregnancy, full of anxiety and expectation and terror and joy… I hold my unexpected plan A in one hand, and the hand of my sovereign God in the other.

7 weeks to go, y’all.

Wanna go get some Italian food? Perfect. ME TOO.

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 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.