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.

Farewell, Fanny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gosh I want to be like her.

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

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

“Be not dismayed whate’er betide,

God will take care of you;

Beneath His wings of love abide,

God will take care of you.


God will take care of you,

Through every day, o’er all the way;

He will take care of you,

God will take care of you.


All you may need He will provide,

God will take care of you;

Nothing you ask will be denied,

God will take care of you.


No matter what may be the test,

God will take care of you;

Lean, weary one, upon His breast,

God will take care of you.”

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

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

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

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

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

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. ❤

My Valentine is 29!

Let's grow old together, shall we?

Let’s grow old together, shall we?

John —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thank you for Thanksgiving: A Tribute to the Hostess

The Kids Table, Circa 1994.

The Kids Table, Circa 1994.

Dear Grandma Barbara,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love you.

Thank you for everything.

Thank you for Thanksgiving.


My Favorite Men Month (Part 3): Brother

This is the final installment on my three-part “My Favorite Men month” mini-series. Check out part 1 and part 2 if you’d like!

This was supposed to be completed by the end of June but I was too busy being overcome by the “ORGANIZE ALL THE THINGS!” bug. Now my house is a little more organized but my blog is unhappily tapping its foot and flashing an angry cursor at my blatant disregard for deadlines. I’m just gonna go ahead and blame the disasters that are (were!) my bedroom closet and bathroom cabinet. That’s right. I just passed the buck to inanimate objects, y’all. There are no limitations to my mastery of the blame game. I’m the youngest of four, what can I say?

So, sorry Matt. This is a little past your actual birthday but can I get points for posting in the same week?

Man #3: Brother



If ever there was a big brother worth devoting a blog post to: it’s you. After all, you are my ooooonnnly braaather as our mother loves to remind us dear sisters. I know that technically I was “supposed” to be a boy when I arrived to equalize the boy/girl sibling ratio, but instead you became TRIPLY BLESSED with sisters. I will admit, looking back on what it must have been like growing up in our house, I do have a smidge of pity and a teeny-tiny ounce of admiration for how you endured the majority of your childhood. But mostly I think you were the luckiest guy ever. 😉

You’re also the best big brother ever. Behind all the eye-rolling and exasperated sighs, is a guy who really cares about his family… and it shows. It showed when you let your 3-year-old sister “play” with your legos and dutifully held her hand as she wobbled up the stairs to show mom the lego “airplane” that she made. It showed when you dressed up as a butler, or Dopey the dwarf, or some other character to help facilitate one of your sister’s birthday parties. I’m sure there were some baseball cards promised for some of those gigs, but the fact that you did them speaks volumes. It showed when you attempted to teach your gangly, pre-teen baby sister how to dribble a basketball (between you and me, let’s just pretend that didn’t happen). It showed when you tutored me in algebra without making me feel stupid or foolish. I still hate algebra, but I didn’t hate hanging out with you.  And although my high-school self may not agree with me on this one, it even shows when you tease.

You’re so good at making us laugh at ourselves, and you know why? It’s because you know us. And that doesn’t just happen overnight, it happens over years of showing up and being there — dance recitals, piano recitals, gymnastic meets, graduations (well.. except for my college graduation. OHHHHHH! BURN.) And let’s face it, even though grandma loves each of her grandkids equally, I’m hard-pressed to find her hooting and clapping more enthusiastically than when you’re serenading her with your saxophone or smooth-talking her with that ridiculous Pennsylvania-dutch accent.

Some people think I’m pretty funny but it’s really just because they haven’t met you yet. I owe a lot of my snarkyness to years of sarcastic, fun-loving, back-and-forth banter with you and I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world.

In short, I like you alot.

And since I’m the sentimental, eccentric littlest sister and this is my blog — I’m just gonna go ahead and say it: I love you, Matt!

Happy belated birthday!

"What strange creatures brothers are!" - Jane Austen -- preach it, girl.

“What strange creatures brothers are!” — Jane Austen — preach it, girl.

My Favorite Men Month (part 1): Dad

Four out of the thirty days on my June calendar are: Father’s Day (the 16th), Wedding Anniversary (the 20th), Dad’s birthday (the 23rd), and Brother’s birthday (the 30th). Which makes it an unofficial “Celebrate My Favorite Men” Month.

And, since I have a knack for buying greeting cards and letting them collect on my shelf into one big pile of good intentions, I’m gonna cover my bases with a blog post for each of ’em this year. You can consider it my first attempt at a three-part “mini series.”

The Line up:

(in chronological order, more or less)

1) Dad – The one who has loved me unconditionally from day one.

2) John (Husband) – The one who likes me so much he has voluntarily chosen to live with me and love me til I die.

3) Matt (Brother) – The one who loves me because he “has to” but secretly, deep down, actually likes me too.

Man #1: Dad

TRADITION. Thanks for hoisting me (and all the other siblings!) on your back Christmas after Christmas after Christmas so we could put the angel on the top... Even when we probably could have reached it ourselves. You're the best. :)

TRADITION! It’s funny how the little things carry such huge significance (and back pain). Thanks for being so long-suffering. 🙂

There is so much about my childhood that I don’t remember but I consider it such a blessing to know that you were there for all of it. I remember dancing down the hallway as you played the “Linus and Lucy” theme song from Charlie Brown on the piano,  or barreling straight for your shins, plopping my bottom firmly on top of your foot and saying “Go!” and never being disappointed with the “foot ride” that followed. I remember the smell of coffee and peanut butter toast in the morning and the goodbye hugs before heading off to school with the words “Learn lots and become wise!” echoing in my ears. I remember feeling safe whenever you were around and getting really mad at Sarah when I told her I thought you were the most handsome guy in the world and she said, “No he isn’t, Rachel. You just love him so much that you think he is.” (I’ll let you talk to her about that 😉 ) I remember my heart bursting with joy whenever you told me how proud you are of me and how much you love to watch me dance on the stage. I remember thinking boys were so silly for trying to give me valentines because my heart was so clearly taken by the man who left me a HUGE  “I Love You” balloon tied to my chair at the kitchen table that morning.

I remember the countless conversations we had that would last way past my bedtime and whose effect on my life has lasted way past the eventual “Goodnight Rachel, I love you, sleep tight!” The times when you told me I was special, gifted, and created for a purpose. The times when I asked hard questions about faith and life and you answered them. And one particular conversation we had at the kitchen table a few years ago that was really difficult but really really good. I remember that too.

As I grow up and stretch out my wings and discover the world and my place in it, I know there is a man who believes I could go anywhere and be anybody. I know our relationship has changed because I have changed, and so have you. But the unique and powerful impact you have had on my life will never change, and I am so grateful for it. I love you, Dad. Thanks for always taking care of me.

Thanks for always offering me your arm, and your support. <3

You’ll always be the first guy I gave my heart to. 🙂

When you wish upon a mountain, you just might miss the sunset.

VA landscape

John and I just enjoyed a whirlwind weekend visiting friends and family in VA. 🙂  As usual I came with my heart wide open and was cheerfully swept up in the magnetic pull of the East Coast, occupied by so many people I love.

I wish I could record and re-play the moment of holding my brand-new nephew Cade and happily crying as I prayed over him on the back porch of my childhood home. I wish I could keep all the kisses from my 80-years-young grandmother in my pocket and pull them out when I’m lonely or scared. I wish I lived closer to my adorable niece, Emma so I could run with her and march with her and chase after her with a broom while laughing at her silly screams of delight. I wish I could babysit the kiddos that were born to dear friends, and be a familiar face instead of a passing traveler. I wish I could bottle up the warm welcome we received at our old church home on Sunday morning. I wish I could squeeze their hands again and invite them over for lunch. I wish I could have danced the night away at a beautiful wedding reception instead of driving the night away to another hotel. I wish I could step outside and smell the sweet summer rain that wakes up the soil on the mountains and rinses off the patient hills. I wish TX wasn’t so far away from VA.

But, as my mom so matter-of-factly states, “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride!”

The reality is, that’s not my reality. And you know what? That’s OK. A part of me will always be tied to the hills of VA but there is another part of me that is being shaped and influenced by the sweeping plains of TX. The part of me that had to put on my “big girl” pants and get a full-time job, that has to commute to that full-time job, that pulled out the crockpot and put away the cereal box because “Man cannot live on Fruity Cheerios alone!” It’s a newer part of me and one that I’m just starting to get comfortable in. I’m sure that once I get comfortable, something else will change and another part of me will stretch unused muscles and make new mistakes. That’s just growing up, I guess.

When I think about leaving the sweet friends who have made the Lonestar state not-so-lonely for us, I just wanna punch a wall. I don’t like knowing that when John graduates, we’ll have to say goodbye (AGAIN) to people we wish we could live next-door to, share Saturday mornings with, and lean on when life throws a mean curveball. Yet I know that there are some friendships that don’t give a rip how many miles apart you are because as far as they’re concerned, you’re stuck with them for life.

And if there’s anything I’ve learned each time my heartstrings are yanked in a hundred different directions, it’s this:

Wherever you are, it’s worth the pain and the risk to love people back.

It’s so good to visit the house I grew up in, the friends I went to school with, and the family I treasure. But it’s also good to be home again, enjoying the panoramic sunsets and delightful friendships we could have only found deep in the heart of Texas.

TX sunset at WRL

Remembering my Raindrops and Whiskers

Lately, in the midst of so many graduations and birth announcements and job changes and conversations about all of those things, I’ve been feeling restless.  I keep looking over the horizon of tomorrow and thinking, “What’s next?” and meanwhile about 35,000 blessings are passing under my nose, unnoticed or forgotten. That’s unacceptable.

I need to document “a few of my favorite things” so that I can re-read and re-live and reJOICE in all I have in the here and now. Unlike Julie Andrews, I’m not putting them to a song but feel free to imagine you’re frolicking on the set of Sound of Music while you read. 😉

My Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens

Stealing kisses from my adorable godson in plain sight of my smiling, eyebrows-raised husband.

When I feel John’s arm around my shoulders or his hand on my knee.

Running with the wind pushing me to go faster.

Laughing in disbelief (or maybe delirium?) when I crossed the finish line at my first half marathon.

Giving and receiving hugs that are unapologetically long and (literally) heart-warming.

Crying like a blubbering idiot in front of my seminary wife group when I found out (moments before they arrived at my house) that my beautiful nephew Cade was born.

Screaming out a chorus to a heavy metal song with John while he drove, windows down, hair flying, and grinning like mad men.

Memorizing Romans 12.

Hearing John pray over our future and crying because I do such a terrible job of appreciating the present (hence this post). Which in turn reminded me of how marvelously indebted to and thankful I am for the grace of Jesus. So I cried even harder with happy tears.

Listening to my cat snore on my lap while I scrapbook.

Being told I was used by God to bring hope or encouragement in someone’s life. I can’t wrap my head around this enough.

Holding a newborn baby. May that NEVER get old.

Talking with my college roommate as if the conversation had never ended.

Saturday morning pancakes.

Adding another crockpot recipe to our “regular” meals  (a pretty big deal for yours truly).

Sitting down to read my Bible for a few minutes, and reading it for hours instead because I got lost in the beautiful story-telling.

Combatting my road rage by singing worship songs at the top of my lungs, and laughing at the reactions in my rearview mirror.

Watching the cat chase flies around our house. Or, even better — watching John AND the cat chase flies around our house.

Breaking into a sweat just from dancing around my 750sq ft apartment because it unleashes a passion I don’t express as much as I probably should.


And that’s not even all of ’em!

Well, what are you waiting for? Get grateful and get busy writing your own list!

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. ~ James 1:17