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. ❤
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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 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.

 

Waste vs. Grace

On the occasional Sunday afternoon I will decide to tackle an “around the house” project and one of the projects that has been haunting me over the past several months has been our pantry. That slim, little, out-of-the way closet which becomes a black hole of half-eaten chip bags and canned beans stacked to oblivion. I kept putting this project off because I was scared of what I would uncover during it. This afternoon I mustered up the courage to begin pulling every.single.thing out of the back of my tiny pantry and with shame flooding my neck and face, I collected a garbage bag FULL of wasted things. Corn and beans and untouched pretzels and all manner of waste. Waste. WASTE.

All of it reminds me of all the times I failed at cooking. I am not a grand master chef, friends. I have big dreams about all the healthy ways I

The results of sorting the expired from the non-expired goods.

The results of sorting the expired from the non-expired goods.

want to feed my family and, in an emotional rush to “do better” “be better” “eat better” I will frantically google healthy recipes, skip all the ones that involved anything minced (ain’t nobody got time), and happily fill my shopping cart with as many good intentions as I could muster. Then I bring those good intentions home, neatly stack them along the back wall of my pantry, and forget about them. Do you guys know how long your corn needs to be sitting in your pantry in order for it to expire? YEARS.

For me, this household chore symbolizes another embarrassing moment in a long history of failure in the kitchen. Emptying this pantry wasn’t about organizing my home as much as it was about coming to grips with my faults and my unfulfilled promises to myself.

As I lugged the horrifically heavy bag of untouched foods down to the dumpsters, I asked God to forgive this. All of this wasted goodness and provision. I literally had to limp to the dumpster as the bag sliced into my leg, pressing into my skin a painful reminder that I had not been a good steward. That I had failed. Again.

I heard that familiar nagging voice: ” Such waste! So many people are starving and you’re lining your pantry with food you’ll never eat because you know you won’t use them since YOU KNOW YOU ALWAYS FAIL AT COOKING?! WOW. So much for all of these great ideas you had huh? This is pathetic, Rachel. Why do you even try?”

I heaved the bag into the dumpster, ignoring the Deciever’s mocking voice and I prayed,

“God I cannot tell you this will never happen again. I want SO badly to promise you that I will change overnight. That starting TODAY things will be different. But how many times have you heard that from me, Lord? How many times have I started a plan to eat better or cook better? How many times have I hauled heavy trash bags to the dumpster? More times than I can count. And yet, You forgive me Lord. Sometimes You remind me to reflect on the progress of this battle, or You remind me of my husband who is willing to help me with this. You warn me of the poison of comparison and You always delight in my need for You because You know that sweet things are born in repentance.

Would You forgive me of this waste that symbolizes my laziness, my insecurity, and the desperate, wasteful measures I have taken to change myself apart from You? I ask that You help me buy only what I eat so that I might be a better steward of Your provision. Remind me of the privilege it is to be a citizen of a nation with supermarkets filled with food every day. I ask for help in learning new recipes that would help us take better care of the bodies you have given us. Help me not to be afraid of failure, help me be humble in this and willing to learn.

I can’t believe you actually care about this small, silly issue in my life but I know you do because you want all of me: all the bags of waste, all the battles with apathy, all the thoughtless spending, all the anxiety over money, all the recipes I didn’t get right, all the times I compared and I belittled and I hated and I coveted. I can’t believe you would want me but when I look at the Cross, I can’t believe that You don’t. You gave Your best so that when I gave mine and I failed, it wouldn’t be about my failure as much as it would be about Your victory.

What do you need to take to the dumpster, today? What is it that clings to your heart, sucks out your resolve, and leaves you feeling ashamed and worthless? Let me encourage you to stop procrastinating the difficult task of facing it. Don’t carry it with you, friend. Admit it. Confess it. Learn from it. Be free from it by the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

God is in the business of redeeming the repentant, embracing the humble, and moving through the busted up parts of us. Don’t limit the way He will do it, either. Never underestimate the lengths He will take to reach you with His stubborn love — because clearly, kitchen pantries aren’t off – limits.

 

Fünf Jahre!

John,

Five years. Fünf jahre! Fünf! Can you believe it? (I just like saying “Fünf” because it’s such a funny German word.)

Five years I have run alongside of you. Five years of inside jokes, and late night drives and sabbath day pancakes. As with every passing year, I’ve learned more about you — appreciating new things and enduring others (gotta keep it real, right?– nobody’s perfect) Speaking of not being perfect, remember how I lost my job in October? Yeah. That was great. Our first taste of the “for worse” part of our wedding vows. We didn’t exactly do it perfectly but by God’s grace, we came out of it clinging to God and cheering each other on.

I’ll tell you what I remember most about this past year: you were there. Always. You didn’t give up on me, even when you didn’t understand my emotional rants or reclusive silences at the dinner table. You need to know that you are stronger than you realize. You aren’t perfect and neither am I and this past year has been our banner year for reminding us of that. But this year has only strengthened my resolve to encourage, support, push, and enjoy you more.

When I came home for three months straight, reeking of coffee shops and unemployment, you always came home later after working 13 hour days. I watched you work day after day after day and sometimes I would just cry in the car thinking about it. You worked SO hard. I felt SO ashamed. Life had become some cruel disappointment. This past year I watched you put your head down and work yourself almost to death. Then I saw you collapse at Jesus’s feet in surrender and say, “I can’t do it.” You sought help, and recovered hope. Your humility in the middle of this storm gave me strength and perspective. Without knowing it, you brought me back to the God I had been secretly hating for weeks. Thank you. Thank you for bringing me back.

Yet through all the hectic months of our life, you still managed to find time for date night. You still picked up flowers at the store. The bouquets were always so unique and I thought I might never let go of you when you told me you had them specially arranged by the lady behind the counter. I just pictured you stooped over all the flowers with your brows furrowed as you picked out just the right ones. And I hugged you tighter because I don’t understand your care for me sometimes.

The new calendar year brought me a new job, by God’s gracious hand. It wasn’t what either of us expected but after a chorus of “We’ve chosen another candidate” and a resounding reprise of absolute silence, we were thankful. So I pranced around the house in a swimsuit, preparing to teach kids an activity I could barely do myself and we laughed at the new shade of ridiculous our lives just adopted. The paycheck was such a blessing, the schedule was a bear. We were like ships in the night for awhile. Still painfully, blessedly aware that we couldn’t do it apart from God. We still needed Him to keep us together, working as a team, learning as a family. We shared some hard words and sat in heavy silences. We missed seeing each other and stupidly blamed each other for it. Our logic was flawless, “I miss you. But I’m too exhausted to connect with you. But you haven’t connected with ME in a while either. Therefore, you must not miss me. Therefore, you’re a jerk.” Brilliant, eh? You live and learn in married life I guess.  Sorry for being such a shmuck sometimes.

I’ve been thinking about our marriage over the past few weeks leading up to our 5 year anniversary. And I’ve decided that I like the sound of being married for 5 years. It seems like such a magnanimous accomplishment. Like we should get some kind of award for being such a mature and wise couple. Being married for 5 years gives us the right to look down our noses at those rascally “newlyweds” and tut-tut over all the things we learned “back in the day”… right? Because I’m all over that. But what I like more than just the sound of being married for 5 years is the reality that I’ve shared it with you. Somehow, in the midst of the chaos and shattered plans and long days… we’ve made a life together. And I treasure it.

I love you. I love the way you have taken care of me by taking care of your walk with God. I love sharing this life with you while offering my own snarky and completely useless commentary on it. I love laughing at with you. I love catching your eye and making you smile over a moment that nobody else could understand or appreciate. I love hearing you pray. Unless I’m really hungry… then I kind of struggle. I love hearing you dream out loud and chiming in with my own happy versions of our future and heaven and how great God is. I love being your bride. What a year we’ve had! What a privilege to have lived it alongside of you.

Here’s to the adventures we shared and the mistakes we made and the grace that makes it all possible.

And here’s to you, babe.

Happy Anniversary!

My happy place. :)

We clean up pretty nice 😉

My Favorite Men Month (Part 2): Husband

This is the second of the three-part shout-out to my favorite men, feel free to check out part 1 if you wanna read about my fantabulous father.

Today, it’s all about the hubster. I never call him the hubster, it just sounded cool so I’m going with it.

Last week I posted about our four year wedding anniversary (yay!) but that post was more a recap of married life than a smooshy-googly wuvvy-dovey post about how much I love my super machismo studmuffin. Don’t worry though, this post will deliver enough happy feelings to make the Care Bears squirm. Get excited!

Man #2: Husband

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We’re different, you and I. That may be one of the greatest understatements in the history of mankind. You see the future as something to approach cautiously, with a plan in hand while I tend to barrel into the future, tossing up prayers and making it up as I go. My categories of cars are still: super-fancy, fancy, normal and boring and they still have everything to do with how a car looks and absolutely nothing to do with how it drives. You’re still holding onto the idea that there’s such a thing as “too much dessert” and it still makes me chuckle and shake my head. Yet the longer we’ve been together, the more I realize how very good it is that I married you.

This post is a tiny snapshot into how much I appreciate you. I know how much you love it (read:awkwardly smile and wish I didn’t have a Facebook account) when I make a big deal about you so I’ll try and keep this relatively bearable.

I’ll also add this disclaimer: I DID NOT MARRY A PERFECT MAN. HIS FARTS STILL SMELL AND HE HAS JUST AS MANY ISSUES AS THE NEXT GUY. (Did you just read that like I was shouting at you? Because I kinda did.)

That being said:

Thank you for holding my hand in church, and for giving me great big hugs when I come home every day. Thank you for getting me the most precocious and ridiculous cat to have ever existed as a Christmas present, and for not rubbing it in that she likes you best (most of the time). Thank you for eating the food I somehow managed to fling together, for FOUR years running! I think that ranks you among the most profoundly courageous of men. Thank you for treating me with care and consideration when I’m hurting. Thank you for being a safe place. Thank you for telling me how much you like my squawking, hooting whistle-snort of a laugh. And thanks for telling me that you think I’m funny. 🙂

Thank you for praying for me. Thank you for praying with me. Thank you for looking at my scrapbooks and taking the time to re-live sweet moments with me. Thank you for caring enough to listen to my dreams and challenging me to walk in them. Thank you for believing that I can change the world and for showing me the Scriptures and spreadsheets to prove it. 😉

You are one of the most odd, passionate, gentle, sincere and purposeful individuals I have ever met.

I am so very honored to be your one and only.

Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made.

Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made.