Thanksday #96

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I’ve long neglected this space. Be started 14 months ago and has been my heartbeat (and rightfully so), but lately there has been a pull back to here — this place that’s just me, exploring and pondering and wondering — and I’ve found myself hopping back. Checking things out. Testing my fingers in these waters and enjoying the rush of cool and peace and home.

So I wrote something this week. And it felt awkward at first, and then familiar, and then like walking in the front door after a semester at college. This has always been, and always will be, the safe place I come home to.

There’s no place like home for the holidays, am I right?

As I typed out a status update on Facebook today, it brought to mind gratitude and thanksgiving and my heart again was pulled back here. After all, it is Thursday — Thanksday — and I got that wild urge to make me a thankful list.

(I also got that wild urge to forget to pick up my kids from school and just take off to The Big City for some shopping, but I thought this would be the more responsible thing to do.)

In no particular order, thankfuls for this week:

1. Christmas Blend Espresso Roast. It just might be what I look forward to the most every Christmas, but for some bizarre reason, they are only making half-pound bags right now, which makes me want to pull my hair out. Yes, I could just buy two, but I miss the big shiny bags with the fancy Christmas design. It doesn’t look as festive in an 8-oz size. (But it’s still delicious, don’t get me wrong.)

2. Pandora. All I play right now is my Frank Sinatra holidays station, and my car is a happy place full of the crooning of Frank, Ella, Dean, Sammy, Billie, Louie and others belting out Christmas favorites. My car is an even happier place when I’m be-bopping along with a Christmas Blend in my hand.

3. A Clean & Quiet House. I love being at home in the mornings, completely alone, in a house that’s decorated for Christmas and clean. Everything stays exactly where I leave it for those precious few hours, and there are no wrestling figures laying around, or shoes in my way, or crumbs trailing or PAW Patrol blaring. Sitting in peace and quiet and clean makes my heart so happy.

4. Mollie. Mollie is our three-year old Maltese we adopted at the beginning of the summer, and she is unquestionably the perfect dog for this family. She’s incredibly low-key, relaxed, chill, small, doesn’t shed, and the kids melt into puddles around her. Compared to Dogtastrophe of 2012 when psycho dog came into our lives briefly, not a day goes by that we don’t celebrate the chillness that is Molls. Even now, she’s just curled up into a ball on the white fuzzy blanket, and I can’t tell where she ends and the blanket begins. I love that. And I love my kids don’t walk around with high blood pressure and raised shoulders around her, unsure if she’ll snap or not. ‘Cuz not.

5. Breakfast Dates. For the first time in an embarrassing six months, Greg and I had a breakfast date this week. We used to do them weekly during the school year last year, but this year has been chaotic as I’ve done an extraordinary amount of traveling (which I am NOT complaining about and hey, Santa, bring me some more of that this year? Please and thanks.). But this week it made me remember with glee how much I love spending time with my husband. He is my most best BFF and honestly I’d rather hang out with him than anyone else on the planet. That was a fun omelet, and I’d like to do that again soon. (Please and thanks.)

6. The Dollar Store. Because wrapping paper, bows, ribbons and gift tags don’t come cheap, and I’m trying to save wherever possible.

7. Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm in Red Dahlia. This stuff is my jam. I can’t stand lipstick anymore, and lip stains don’t work for me. But this stuff right here? It rocks my face off. It’s soft and creamy and just enough color to make it actually look like I have lips (somehow, as I’ve gotten older, they are blending into the color of my skin. What the??). I forgot to grab my tube of this one day while we were at Disney World, and when I mentioned out loud I needed chapstick, my amazing sister-in-law pulled out hers and said I could borrow some. IT WAS THIS EXACT LIP BALM. I died with joy, and I fell in love with her more, as if that were even possible. (Burt’s has other colors too, but this is the best, IMHO.)

8. Phone Dates. I had a (long overdue) phone chat with one of my BFFs from the Wessside this week, and it made my heart burst wide open and tears flood from my eyes realizing how much I miss my people out there. It was so wonderful to hear her voice and catch up properly on life happenings. While Facebook is great for keeping tabs on everyone, nothing compares to voice-to-voice conversation and shared laughter to the point of happy tears. (Well actually, nothing compares to doing that in person, but this is the next best thing.)

9. Wrapping Gifts. It is a completely love-hate relationship, gift wrapping. I love to do it — it’s cathartic and fun and I can sort of zone out while I do it — but I’m also a bit of a perfectionist about it (thanks, Mom! I love tape!). I’m trying a new thing this year — wrapping as I go — hoping that doing a little bit each day will make wrapping all fun instead of stressful. Or, if my family wants to send gifts pre-wrapped this year, that’s great too! (Hint, ahem, cough, grin.)

10. The Best Yes. Over at Be, we were able to have a wonderful conversation with Lysa TerKeurst about her latest book, The Best Yes. (You can listen to it here.) The entire book (and our interview with her about it) is about giving yourself permission to make the best decisions for yourself and your life (with God’s guidance, of course) and gracing yourself to let out a NO from time to time. It’s a game-changer, this one. And as we embark into one of the busiest and stressful most wonderful times of the year, the timing of this message is impeccable. I’m giving myself permission to give only best yeses this Christmas as well as from now on, and I’m excited about it.

Well lookie there. I just completed my first Thanksday in 10 months. That felt nice.

What about you? What’re some things you’re thankful for this week? (Or have you been thankful for in the past 10 months?) Leave a comment and share the gratitude! And I’ll see you in another 10 months soon!

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Thanksday #95: ANNIVERSARY EDITION

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I hated my wedding dress.

Well actually, I loved the dress a lot. When I saw it in a picture for the first time, I knew it was the one I wanted. The problem was, I hated it on me. But I had ordered it immediately and spent no time looking at what else was available, or seeing what dress was best for my body type. And so wedding day comes and I’m so self-conscious (because, hello, have we met?) and wishing I would’ve shopped around. (Like Mama said I’d better.)

I loved my flowers.

They were eggplant-black calla lilies and simply breathtaking. For a February wedding, I thought it was a perfect contrast to the ivory dress. I think they ended up costing as much as my dress, I can’t be sure. But they were worth every single penny.

BOUQUET

I hated my make up.

Greg’s never been a huge fan of a lot of make up anyway, so I was going for a soft-palette that I did myself and that included a nude-ish lip. The problem was, I brought no other make up to the church. And suddenly my whiteness in early February while wearing an ivory dress with soft make up and a nude lip made me look very, very pale. So I borrowed some lipstick from my friend to brighten things up a bit, and it wasn’t a color I usually wear, which made me self-conscious (because, hello, have we met?).

I loved our music.

A brother and sister duo sang all the music and even the song I walked down the aisle to. Their voices were beautiful and matched our unusual selection of songs perfectly. Hearing them sing us down the aisle as Mr. & Mrs. to some Stevie Wonder put a smile on my face that still appears when I think about it.

WEDDING

I loved the groom.

I loved his highlighted hair and clean-shaven face (which I now like scruffy instead). I loved how he stood proudly at the front of the chapel with a small white calla lily boutonnière. I loved how he whispered funny things to me during the ceremony and we awkwardly stared at each other during slow parts and I was so relieved we were laughing…being us…even at the altar.

GREG

The thing about my wedding day is that it wasn’t totally perfect. I missed loved ones who couldn’t be there. I was self-conscious and practically dragged (drug?) my dad down the aisle because seeing everyone watch me freaked me out. It wasn’t a fairy tale, I didn’t feel like a princess, it wasn’t everything I ever dreamed of. (Mainly because I never actually dreamed about my wedding day, to be honest.)

But the marriage…oh, the marriage. Not perfect — but perfect imperfection.

We celebrate 11 years of marriage today. Eleven years since that not-so-perfect dress was put on my not-so-perfect body and I not-so-perfectly said vows that I meant with my whole heart.

CARD

And as I do every year, I kick myself for not shopping for dresses or hiring a professional person to do make up. And then, as I do every year, I wave away those thoughts as the memories of these past 11 years flash in a rapid slide show in my mind…

…our first days in our house as husband and wife
…our early days figuring out ministry together
…finding out I was pregnant for the first time
…curling up on the couch to watch ridiculous TV and eating take out
…taking our daughter for walks at the park
…boxes of Little Debbie oatmeal pies
…missions trips
…italy
…the times Greg wouldn’t let me have a pity party
…the times he gave me space to process, mourn, cry
…the laughter, OH THE LAUGHTER
…Georgia football games
…his strong fingers entwined in mine as we grab toilet paper in bulk from the warehouse store
…pushing him out of bed accidentally when he snored too much
…his strong arms holding me after my first miscarriage
…the mediocre dinners and uninspired grocery shopping he puts up with
…unending support toward my dreams and callings

All the good, the bad, the ugly and the great that make up 11 years flood my mind and heart until it could burst.

I’m so lucky to do life with this man.

The thing about a wedding is that it’s a day and the thing about a marriage is that it’s a lifetime. (click to tweet that)

DANCE

A wedding day is important and by all means, make it as perfect as you can. But it might not be a fairy tale you’ve dreamed about always. You might be self-conscious about showing your arms in your dress and wishing you had ruby lips to say “I do” with while missing people close to your heart. It might all be awful or it might all be perfect.

But it’s all the other days that really, truly matter. Your wedding — it’s not everything.

Everything starts the day after the wedding and the day after that and the day after that.

Everything is the mundane that’s made extraordinary simply because you’re together. (click to tweet that)

Everything is realizing you’d rather spend one day at home doing nothing with him than spend a thousand days of exotic adventure without him.

I cannot imagine doing life without this man.

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We celebrate 11 years of imperfect perfection today. And while we’ll celebrate and look back, mostly we’ll laugh and look ahead. And while we’ll reminisce, mostly we’ll dream. We’ll dream of all the extraordinary mundane-ness we’ve yet to experience together; of all the bulk toilet paper yet to buy; of the football games and mediocre dinners and snoring left to endure.

We’ll look ahead and dream and laugh about all of it.

And we’ll love it.

What are you thankful for this week?

Thanksday #91

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(tap, tap, tap)

Check one, two…check one, two, three…

Is this thing on?

(ahem)

Hi, my name is Monica and it’s been FOUR MONTHS since my last Thanksday.

(My penance will be abstaining from the Cheez-It.)

I know, four months. It’s pretty ridiculous. It’s not that I haven’t been thankful — because believe you me, the thanks are thick — I’ve just been focused on some other things. Like kids and husband and kids and husband in school and this BE thing, and because of all that, I’ve let this little ol’ blog slide. But as I mentioned on one of our BE podcasts recently, I miss my Thanksdays. I miss being silly and letting loose. I miss keeping track of my thankfuls in Evernote. I miss the consistency of writing each week.

And mostly I miss your comments about what you’re thankful for. Those always make me laugh and inspire me to no end.

So I’m stretching and creaking and blowing off the cobwebs and getting this ship pointed back in the right direction. (Did you hear my knees just crack?)

Without further ado, thankfuls this week are (in no particular order):

1. 9 am School Starts. My kids’ school and preschool both start at 9 am. And it is the most wonderful, blessed thing on the face of the earth. I cannot count how many mornings I’ve blowed dry my hair at 8:15 am and thought, “Thank you GOD that school doesn’t start until 9!” Our mornings are smooth(er) and calm(er) than they would be if we all rushed around like crazy people to leave the house at 7:40. It would be pandemonium. Chaos. Anarchy! (I’d be the anarchist, purposely making them tardy every. single. day.)

2. FitBit. I got a FitBit over Christmas break and I’m in love. It’s the Flex — I wear it on my wrist and it tracks everything I do, from showering to walking around the house to sleeping. I’ve linked it to my Lose It account and so I am keeping meticulous track of activity and food, and it’s been incredibly insightful for me. (Such as, I like to eat. Who knew??) In fact, I’ve discovered since I got it that my sleep patterns are totally whack. Every single night, it seems I follow the pattern of restless sleep for 10 minutes, restful sleep for 30. Restless for 10, restful for 30. And that happens all night every night. No wonder I’m a fatigued mess and IV coffee all day long. Just have to figure out what to do to fix that. Any ideas??

3. Down Time. I started something new this week — I won’t call it a “resolution” per se, but a plan to be more intentional at home. From 5 o’clock each day until the kids go to bed, I put down the computer, phone and iPad, and allow myself to be present. This not only provides down time for me, but makes me more aware of the kids and the house and helps me to slow down and enjoy our evenings. It’s made our nights (really, it’s made ME) more relaxed and enjoyable…and while the kids might be playing on the stuff and doing other things, I’m not. I’m just there in the mix with them…ready if they need me or are asking me anything. It’s been a blessing for me.

4. Vanilla Creme Liquid Stevia. I’m trying to limit my artificial sweetener intake and use just pure Stevia when necessary. But since most coffee shops and restaurants don’t carry it, I bought a bottle in the Vanilla Creme flavor to keep in my purse everywhere I go. I’m sure I look incredibly sketch doing it — like I’m sneaking drops of liquid crack into my coffee — but it’s working for me. Score.

5.  Aloneness. I admit, I’m that weird mom who loves having her kids home from break. I was fervently praying we’d have a couple snow/bad weather days to stay home after the new year to prolong school just a little. bit. longer. I love the lack of schedule, the hanging out in PJs, the laughter and giggles, naps — all of it. HOWEVER. Now that the kids are back, my introverted self who thrives on silence and being alone has been very, very happy and has a much fuller energy tank after a couple mornings alone in her house. Just sitting here by the sunny window in an eerily quiet house with my hot stevia’d coffee warms the cockles of my heart. Yes, the cockles of my heart.

6. HCJ and AI. Listen, I haven’t watched American Idol in years. Once Simon left I couldn’t care less about the show. So I’ve had no intentions of watching Idol ever again. Until. One night, mindlessly watching TV and reading, I heard that smooth voice and charming personality leap through the screen into the living room. I looked up in amazement as I saw Harry Connick, Jr as a judge for the upcoming season. And in a split nano-second, I decided I AM ALL IN. I will be watching every single episode all season long. I’m back, I’m hooked, I might actually call in and vote. Well played, Idol.

7. Be Still Be FreeI am beyond blessed that God has allowed me to be a part of this amazing thing He’s doing with BE. Week after week, with every podcast and post, He is so faithful to us. I shake my head in amazement often.

8. Seat Warmers. It was a balmy 1-degree earlier this week. Need I say more?

9. A Hilarious Husband. There is no one — not a single one — who makes me laugh as much as my husband does. This has been a particularly hilarious week, and I’m beyond thankful for a spouse who loves to enjoy life, not just live it.

10. Grown-up Furniture. For the first time in our marriage we have a real dresser. And real nightstands. And our master bedroom — for the first time in almost 11 years — isn’t the shabbiest room in the house with all the leftovers. #whatadifference

Well friends, that felt good. Real good. I guess Thanksday blogging is really like riding a bike.

Steely. Out.

What are you thankful for this week?

Being a Child (31 Days #11)

To read all the posts in the 31 Days series, click here.

I spent seven hours driving to the beach today, with both my kids. Seven hours of Toby Mac and Britt Nicole and potty breaks every hour because the almost four year-old really, really loves lemonade.

And mommy really, really loves coffee.

We found the beach as quickly as possible. I sat on the shore and soaked in everything around me. There was one small cloud in the sky, and the breeze refueled me. I dug my toes in the sand, unconcerned about ruining my homemade impromptu pedicure.

The kids charged toward the ocean like a long-lost cousin and spent moments that stretched into days laughing and jumping waves. I watched them play and laugh and swim and then I became a little undone.

There’s a lot my kids teach me about being. About embracing every moment with arms outstretched, and squeezing every drop of life out of it. About being unconcerned with the opinions of others; about simply being who they are. They teach me these things when I escape my normal and see from a fresh perspective. They’ve got this faith and being thing down, I think, and I’m often envious of them.

Call it naivety or immaturity — but I wonder if childlike faith isn’t just something you possess about God, but something you possess about who you are? What if childlike faith is so much faith in God and who He is, that you trust who He created you to be? And what if it made you so free you skip and hop and jump waves and shriek with delight?

I don’t know…to me that would feel as awesome as entering the kingdom of Heaven on Earth.

Jesus rebuked His disciples for keeping children away and said not to hinder them from going to Him. But you know what? Most of the time, I’m the one hindering myself. No one has to intervene and do it for me.

I’m going to attempt childlike faith the next few days. Faith in God, who He is and who He created. And I’m going to try my hardest to go to him and enter that kingdom of heaven.

On earth.

Being Married (31 Days #10)

To read all the posts in the 31 Days series, click here.

It’s Wednesday morning so I do what I always do on Wednesday mornings — drop the kids off at school and drive to our restaurant. I arrive before he does, so I put on a little mascara because I look tired and also reapply lip gloss, because, hello? and go inside.

Our table is open (I wonder if they save it for us?) so I walk right to it and wave hello to the server who always has a smile on her face. She brings me coffee and sets his non-dairy creamer at his spot for when he arrives. I take a phone call because he isn’t there yet but when he walks in I say goodbye and quickly hang up.

Because this hour is precious.

It’s our date morning — the time we carve out to spend an hour together being Greg and Monica. We shed our roles — letting go of the Mommy and Daddy hats, the pastor and employee hats, the counselor and friend hats, the carpooler and coach hats. Just us being us — the couple, the friends, the lovers, the two that became one — who started this crazy ride over 10 years ago.

Sometimes we catch up on work stuff…sometimes kid stuff. Other times we share dreams and goals and visions, or laugh about hilarious movies we can’t wait to see (Will Ferrell, I’m talking to you). Almost always I end up in tears over something, whether it’s laughter or heartfelt emotions; for some reason our times together open my heart wide.

We tend to get so caught up in the doing of family — school, activities, errands, homework, house work, cooking and all the rest — that we do Husband and Wife and Mommy and Daddy really, really well.

But in doing Husband and Wife and Mommy and Daddy, it’s so easy to forget to BE Greg and Monica. It’s easy to forget we are still two BEcoming one, always and forever until death us do part.

Our breakfast dates pull us back to the core of what makes Husband and Wife and Mommy and Daddy work so well — individual people being who we truly are in that separate-yet-together way. His strengths making up for my weaknesses and my strengths making up for his.

A cord of three individual strands of different colors and materials that just are…and by being what they are, are woven together into something intricate and beautiful and deliberate and stronger together than separate.

It’s a precious hour of being myself with the one I’m forever connected to as he’s being himself.

It sustains us for the rest of the days until we meet again…he and me, being who we are.