Monday, July 25, 2016

A Reflection on Whoa

I didn't know how to write anything today. I didn't know how to write after the pure joy that was sharing our news with ya'll last week. It was an accident -the timing. An accident that my faith in all this process needed so desperately. Because it was seven months ago last Wednesday that my dad passed away. Seven months to the very day.

The last thing I asked of my dad -and asking wasn't a thing I did often in the later years of his disease- was to find his grandbaby in Heaven and send their sweetness to us. I'm certain my words sounded like meek bleets out of the mouth of a baby sheep, but spirits don't always need conversation to communicate. He passed. And I've not stopped thinking of that conversation.

Through the horrid, fateful meeting with my doctor, through the deep mourning of my biological Mama dreams, through the subsequent decisions that brought us here to Adoption's door. It all started in his dying days -the ability to talk about a Thomas babe. So, here I am, seven months (and two days) later, saying Whoa, embracing Whoa, thanking Him for Whoa.

It was the moments shortly after my dad died that Whoa arrived. It wasn't a single obvious detail, but instead a conglomeration of the last seven years -emphasis added in the final seventy-two hours- that birthed my fascination with Whoa. The conviction was there, but ignored. In picking Whoa as my focus of the year, am I inviting woe? I sat in the lobby waiting for the funeral home and knew I couldn't manage another year of woe.

Sweet Jesus, I need Whoa.

With deep reservation, I honored my conviction to bravely approach the Whoa-covered throne He'd set aside for my 2016.

I imagined Whoa as Sum 41's In Too Deep. Loud, brash, easy to shout along with. I imagined it loud -blasting out of speakers taller than my head. I pictured my year looking like a mosh pit with wild fists and a litany of bruises and a small chance of surviving the mess. I bolstered myself for the madness a year of Whoa seems to beg. But, none of it came.

Instead, came bad news.
Instead, came a spirit of quietness.
Instead, came intentional moments.
Instead, came realizations.

And with the new rhythm of stillness, came an intense gratefulness for the way living in the Whoa is far simpler than the roller-coaster I was certain I'd jumped on as it wildly pulled away from the New Year's platform. The anthem of Whoa in 2016 is more lullaby than war song. It's more of the Dixie Chick's Easy Silence than any song.

It's a year of asking for peace.
A year of seeking Him.
A year of reading voraciously.
A year of soaking in wonder.

Sometimes the Whoa is so much, so overwhelming, that I can hardly look it in the eye. Sometimes it feels like the white heat of the son on my eye balls -drying them out with the pure overwhelm. Sometimes the Whoa is relaxed in such a way that it feels intense and makes me want to turn away, to distract with the powers of MTV and chardonnay. Sometimes I want to recant on the Whoa lifestyle and head home to the comfort of a cozy, familiar bed.

But, I'm trying not to be one who lets fear lead.

If Whoa was going to write it's own lyrics, there'd be a love song feel combined with the conviction of a power ballad. It'd have the heart of Adele's words with the hair raising ferocity of Alessia Cara and the bold beats of Desiigner. It'd balance the right amount of excitement with calm, knowing that slow and steady is best.

Whoa, this year.
Whoa, my life.
Whoa, my friends.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

On Paperwork and Parenthood || A Marriage Letter

Dear Jason,

Well, we've done it and started calling ourselves pregnant. Not because we're growing a baby, but because we're in the process of expanding our family. It's not so much lingerie and sexy time as it's a hundred signature lines and parenting coursework. It's not about the stretch marks and hard contractions; it's about safety upgrades and orientation meetings.

Our first introductions to the agencies felt stressful and heavy. We had all the information; more facts and statistics and choices than we could form into a pro-con list. We had a litany of opinions -favorable and cautionary. We had brave hearts pounding in our chests, minds running overtime, and a conviction deep in our bones. We knew there'd be work, long hours, and the possibility of broken hearts. We felt like eighteen year-old kids, fresh out of school and overwhelmed by the promise of the world laid out before us. 

We said our prayers, crossed our fingers, and made a choice that came from the warmth in our guts.We said yes to work, to heart ache, to learning to let Him lead. We said yes to packets of paper, background checks, and locks on so many cabinet doors. We high five, smile big, and set out to tackle our list with expectant, pregnant hearts. We said yes to being asked a hundred different questions -yes we disagree over expectations, yes we're sexually compatible, no we don't have a drinking habit- and smiled at what looked like a thousand sticky flags marking all the places we're to autograph.

We've started enjoying glasses of wine at the dinner table turned desk space and curriculum review center. We've started talking about our baby -our God-ordained baby- when we lay in bed at night. We've started betting if it'll be a boy or a girl, if it'll be newborn or not, if we'll have it for temporary or for life. We've talked about the risks, the potential for loss, and every time we end back in the same place: this is our heart's cry, our Called Place, our invitation to The Feast. 

And, for the first time in a long time, we've approached The Feast He's provided with wonder and joy. Joy that bubbles over at the thought of seeing you called Dad. Joy that couldn't be written out on all the surfaces provided by the piles of paperwork we've completed. Joy that founds itself in the promise of being a Mama to the blessed child we have the chance to call ours. Joy that makes my hands beg for space to write, my feet for room to run, my heart for all the love. This joy isn't traditional -in any sense of the word-, but we've never specialized in living the expected way.

There's hurtles and regulations and processes we face, but at the end are our new titles: Mama and Dad. I'd work through all the yellow tape, sign all the black lines, cross all the Big Ts, and jump through hoops of fire if it means being a parent beside you.

Our one-day-in-the-future babe and I are a blessed pair,

- - - - - - - - - - -

This letter is one in a series of letters I write to remember mundane moments of my marriage that would otherwise slip away. I write with a dedication to hold tight to him and to remember how life looks right now at this very moment. The chance for these letters to shed light on our marriage before children for our children because they won't know us as newlyweds is a much loved and added bonus.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Seven Resources for Avid-Readers

My reading habit gets far more intense in the extra light (and warmth) of summertime. I'm one to finish three of four books a month, but the three glorious months that are marked by sunshine, pool time, and long days, I polish off closer to six or seven. This means I'm spending more on books and, while knowledge is priceless, I've been trying to be a bit more budget friendly in my habit.

1. Thriftbooks

Just placed an order last week after seeing a Thriftbooks sticker on someone's book-stagram. Imagine my thrill when I checked out their site and it was an online used book store. About a year ago, the used book store in our town went out of business -much to my soul's sadness now. So, Thriftbooks. You get free shipping after you spend $10.00 which is simple enough. Eight books later (at an order total of $28.00), I am a fan.

2. Reading friends.

The kind of friendship that blossoms because of books is the best sort of relationship. I feel like a bragger when I say, a half dozen of my closest friends became so through our undying love (and voracious appetite) for books. But this is where you can get the best value for your book by coordination - run any and all purchases by each other before you buy just to be sure you aren't double owning books.

3. Book Match-Making Sites

What Should I Read Next?

Using different algorithms and criteria, these sites attempt to provide you with a beloved blind book date. I've used them a few times with mixed results, but no harm done when things don't line up because it means you get to try the system out again.

4. Audible send-a-book.

This is a (relatively) new feature that Audible has installed in their mobile app. Basically, you're listening to a book and realize your best friend needs it in her life too. So, instead of texting her and telling her she has to read this book, you send it to her. A link arrives as a text and then she can download it into her library.

I've only done this a few times, so I'm not sure how the cost breaks down (I've only sent free ones), but the convenience is unreal.

5. Blogging for books.

Also Net Galley.
Also BookLook Bloggers.

If you're a blogger and you love to read, why wouldn't you take advantage of these free copies in exchange for a review business? There's no reason, that's why.

6. Little Free Libraries.

These are part of a precious and amazing grassroots literary movement. They operate under the "rule" of leave a book, take a book (though, no one's holding you to that). I am not a re-reader so I find myself with stacks of books I've finished and won't tough again. Enter, Little Free Library which can be visited and traded.

There is a map of LFLs, check out your town or the next city (they're worldwide) you visit -like we did in Denver!

7. Book Pod-Casts

I can't listen to audiobooks without needing some serious decompression from the story line and narrator of each story. So, I intersperse book-listening with literary pod-casts which can be challenging because I'm a snobby listener. Proof: I don't like to listen for more than an hour, 40 minute podcast is optimal. Mouth noises are caught by microphones and if I hear them I become obsessed and annoyed. No spoilers allowed.

What Should I Read Next?
Dear Book Nerd
Get Booked

So I've dropped all the resources and tips I've got.
What am I missing out on fellow bookworms? 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

a reflection on our nation's ongoing tragedies

Mini globes available via AmberThomasMakes
I've been drowning myself in Christmas music over the last week.

I've been filling my brain with Drummer Boy and O Come, O Come Emmanuel and O Come All Ye Faithful. There's some serious hope in those songs, some beautiful, baby-laden hope and right now, hope is what I need. Because I'm feeling all of the feelings, working through all the news of the last week, and wishing for some Christmas magic in July.

I've been trying to make sparkles and shine the distraction from all the emotions that come with tragedy. I've been trying to comfort myself with warm memories because Right Now feels so chaotic and uncertain. I've wanted to speak out, to say how everyone should unite and feel and do and love. But, it's exhausting to hear all the ways people want us to act. It's exhausting. And it's an important first step to welcome and get to know all the feelings swirling around in our souls.

Friends, I am scared. Admittedly, I spend more time online than I want to. But last week, I couldn't stay away from the stream of news as the terrifyingly unjust events happened. From Baton Rouge to Fresno to Boston to Dallas, I was glued. I watched and scrolled and broke into a million little pieces inside. I am scared for my youngest brother with his dark skin and sweet soul, for the judgments placed on him by strangers and I want to take all his life's dangers away.

Friends, I am mourning. I am mourning the deaths of Black men on America's soil. I am mourning the officers who didn't make it home from protecting the people. I am mourning the dream of America as not separate and always equal - an idealism I can no longer pretend exists. We've progressed, but still have so far -so far- to go. I am mourning the future for my children who might be hated for their skin or their sexual orientation or their life choices.

Friends, I am burdened. Deeply and wholly burdened. Burdened as a White woman, as a citizen of the US, as a sister of Black friends, as a Christ-lover, as a future mama. I feel burdened to listen where there is conversation, to cry where there is heartache, to hold space in order for healing to come in heaping doses. I feel burdened to smile a little harder at strangers, to pray rhythmically through my day, to identify and alter the frame of reference that can skew my reality.

Friends, I am angry. There is only one enemy here and he is not human. He is not Black or White or Asian. He is not uniformed or layman. He is not always obvious and single-handed, but he is always mean, always ugly, always a source of hot anger in my chest. He is real and dangerous, but we've got so much more beauty in our hearts than he has power in his possession.

Friends, I am still. Rash and wild is my default reaction to tragedy. I see the pain and want to go sprinting towards it, needing to ease the pain. I want to speak all the words, attempt to patch all the wounds, and make all the aches better. The intention is kind, but the action turns out frantic, chaotic, and, sometimes, ignorant. I am still and communal, allowing my own emotions to wash over the shores of my soul, knowing He's sovereign despite the circumstance.

But friends, for the most part, I am hopeful.  I've been begging Him to sing hope over our souls because I know that hope heals. The internet is full of scary facts and bad news. But then there's this, this, this. Small breaks in the stormy clouds where light pours in, pours through, and is so pure it makes me squint. I've said it before and I'll say it always, but it's action that brings healing. It's holding tight to our similarities and embracing what makes each of us different. It's steps toward each other, where we embrace with arms, engage with minds, and drop walls that will bring back joy.

So, my feelings are named, my thoughts set down on paper (and blog post), my heart ready for action. I circle back to love every time. Love that provides hope, joy, kindness. Love that is honest and pure and unconcerned with the spectrum of our skin, sexual orientation, social status. Love that is made up of small steps in the direction of community.  I've started seeing the people around me in Starbucks and the library and Target instead of engaging with Instagram. I've pushed my face to smile, my voice to welcome, my heart to seek kindness.

I've stopped worrying so much about me and started investing small cents in the people around me. Small currencies in the form of "good morning" and smiles and general kindness. Small cents that are flipped from the tips of my fingers into the wishing well of humanity. Cents filled with wishes and hopes for goodness poured out. Small cents that add up, just as yours do.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Coffee Date || 26 (A Link-Up)

If we were on a coffee date and it was outside, I'd be drinking a sweet cream cold brew. But if we're inside where the air conditioning is kicking, I'd go hot coffee because I'd probably be catching a chill and have left my sweater at home (or in the office). The air conditioning balance is the greatest struggle of life in California (or so I tell myself).

If we were on a coffee date, I'd tell you I've been adding lemonade to my morning smoothies. Just for the zing of the lemon really, but it's delicious. I'd recommend it to you and then ask if you have any cool, smoothie-enhancing tips. I'd add that I know my mom throws a peeled tangerine in hers for a zesty taste sometimes.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd admit that there's an odd stirring in my soul. It's a stirring that's obsessed with redemption and moving from the black and white area of faith into the grey. It's stirring that's fueled by a new attentiveness I have to the way He works in details and patterns. It's a stirring that's got me engaged in life and faith and thinking hard all over again. It's a beloved stirring.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd ask you about rhythms in your life. And I'd tell you that mine have shifted lately. They've dropped into a slow, kind pleasant movement that feels like a gentle porch swing in evening light kind of movement. To and fro I go, with a peaceful pleasantness that isn't like any season I've known before. I'm holding tight to this snail's pace, accepting the slow down, and praying some thank yous.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd be curious and pressing about the grey areas in your life. I'd want to know if you embrace them or hate them or attempt to color them in one way or another. I'd tell you that I've learned grey is my happy place (and chosen clothing color) which is a fact I fought so hard for more years than I'm completely willing to admit to.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd recommend grilled spaghetti squash to you. It's so warm in the evenings that I don't want to turn on the oven and make the house hotter, so instead, I put it on a low grill. The charred bits and smokey taste have won, not only me but also, Jason over. I use it just like pasta and it's always a win. Always.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd confess that I'm in a sad reading rut. I'd share that I finished three books that I really loved in early June and haven't found any hint of literary magic since. Then I'd quickly beg you to help me out with your recommendations for restoring my romance with all things literary. Give me tips to get back into the books. Tell me what I absolutely need to read right now. Remind me how a good book can change the course of your day.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd remind you that we're the good in this life. I'd share how hard the news is lately, how devastated I am for our country and how helpless it can make me feel. But then I'd remind you of the way you've changed my heart and made a glorious impression on my life. I'd tell you that you're powerful in beloved, kind ways and I'd dare you to take action for the world just like you did for me.

- - - - - -

Join us friends. Join Erin and I right here, right now.

If this month isn't what fits in with your time or content (the form will stay open for two weeks), you can join the second Monday of every month from now until Kingdom come.

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