Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Collaboreads: Or the First Time I've Read Harry Potter


It's the day where the best kind of book club (which doesn't make everyone read the same book) is live!

Rachel and I are thrilled you're here, but first:

If you missed what #Collaboreads is, you can familiarize yourself here.

Short version: Rachel and I pick a random criteria for the book (i.e. Takes Place in Summertime). You pick your book and read it. Then the last Wednesday of the month we meet up and talk about our choices.There's a R.E.A.D.S. review format that we've shared for suggestion's sake (shared in this post), but feel free to review however you're comfortable!

For September we dared you to read a book that's been BANNED in one way or another.

This seemed like the perfect time to take a dive into the world of...


You'll never believe this, but at 27 years old, I've never read an entire Harry Potter book. In fact, I've only ever made it to Platform 9 3/4 before I would jump ship and move from the fantastical life of wizards to something more familiar to me. But this time I told myself I'd make it happen.


By J.K. Rowling
RIVETING. 
I get why people love this series. Rowling can write and she does this play with pace that is admirable, riveting, and envy-making. Just as I'd start to feel tired, prepared to nap or sleep or just set the book down, she'd whip the plot line up to another action-packed peak and there'd be no way I could let the novel rest in that place.

So, I'd keep reading. Then I'd be 100 pages further in the novel and wondering where the night went.

ELEMENTS.
Reading this one was effortless... I know it was meant for Young Adults, but I really struggle with fantastical elements (hence the reason I've never made it through an entire book in the series yet) and I feared I would be pulling out my own teeth in an effort to mark this one off my To Read list.

But I was wrong.

Maybe the wisdom and experience that the last fifteen years of my life held were part of my enjoyment, but I related to the characters. I actually thought, Whoa, I've been in a situation like Harry is with Snape. So, yes, I now understand why it is that grown adults treasure the series so.

Does this mean I'm going to jump in and read them all? I don't know.
But I'll admit this: I've been thinking about the second book and what happens to Harry next.

ASSOCIATE.
Gosh, this is where I struggle.

Parts of the book reminded me of Matilda -almost like if I was going to be a matchmaker I'd totally set Harry and Matilda up because they seem to have so much in common. This similarity makes me smile because Matilda is one of the first books I ever loved.

I know Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl deals with what it means for a beloved series to come to an end (and dances in the realms of fan fiction) so, of course, my heart goes there and thinks of that.

DESIGN.
This feels funny to talk about for me... Mostly because the book cover is something that's been around for over a decade of my life. However, I adored the simplicity and regal look of the digital book covers (which might be blasphemous to my own reading attitudes from just a month ago). 

STARS. 

Four and a half. 

I'm not sure what is keeping me from giving it the FULL five... Maybe part of the issue is there were places where I could put the book down and where I wasn't that particularly interested. I've heard from a few people that the first is, in fact, the weakest of the novels so, I'm holding hope and guessing I'll jump into the second of the series soon.

And now, it's your turn to talk about all the books that filled your month!


Next month's topic we'll see you on 
October 26th! 
And we're going to be reading... 

Books with the word FALL in the title!
Yep, going seasonal and depending on the goodness of  polysemy here!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

An Answer to Prayers || A Marriage Letter

Dear Jason,

Earlier this month I made a crockpot full of our favorite spaghetti sauce, boiled two bags of our favorite noodles, and served over a dozen of our neighbors. It was accidental -the way they all ended up in our backyard-, but oh the depth of purpose in those moments.

You see, we prayed to be a gathering place from the moment we married. We prayed that people would be comfortable enough to come, to sit and pour out, to know we'd pour back in. We prayed and our community grew with care and effort. Then we decided to buy a house. And our prayers changed.

We prayed for the doors to be unlocked, the rooms to be inviting, the neighbors to know how much we adore the act of gathering. And that Sunday evening, we had a full, full house. There were shrieks and tortoise rides, stampedes of small children up and down the stairs. There were moms relaxing around our American flag table on the patio and dads setting up the make shift movie theater out front. There was garlic bread and vinegar topped salad served with all kinds of conversation.

And in a small, hardly quiet moment: I knew our prayers had been answered. All the noise and chaos and the doors wide open were the result of faith well invested.

This extends. This extends to you -the way I prayed for a husband who adored me the way I loved him-, this extends to our town -the roots we've put down in the place where I was raised-, this extends to jobs -the steady, fulfilling places where we spend our days-, and it'll extend to our family.

Our prayers are heard. His will fulfilled.
Our hearts are led. His purpose kind.

Faithfully praying and loving by your side,
Am

- - - - - - - - - -

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.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

On Making The Thomas Three || September 2016


My Greatest Joy: 

The adorable Letter Folk Co board that I got to put on a shelf in the baby's room. Goodness, the words and verses and phrases that are going to bless the walls of our nursery. Totally transparent moment: I've been pinning cute words to put up in the space.

Clothes. A thrilled Nana (my mom) gave us a heaping pile of gender neutral clothes earlier this month and I smiled the WHOLE TIME I put them away. They so tiny and precious and I can't wait to see what beautiful baby they keep cozy, cute, and warm.

Also, Jason got an ergobaby for his birthday. My mom wanted to do something to say "congratulations Dad" to him. He wore it around with a doll my aunt made of me as a child and we laughed hysterically but (honest moment) he looked so handsome as a dad. I just can't wait ya'll.

The Biggest Fear: 

Tears. Lately, I've found tears burning the back of my eyes on a regular basis and sometimes I'm terrified I'm going to burst into tears. They're tears that hold all of the emotions. A cute baby, a kind cashier, an elderly couple holding hands -TEARS. It's like I'm pregnant, but without the hormones on which to blame my heightened emotional state.

The Verse of the Month: 

"From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I."
-Psalm 61:2

The Month's Anthem:

"O Come, All Ye Faithful"

I know this seems bizarre. But I've lately been feeling like we're in an Advent season. An emotionally charged, boldly anticipatory season that is pulling out of us all the sparkly moments of joy and all the winter chills of the heart. I'm choosing to set my heart meditating on the joyful and triumphant.


How the Paperwork is Going:

Well, it's done. It's been done for the most part for about a month and -honestly- that's been hard for me. (More on that in the Heart Feels part.)I got my medical exam and my TB test in right before we left for Europe, so those are checked.

We're in the process of having our alternate caregivers (aka: baby sitters) certified so we've picked up a couple extra pieces of paperwork, but we're mostly in a holding pattern of stillness.


How my Heart Feels: 

Now that the work part of fostering is over, I'm having to sit still in my emotions. This is hard. Hard, hard, hard. I'm thinking a lot about our birth mama, about the heart ache she has in store and how much I want for her to know she's our greatest blessing. I pray for her more than I ever expected because it is to her we will owe our family. And, in this debt, I am deeply protective.

I've found myself stunned -silent and coiled- when our birth mama (who we don't know and might never will) is criticized or spoken poorly of by our people. Their hearts are good -protecting us-, but I hold such respect for the woman who will grow and birth our baby even with the mistakes that lay in her path. I know she one mistake -or many of them- will happen in order for us to grow our family, but she will always hold a piece of my heart. I want her to know how thankful, how blessed, how loved she is because she delivered us something we could not make for ourselves. (Am I the only one fighting tears at the beauty and pain in this process?)

Full transparency: I'm working through some body issues too. I got to a really great place of accepting the parts of me that will never be magazine cover worthy before we were given the not-so-great news about making babies. And then, I was busy making all paperwork happen. But now, in the stillness of the last month, I've had to work through what it means for my body to hold brokenness. I've had to extend grace to myself. I've had to redefine what it looks like to love a body that -for the first time ever- can't achieve one of my dreams. 

What my Brain Held tight to: 

I've listened to this podcast from Coffee & Crumbs every week since it was released.

The peace of hearing the stories of others who have gone before us is something I can't explain... But the education contained in the episode is also profound. I highly, HIGHLY recommend it to you.

How this is changing Mr. Thomas and Me right now: 

We're reminding me that I'm beautiful and broken and those two things can exist in perfect harmony. We're spending a lot of time thinking about how things are going to change in a million ways and how we can't wait. We're getting away (literally, in the middle of a two-week trip to Europe) and I'm thankful we took the risk to go because time isn't slowing down.


How Hazel's transitioning: 

Her kennel is now in our office-my studio and she's loving it. She's sleeping WAY longer than she was in the room next door to us which we're adoring, and sometimes she goes in to check out her new space. I love it because we can hang out in there together while she lays in the kennel with the door open (her new favorite past time).

She's still clingy, but we've been talking a lot about how much she'll love having a baby in the house -more food on the floor, more walking time because I won't be working full time, more attention from another person- which might bring us more peace than it does for Hazel.

What's Our Next Step: 

It's to come home from our trip with refreshed spirits and brave hearts. We have two more classes to take in October and then we start the home study. It seems impossible to be here -it feels like we were JUST meeting with the agencies with spinning heads and heavy hearts.

How to Pray:

For restful spirits. This is it for us. We've done the work, we have a few last appointments and classroom days left, and then our home study begins. So, we've entered the slower, restful time that precedes our certification. This is blessed time, but waiting isn't always as peaceful as it should be.

Help us by praying for slowness, for intentionality, for the remembrance that the days of just Mr. Thomas and me are (joyfully) dwindling. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Coffee Date || 28



If we were on a coffee date, I'd want to serve you up something good and strong because lately, that's all that's keeping me awake in the evenings. I don't know if it's the night coming earlier or the darkness in the mornings, but the blessed rest of night feels SO MUCH shorter these days. I'd probably want to offer your some of my homemade cold brew coffee with coconut creamer because it tastes like summer which is quickly coming to an end. 

If we were on a coffee date, I'd ask about your opinions on fall. Fall gets a hard wrap sometimes like it's the sad, unathletic sibling of the star quarterback that's named Summer. But I love it -and not for the pumpkin spice lattes- because the leaves changing and the evenings cooling are creativity boosters galore. I'd ask if you call it autumn or fall, if you're a fan of pumpkin (I only like some of it), and how much football plays on your TV in these months. 

If we were on a coffee date, I'd tell you I've started journaling prayers. I'd tell you because I'd want to know if you've done the same and then I'd need to know how. I'd need to know because I've realized I left no space to track answered prayers and that sometimes I just want to bullet things and others leave me feeling like I need to edit myself. I guess I should honor each of the rhythms as it comes, but I tend to favor uniformity. Tell me friend, tell me HOW. 

If we were on a coffee date, I'd talk to you about books. I'd probably have two or three to hand off to you as recommendations from our shelves and I'd want to know what's been rocking your world (or boring you to death). I'd mention how I've dived head first into the world of Harry Potter (for #Collaboreads) and I'm loving the second in a detective series called In the Land of Milk and Honey and 

If we were on a coffee date, I'd confess I've been more intentional in the evenings. Jason's been working longer hours in preparation for our trip which means our time together in the evenings is shorter. The moment he walks through the door each night I'm over the moon and my phone -with the texts and emails and apps- doesn't appeal to me. I want to carry this on to the less busy, more mellow times. 

If we were on a coffee date, I'd mention the new MTV show Unlocking the Truth. As a true child of the '90s, I keep up on what MTV happens to be serving and their decision to tackle a Real Crime docu-series in lieu of The Real World has me as a major fan. Think of it as Steven Avery with a smaller time commitment, but an equal as binge-worthy quality. 

If we were on a coffee date, I'd recommend fall be the season of butternut squash. This is blasphemous in the season beloved for its pumpkin spice, but I can't get enough of butternut. My go to recipes are this gnocchi bake, these roasted spicy chunks, this creamy soup, and butternut squash raviolis (which I've never made, but want to). 

If we were on a coffee date, I'd remind you that hard times happen, but you endure. Because, right now my friends are weathering storms that are big and bad and scary and hard. But they're enduring and they don't realize the bravery that fills their days. Sometimes, we just need a reminder that we're more durable than the seasons through which we're required to live. So here, a reminder: 
This is hard, this season sucks and aches and so much more. 
But you, you are strong, you are brave, you are wholly enduring. 

----------
Join us friends. Join Erin and I in community and coffee and all the kinds of general goodness. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Five Years: a Celebration of Mr. Thomas & Me

Five years ago -tomorrow- we sat in matching gold chairs and breathed sighs of relief after saying "I do" in front of our family and friends. We ate smoked ribs with macaroni and cheese, we drank Mike's hard lemonade, and then we danced. Oh we danced and danced and danced.

The night was bliss -a blur of my white dress, his grey tux, and our arms wrapped around each other. They say that your wedding night is just the beginning of the joys of marriage. And they are right. But they are also underwhelming newlyweds.

Because marriage is the joy of sharing laundry and living spaces and bathrooms because you choose. It's the love that blooms in the sweaty throes of yard work, through the pained grunts of moving heavy furniture, under the splashes of interior paint. It's the kindness that surprises you in the depths of night, the first chirps of morning, the full bellies of noon.

Marriage -in it's truest form- happens on the daily, in the minutiae, with little pomp or circumstance. Marriage is the gritty relationship you'll never be able to put into words topped off with some fun vacations and sexy time. Marriage is bigger than your wildest dreams, sweeter than the grandest cake, fuller than the most fruitful of trees.

And so, in honor of five years of the daily, beloved kind of marriage that made me a Thomas, I've shared some superlatives. Nothing like thinking about the last five years in the small (and big) moments:

BIGGEST CHALLENGE:

Learning how to balance our individual goals and how to combine our personal money habits.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT:

Hysterically laughing ourselves to sleep at night. This is one of many moments, but they're my most treasured memories of our marriage. 



BEST PURCHASE:

Hazel. (Second best: Jason's boat)

BEST DATE NIGHT RESTAURANT PICK:

Wine tasting followed by our favorite local Italian restaurant.



PROUDEST MARRIED MEMORY:

Getting the keys to our home. I never imagined we'd be able to buy a home in our first five years of marriage.

FAVORITE PHOTO:

snapped by the talented Alexes Lauren Photography

MOST VALUABLE LESSON:

Humility, dropping pride for the sake of loving and being loved in deeper, more honest ways.

MOST LOVED SONG:

"Who Are You When I'm Not Looking" by Blake Shelton

 FAVORITE ROAD TRIP TIP:

Listen to the Dr. Laura podcast and always have a bag of Gardetto's.

MOST REWARDING MARRIAGE LESSON:

Communication. We have seen how hard it is for two people -especially a man and woman who live together- to learn to speak and to listen. This is something we've been really intentional in practicing and it's such a soul-deep reward when we get it right.


FAVORITE VACATION:

Our week in Denver. Tied with our week in Costa Rica (though I'd change a couple of our choices there).

THING I'M MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO:

The next fifty years of him by my side (and then some).

GREATEST GIFT:

Tickets to a Florida Georgia Line concert for Jason's 27th birthday. He sang along the ENTIRE night and I'd never seen so much joy in that man's face.

LARGEST MILESTONE:

Say our final good-bye to my dad last December.
 


And finally, the question I've asked Jason every single week for the last five years,
FAVORITE THING ABOUT BEING MARRIED:

His provision. I married a man who makes sure I'm provided for before anything else and I'll always, always be deeply thankful (and in love with) that part of him.

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