Sunday, March 30, 2014

Simple Feelings & World Visions

Welcome to the first edition of 
Kate from The Florkens and I are so glad to have you here, sharing your heart, and engaging in conversations about doubt, devotion, and all that's in between. 
The Florkens
You are invited to join us every Sunday for some talk on faith, religion, any and everything that lies heavy on your heart. We'll both post about our current struggles then at the bottom we'll invite you to join in the conversation either with a post of your own or in the comments section.

Our link-up goes live today! 
Oh how we're thrilled to have you. 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
This week a big announcement came from World Vision, an America-based Christian company that aids children in developing countries through child sponsorship. An announcement that made my heart pitter patter with joy. World Vision restructured their hiring policy to create a space for the hiring of openly homosexual employees. (A revision since reversed, but a learning moment still valuable.)

Of course, as any big announcement begs us to do, the Christian community reacted. It reacted positively and negatively. It garnered excitement and new sponsorships while simultaneously breaking support and hearts of others. Reading through the many opinions, I was conflicted. Though I had my faith and my feelings, did I have enough biblical knowledge to begin to formulate words worth sharing? 

It's simple, my feeling on the original revision. I was thrilled by this new space that was opened by World Vision. I believed in changing their hiring policy two communities together would come together. Communities that, to this point in history, really haven't experienced one another. Both communities bring beautiful lessons and overflowing baggage to the table. What better way to sift through such than together?

I've shied away from the conversations, the comments, the opinions because my theology is weak (at best). I don't have a watertight argument for or against the change or scriptural references to back up my thought process. So, I kept my opinions to myself. 

Then I realized, it's not about me and my theology. It's about God and what I know of Him. I know I'm His child. I know you are too. I know gay or straight, He loves. I know black or white, He cares. I know doubt or faith, He's present. 

While we're busy wishing we had exact answers, reading His word and wondering how to apply it the right way, trying to make all things relevant to our time, day, life, He's with us. We're attempting to talk it out as a God-loving family with some success and some fighting. The banter: it bothers me. 

I feel like if we all love God so much, we shouldn't have such heated disagreement. People shouldn't get hurt. Judgment shouldn't abound. Fights shouldn't break out. But they do. And it makes me uncomfortable. Until I'm reminded we are all His children. Right or wrong, yes or no, hot or cold, we're His. 

So, while we're all working honestly through this thicket of a crazy, broken world, I remind you: we're brothers and sisters trying our damnedest to make a Heavenly Father proud. May His love for us, our love for the family, and our pride in our name push us to seek new conversations, greater opportunities, a larger network of brothers and sisters. 
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And now, it's your turn.

Friday, March 28, 2014

How to VSCO Your Cam: Or my new favorite photo editor

I'm over on Chasing Happy today talking about how to grow your Instagram. I figured since I'm talking creative outlet there, I'd share my favorite photo-editing application here. This isn't an exhaustive How To because I'm assuming if you can use Instagram you can also get through the basic stuff in VSCOcam.

Moral of the story is this: I'm a crappy picture taker. I don't "read" or "see" the light. Usually my pictures are shadowy, dark, and difficult to frame what feels like a good shot. In comes VSCOcam to save my dark, light-blind, poorly composed pictures. It does beautiful things for photos -like add more light to them when they're dark beyond recognition. It'll give you the gorgeous faded photos that are trendy (and, in my opinion, gorgeous).

Here are the bits and pieces I used to alter the picture of Hazel above along with my totally amateur take on how they change my pictures:

Some important notes about the app:
  • It exports to IG, yes, but it you haven't cropped the photo yourself VSCOcam makes the choice itself... I've found it way more useful to crop in the app by my own volition. 
  • The app takes practice. LOTS of practice. I used to hate it and become frustrated by how overdone photos looked. Stick with it. 
  • There is a social media stream and profile with VSCOcam (think Flickr or Photobucket)... I don't use it so I can't speak to it's goodness or not. 
  • You can makeover a picture too far. Trust me: 

I mean, who doesn't want to look like a washed out, tie-dye wearing Fourth of July fairy? Turns out: not this girl.

Have you downloaded your new favorite photo-editing app yet? 
(This was all my opinion and choice, no compensation or special attention from VSCOcam.
I just happen to love the app that much.)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Speak Up with that shaky voice of yours. Speak Up i tell you.

A few weeks ago, Brooks from The Handey Way wrote about keeping silent in the face of some serious ignorance. And I loved her heart's ability to hurt for other's, her honesty in saying I didn't want to be silent, but was, her respect for other opinions but her disrespect for other's ignorance. Then I thought about how the last thing I'm good at is keeping silent.

Jason used to cringe when I'd get that distanced, yet focused look on my face. He knew the process had started: that process where I'd put together my opinion in cohesive, careful sentences and wait. I'd wait for the perfect moment to say: this isn't okay. He cringed real hard, but he let me be. He knew I'd sleep better knowing I'd said the hard words, done the right thing, stood up for a silenced someone.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
One time I was out to dinner with my family. And a teenage couple was sitting at the table next to us: a boy and a girl. She had the hots for him -it was obvious. She wanted him to see her as something beautiful and interesting. His only interest was in himself and what he had to say.

Those moments she got brave enough to speak, he'd speak over her, stopping her from any sort of conversation.  He reminded me of that freshman year of college, older-man boyfriend I had who cared not about me, but about how we looked together. About how he was dating the boss' daughter. About being the boss in our relationship. And I let him.

He was bossy, rude. I was nosy, annoyed, biased in her favor. 

The bill came and he asked her to pay. So she did. I was nosy, incensed, completely on her side. 

No woman deserves this; especially one just barely eighteen trying to learn what it means to spread her wings. 

As they rose to leave, I tapped him gently on the shoulder grabbing both of their attention. I told him, politely, he was rude and abrupt. He should be embarrassed of the way he treated such a sweet girl.

I told her, genuinely, she didn't deserve that treatment -she was too beautiful to be ignored and overrun. She should be cherished in the way only gentlemen can do.

He told me they were just friends. She said nothing but stared straight at me.

I told him, friends or not, you don't treat anyone, especially a woman, that way and good night. 

They left. I had the jitters as I always do when I can't keep quiet. We ate dinner, drank wine, enjoyed one another's company like nothing had happened. 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
At eighteen, I needed that interruption. I needed another woman to stand up on my behalf. And she did. And it saved me from allowing the hole that the bossy boyfriend was digging for us. I needed to know I was valuable even if from a stranger. I wanted to deserve more, better, the best, but didn't do it for myself.

At twenty-one, I got to pay it forward.

At twenty-five, I cherish those moments. Those jittery, focused moments when it's obvious things are just not right.
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Sometime, you will be there in that moment where it's silence or not. And you will have a choice to make -between comfort zone or out of it. I, the B.R.A.V.E. seeker, challenge you make the bold choice in a polite, non-aggressive way. One that sticks up for what's right in your heart, gut, mind. Be courageous, yet vulnerable. Honest, yet firm.

And, when the comfort zone calls to you, tell it no. Remind it that if you were that girl, that woman, that person being disrespected, hurt, broken, you'd want someone to stand. And when you're done standing up: enjoy those jitters. You just earned them.
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Here's a little inspiration (from one of my favorite shows) on our way out. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

#ThomasHouse2014: The Dinner Table

It's Tuesday. That means time for talk about the #ThomasHouse. And, while it seemed like the perfect day to show you around some sweet space in our home, I can't. Because I could show you the table we made, the chairs we picked, and our wedding bouquet upon the table. I'd detail the process of creation and destruction, the balance between the new of the table and the old of my aesthetic. You'd oooh and you'd aaaaah and you'd tell us good job.

But that's not what our dinner table is about. And, I'd be doing it injustice trying to make it showy when it's empty. When there's no plates, wine glasses, mason jars of water gracing it's creamy, beaten surface the table means nothing. It's nothing without a smattering of dishes, a serving tray or three covered in crumbs, hands moving in the choreography of feasting.

Saturday night, my 25th birthday, we had friends over. Friends just months old in our lives and precious, friends decades old and dear, family more friend than blood -all loved. We gathered around the table, consumed. We partook of one another laughing deep in our bellies, sharing details tiny and unimportant, bookmarking special bits of our years together, gobbling cupcakes like school children.

At one moment, time slowed as though it was an iPhone video in replay. I sat in pause gazing at the room we created chockfull of people I love. And my celebratory soul filled with a sensation unlike any other. I knew in that moment: these are my people. My people who are filled with manly laughs of men and giggles of ladies, who hold their respective beverage in one hand while the other slaps a knee in pure hilarity, each and every face cracked large and brilliant with smiles.

These are my people. People I feel drawn to, who I want to invest in with much time and energy, who are mine regardless of the stats, the bank balance, the number on the scale. And, for the first time in a long time, I felt filled up just right -like a Chipotle food baby for my soul. I felt soaked in blessing like a rosebud whose first petals are covered in spring sun and encouraged by such unabashed warmth.

Yes, #ThomasHouse made it through it's first party. It tried out it's new title as a gathering place and, in our humble opinion, it felt just right. Leaving in it's wake a sense of accomplishment and pride. Many a gathering will happen around that table. And maybe, just maybe, one day a picture will be snapped. Until then you'll just have to trust me.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Words on Words: How I bible study.

I'm not an expert in studying the bible. But, I can say, over the years I've realized certain tricks make me better at approaching His word. These aren't foolproof and aren't exhaustive, but they've helped me. 
Obvious, it seems. But without note taking, my focus is shit. So, I take them always -in church, at work, during bible study. They're valuable in tracking my thought process and allow for me to come back later and see what it is I was working through at any given time. It's interesting to see the way God works even if just through my random notes throughout the course of my reading. 

My bible study notes also hold amazing blog fodder for times when I'm feeling really uninspired. Going through and inspecting my thought process, sometimes disagreeing with it or editing it, others being reminded of my deep-seated beliefs, is refreshing to a mind bogged down by same old, same old. 
I do my bible study at night before bed 5 days a week. One night (usually Fridays if we're being transparent here) I miss it altogether. That means Saturday I'm up early making up for it with a morning study. Oh how I love those morning studies with a cup of coffee in hand. They look like time on the couch with cozy blankets, sometimes I cuddly dog, and a journal with my notes. Sometimes I play worship or classical music to change up the ambiance depending on my mood. 

Now that we have an awesome patio table (happy birthday to me, love Mr. T) I find myself gravitating out there in the afternoons. Sitting under the warm spring sun it's hard not to feel Him near. Plus, I'm getting some much-needed Vitamin D. 
Back to the notes: I try to find tweet-worthy nuggets. Not because they all belong on Twitter, but it's a way that my brain thinks with all the social media overload I'm subject to daily. Instead of fighting that mental tide, I'm using it. I take the passage that I'm reading and attempt to break it down into smaller, applicable blocks. Sometimes it goes well, others it's a fail. But the exercise is a good mental challenge. 

This is often where my God posts (i.e. Doubt&Devotion) start. I'll find a snippet and hold onto it in my heart throughout the next couple days, then suddenly that truth shows up over and over again. Boom: blog post. 
Not every supplement or devotional is right for every person. I've met a few that are too cliche Christian language for me. However, I truly happen to love Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon. It has two devotions per day (thick theology, but amazing points) and, if you're more the smart phone type, they've got an app as well as daily emails you can receive. I also love the Naptime Diaries 40-Day Journal (that I'm using for Lent, but is date free so you can use it whenever). Jesus Calling is helpful and encouraging too. 
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How do you do it? This bible study thing.
What are your favorite ways to focus in on Him and His words?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Making the Choice, Keeping the Faith

Welcome to the first edition of 
Kate from The Florkens and I are so glad to have you here, sharing your heart, and engaging in conversations about doubt, devotion, and all that's in between. 
The Florkens
You are invited to join us every Sunday for some talk on faith, religion, any and everything that lies heavy on your heart. We'll both post about our current struggles then at the bottom we'll invite you to join in the conversation either with a post of your own or in the comments section.

Our link-up goes live today! 
Oh how we're thrilled to have you. 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
"Believing in God is as much like falling in love as it is making a decision. Love is both something that happens to you 
and something you decide upon."

Marriage is a funny little thing. Or maybe it's a funny BIG thing. But it's funny nonetheless. It's that part of life that defines you, refines you, transforms you. It makes you look your best and your worst. Sort of like those skinny jeans I love so dear. 

It's a choice. Again and again. A choice to be his, to say "I do", to love and be loved. A choice not always easy or natural. Like when a joke isn't funny but is, instead, hurtful. When you're sick and tired and he isn't. When works stressful and all you want is a stiff drink and a warm bath. It's a choice day in and day out.

It's a choice for which you are rewarded with memories, laughs, and, sometimes, fights. It's a choice to think not only of yourself but also of his wishes. It's a little less of you and a lot more of us. It's a shared office-craft room, bedding that suits the hot one and the cold one, not so many floral prints throughout the home. 

It's realizing this beautiful thing called like isn't actually all about you. Instead, it's about him too. 

Like marriage, so is faith. A choice to be His, to say "I will", to love and be loved. A choice not easy or natural. It's the realization you are committed to something beyond your own cause. And it's the reward of His love, mercy, grace. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Double Dozen Plus One

So, tomorrow's the fateful day when I turn 25. And, now that I'm officially 2.5 decades old and where I thought I would be (in big, broad stroke ways) I've realized there really is wisdom that comes with age. And, what kind of blogger, birthday girl would I be without sharing all the genius I've managed to acquire over the years?

I wish that was what I was doing right now. But, I'm not. Have you had any cake yet? Because it is my birthday tomorrow and they are really only good with cake. And champagne but I can't be too demanding now can I? On for my mad knowledge skills:
  • There's no such thing as too many ways to celebrate. Literally, I love to celebrate for a month. And I have every intention to do so for years to come.
  • Some things are worth the brand name and price: shoes, sunglasses, and Starbucks.
  • Honesty. Honesty. Honesty. It might make things awkward or weird, but it'll ensure you're respected and respectable. Be honest.
  • A good bra will always make the girls look amazing. 
  • Bird feeders are the bomb-diggity. And will make you feel really popular with all your new feathered friends.
  • Put yourself out there. 99% of the time goodness meets you.
  • Shots are dangerous so don't start. Just don't start
  • When life gets hard, faith is vital. 
  • Boldness blesses you. Knowing what you want is wonderful -bravely chase your craziest of dreams. 
  • Find a favorite brand of undies and buy lots of them because it's not an everyday occurrence. 
  • You can do it yourself (as in #DIY, Pinterest style). I know, it feels tricky and scary, but you can and it'll make you damn proud. 
  • Love wins every time. 
Cheers beauties!
I'm off for a weekend of festivities (again) but Doubt & Devotion will still be live Sunday!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Go ahead and guess.

I watched the entire first season of Orange is the New Black. And I read the book. I hated the book. I loved Cal Chapman, Piper's brother, in the show. Not because he was hot or amazing or Zach Galifianakis-esque. I loved his ability to be different, to embrace the outside, to stand on the edge and say hi to everyone between there and here.

In the final episode Cal said this:
“I’m going to go ahead and guess that one of the issues 
here is your need to say that a person is exactly anything.”
And I died a happy little death of joy inside. He is right. 

The hardest part of life is defining one's self. We're supposed to fit into categories: white, black, short, tall, female, male, wife, husband, straight, gay, athiest, Christian, Muslim, Jewish. All kinds of labels, all specific and boxy. Little bubbles on government forms and test sheets. 

We're much, much more than those names, than those bubbles, those specific labels.

You see, I'm a wife that's loves my husband dearly and believes in the dependence that marriage holds while, simultaneously, believing in the strength and power of women (myself included) in our own lives, marriages, and families. 

I'm a God-lover and Christ-follower who loves tattoos, curse words, and a stiff drink. 

I'm a daughter who happens to be a best friend too. You can call it dependent, awkward, unnatural, but for us it's comfortable, fulfilling, and beautiful.

I'm an office manager at my parent's construction company, not because I'm a mooch or couldn't get any better (like I've been criticized) but because I love and serve my family and, in time, have come to love my job. 

I'm a friend whose gun-shy in large groups of women but longs so genuinely to add to the atmosphere and conversation. 

I'm a sister turned trusted friend who's always got a promise of a good time up my sleeve whether you're 11, 22 or 33. 

I'm a writer who's like everyone else and wants to write a book while, like no one else, will admit that I haven't got the slightest inkling what I've got worth saying in more than 300 words or where I'd start. 

I'm a runner who enjoys distance, but not too much. Miles are soothing, but too many is taxing and, well, no thanks.

I'm a dog-owner who knows my dog is just a dog, but who also worries that she's too cold or too hot when I leave her home all day while I'm at work. 

I'm a shopper who loves clothes, shoes, and other things, but who owns a home and now can't buy things outside our budget and, weirdly, that's good with me (DAMN IT). 

Turns out, I'm so much more than any label, box, or blank. And this just barely scratches the surface. I'm not just nothing, but I'm also not just anything. It seems I'm a little bit of everything. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

#ThomasHouse2014: Moving's for the Dogs.

You're back. Do you really like this house talk or is it just in hopes of seeing a cute fuzzy face? Because today's your lucky day: you're about to get the house talk from the cute, fuzzy face.

Moving. It ain't easy folks. Though I look like I'm busy getting my beauty sleep, I'm not. I'm resting my pounding head because this moving shit is for the dogs. And by "for the dogs" I mean any other dog besides my highly evolved canine self.

First, I had to come and hang out in the backyard which was covered in the turds of three heathen dog animals who called this place home before me. Where's the dignity in that? And that's ignoring the way that dingy carpet smelled and the walls were rubbed up with dog-roma. For a girl, such as myself, who takes pride in the way my puppy scent is charming not disarming, the musk of mutts is offensive.

Speaking of mutts, they didn't even check out the neighborhood because, surely, if they had we wouldn't be living above a little white ball of high-pitched barking fun. By fun, I mean, anything but. That damn dog can't take my no for an answer and insists on standing fence side with it's yip-yip-yipping all up in my business. Doesn't it see that this coat isn't all natural and I'm soaking up the sun?

In the vein of being unnatural, they made me bathe in the tub. Ma grabbed me, lugged my curvaceous bod up the stairs, and plopped me into the tub. Who does that? Warm water aside, I don't want to sit in the tub for "bath time". Honestly, I don't want any bath time, but adding a tub to the mix is simply insulting.

Are you on my side yet? Because if you're not, I can promise one thing. I will find your house and I will shred your shit. I will. It's called payback. 
Don't even consider leaving me home alone. Be the opposite of Nike and just don't do it.

After my last takeover, Ma made it clear I'm not supposed to be doing this anymore. But she's busy with the house. So, I'm entitled. I mean, this all comes to you while the humans are trying to attach plates and clocks and things to create what mom keeps saying is a gallery wall. Seriously, #pinterestgetoutofmyhouse.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

oh, that extension of grace

Welcome to the first edition of 
Kate from The Florkens and I are so glad to have you here, sharing your heart, and engaging in conversations about doubt, devotion, and all that's in between. 
The Florkens
You are invited to join us every Sunday for some talk on faith, religion, any and everything that lies heavy on your heart. We'll both post about our current struggles then at the bottom we'll invite you to join in the conversation either with a post of your own or in the comments section.

Our link-up goes live today! 
Oh how we're thrilled to have you. 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

So we're ten days into Lent and I'm coming to understand, to lean into, to be refreshed by God's goodness. This comfort comes in ways different and more profound than I've enjoyed in many years. But, let's do a little, errrr, a big, flashback.

The Church I grew up in -realize it's Church in the Big C Church way, not in a single specific church- spoke often of the way sin ruined me, the way it marked me, the way I couldn't escape its reach because of my flesh. Many of the sermons left me with a sour taste in my mouth, a taste that said I'm too mucked up with sin to be cherished and loved by Him. I wanted to know He loved me deeply and sincerely, but couldn't get over hearing I'm unlovable.As a Christian who believed in His greatness and mercy, but also in my sin and markedness I came to a single realization. I'm a walking contradiction defined by the chasm living in my core as my flesh burned for sin but my spirit fought to seek Him. 

I believed those lies about my unworthiness for many years. I believed I wasn't His out of love, but out of the obligation He made thousand of years ago. A promise to save those who were so bold to ask. And, that asking, I did. After the confession, repentance, asking, I attempted to bask in Him. To rest in it, to find comfort, joy, peace. But that just didn't happen for me.

After many prayers, He enveloped me in His love. Oh how He loves me.  I realized I was His, but couldn't shake those feelings of dirtiness.

Flash forward: Back to me, today, 2014, almost 25 in my flannel pajamas, wrapped in a quilt and bent over my bible with the Naptime Diaries 40-Day Journal hoping to make up for the night I missed last night.

Usually, in missing a day, I'd see my imperfection and quit. You see, my perfect-seeking soul doesn't like to do anything less than 100%. And that was precisely where I was. He entered. Here: He came and met me.

He said, you are mine, imperfect but mine. You are cherished and loved by me, the God of Hope. And, I declined. I reminded Him I'm sinful, stained, and sour. And He extended grace. 

That's the part where I come in -changed, made anew, rededicated to the cause of seeking Him. I've gave myself grace in that skipped lesson and the practice of making it up. I allowed myself that slip and the accompanying clean-up. I've found it challenging, but wonderful. 

This Lent, I'm leaning into Him and the truths he speaks about the our relationship. I'm appreciating the way His goodness is mine too. The transformation of my life defined by sin to one founded on His greatness. It's beautiful how loved and cherished I am even when I don't love and cherish myself. He's gifted me a vast span of freedom in my faith and in doing so, I can be bold in worshipping Him with my life. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Those Things I So Badly Want Him To Know

I haven't talked about Popsicle in a while. Mostly because there isn't much to say except that he's still got dementia and it's still stealing him away from us little by little. Lately, I've been thinking about all the things I'd want him to know, that I tell him when we visit, but that he can't understand.

I want him to know...
...As much as I look like him, I act like him too. It's like his preferences were genetically preserved in me. That's something I love so sweetly and that terrifies me deeply because is his fate mine too?

...We bought a house. And we are making it our own little piece of the American dream.

...All that complaining I did while working for him was for naught. Because here I am working for what was his passion and loving it. Blame it on the teenage hormones.

...Though many don't understand, a sense of humor is everything in life. Well, behind God, family, and love. But it's everything nonetheless.

...Team Thomas will include kids one day and I often wonder if they'll look like the two of us. If I'm honest, I pray at least one does.

...I lost all that weight I'd gained the last few times you'd recognized me. And, I fell in love with myself and running again.

...Jason loves me like you loved mom. He's created that night time space that's solely ours and not to be interrupted by Lent, future children, or otherwise.

...Cinnamon and vanilla powder really do make coffee better. Even the Starbucks variety.

...I still brag about how good I am at bowling even though I suck. Talking a big game is more fun than having one.

There's so much I want him to know. Just so much. In fact, I'd probably be a babbling fool if I knew he could understand me. So tomorrow, as we visit with him once again, I'll tell him all these things for my very own soul. I'll tell him I love him, we're surviving, he's always missed and remembered.

And you, you will tell yours, in honor of us. You will tell them that stupid stuff that matters to no one but you. You will hug them tight and hold their hands. You will say you love them more than one time or even two. Because you want them so badly to know.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

about this i care.

Last week for the #sayyesproject Instagram challenge the prompt was "about this I care". And, I went to bed the night before the prompted day nervous about what to post. I wanted to be funny, post about shoes or our new lawn or our Roomba (which happens to be a winner ya'll). But, I'd be downplaying something.

I'd be downplaying the way I've really come to care for myself lately.

And by care, I mean love. I'd be downplaying the way I love myself lately.

So, I took a picture of myself. In my bathroom mirror where I spend my mornings getting ready and my nights undoing all that work. And, I smiled a real smile at that woman in the mirror who I love in new and deep ways.

It's not that I haven't always loved myself. I have -mostly. But lately, when I look in the mirror I see something beautiful. Not in the #selfie, America's Next Top Model, Hot-or-Not way, but in the I-am-doing-this-life-thing-justice way.

You guys, I'm going to be 25 and, for the first time in my two and a half decades, I realize I've got things to show for it. 

I've got a husband who I would step on a grenade for (That's drama, but it's his favorite way for me to tell him how ridiculously I love him). I've got two brothers who are my main men, my wing men, my trouble makers. I've got a partner in crime who truly is the best as concurred by my husband and family. I've got a dog who's my shadow and woman's best friend. I've got a job that is comfortable and home, but challenging and tiring. I've got health and a body that's preparing to run its second marathon.  I've got tattoos to commemorate the God and family I love. I've got a faith that's honest and true while tough and wrestling.

You guys, I'm going to be 25 and, for the first time in my two and a half decades, I love myself. 

I've faced terror and loss. I've defeated illness and fear. I've adventured and made memories. I've decided on my own wonders of the world and seek them daily. I've kissed and hugged and loved in ways unimaginable. I've opened my heart and had it filled and broken. I've taken risks in relationships and in faith only to be rewarded. I've learned I'm valuable to others and found their value to me. I've broken bones and undergone surgery. I've lost teeth and bit finger nails. I've hurt and I've healed.

I'm going to be 25 and, for the first time in my two and a half decades, I'm in love with myself. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

On #ThomasHouse2014: Moving Day

After my little vlogging extravaganza on Friday, I am back with more on the #ThomasHouse2014. Today we talk moving -the cardboard boxes, the giveaway pile, the ridiculous amount of trash. 
Moving is hard. Not simply because you're relocating to a different place and the new house is going to have a different sort of "natural" for all of your things, but because you own a lot of shit -or at least we do.

We moved only seven pieces of furniture -two Ikea dressers (that have since been redone), one armoire, three heirloom chest of drawers, and one Ikea shelving unit. Otherwise, we were completely furniture free. Notice: no couch, no bed, no chairs, no dinner table. Relatively light stuff.

While the furniture was light, all of our stuff happens to be a story of enormous proportions. Anyone who follows my Instagram knows I have a thing for clothes and shoes -most that I've owned for years- so you can only imagine the task of moving our closet. And the number of fun gadgets we have in our kitchen is equal to the 160 people that attended our wedding.

Holy smokeout, we've got a move ahead of us Batman. 

Needless to say: we learned some things along the way.

If you can't lift it, the tape won't hold it.
Let's talk box. I know, they all look the same and are made of cardboard and held together with tape. But, that's just it: they're held together with tape. So, don't overfill. Otherwise, you're going to end up like me all six times I'd lift a box and WHOOSH all. the. things. would come flooding out the bottom.

Purge before you move. 
Don't move everything, then start to decide what's hot and what's not. I actually purged twice: pre-move and post-move. It helped that I had two friends helping me out with closet emptying and filling to regulate on my wardrobe. Pieces that were outdated or just plain ick, but that I assign emotional value to were easy to part with as they giggled at my sentiment.

Use your clothes as buffers. 
I don't mean for your walls because all this stuff is going to make you insane. But for your fragile stuff. We wrapped plates and bowls in scarves to keep them safe. And my running shorts protected every little glass while in transport. I know, we could have used newspaper but that would have required planning and little to no denial about actually moving.

Don't shy away from the booze.
I'm joking -sort of. My mom and I drank mimosas while we packed and unpacked. My friend and I enjoyed some Chicken Cock (a la southern Fireball) while we wrapped all my chonies around our china set (is this a joke? you ask).

Invite a friend who you're comfortable with moving your underwear drawer. 
Honestly, when my dear friend Ashley offered to help move us, my first worry was my underwear drawer and how embarrassed I was going to feel about it making an appearance during our day. After panicking over the 9 I gave it on my Shame Scale (which concludes at 10) I threw caution to the wind, booze down my gullet, and let the girl move it.

It doesn't all unpack at once. 
Packing it all up is easier than unpacking. Not only are you trying to figure out what box everything ended up in, you're attempting to organize everything in a place you don't yet know. We are still -three weeks later- moving things, trying out different layouts, avoiding one or two of those wretched cardboard boxes.

Mostly, give yourself some grace. Moving is damn stressful and it doesn't look good on anyone, really. So, take your time, have a drink, and then worry about what's in the next box.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Dear Sweet Baby Jesus…

Welcome to another edition of 
Kate from The Florkens and I are so glad to have you here, sharing your heart, and engaging in conversations about doubt, devotion, and all that's in between. 
The Florkens
You are invited to join us every Sunday for some talk on faith, religion, any and everything that lies heavy on your heart. We'll both post about our current struggles then at the bottom we'll invite you to join in the conversation either with a post of your own or in the comments section.

Oh how we're thrilled to have you. 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
via: Post Secret
A little blonde girl, bedside on bended knee. Hands clasped tightly together as though it will ensure a more efficient delivery of her requests. Short quiet whispers, undecipherable to the rest.  "Amen."

The first time I remember praying I was that little blonde girl kneeling, forearms atop my mattress, just like the Precious Moment dolls in my children's bible. Is this right? I wondered. Am I drooping my head just enough? How tight is the right amount of tight for my hands to clasp?

I remember being told prayer changes things. I remember thinking maybe one day I'd have something really tough going on in life that I'd get to cry out to Him. I hoped I'd do it the right way -boldly, honestly, deeply. And, like the child I was, I went along my merry way.

Having spent many years attending church, I found myself confounded by the ask and you shall receive aspect of prayer. I knew I hadn't asked for much and I felt thoroughly joyed by what I'd received, but why were there so many people struggling and begging for His help with no receipt?

Then, dementia struck. And I prayed -we as a family prayed- so many prayers -for mercy, for healing, for hope, for comfort, for joy, for peace, for answers. Some seemed so illusive. Some still do. There are days I cry out to Him for this disease to steal away Popsicle's life just so I can be sure he's no longer suffering. And, it feels like He can't hear me.

Maybe it's faith I lack or my heart is chasing its own plans and timeline or God's plan is bigger than my own. The bible says He's listening gently, gracefully, lovingly. And, I believe it. The bible says He has plans for my benefit and blessing, plans bigger and better than my own. And I believe it.

But I do wonder: why won't He answer me?

Friday, March 7, 2014

#ThomasHouse2014: Vlog Edition

Welcome back for another install of Vlogging Awkwardness by Mrs. Thomas! This week our adventure involves three other adorably awesome bloggers, Kate and Adam from The Florkens and Margeret from Life After Athens. What could the four of us be wasting minutes of your day doing? Talking houses of course. 
It just so happens that all of us are closing escrow within weeks of one another so we are now officially home-buying professionals -or not. Regardless, you had questions and, you lucky ducks, we have answers!

Without further ado, here's my go at home buying pro: 

My regular Tuesday #thomashouse2014 posts will continue (especially because ya'll keep asking sweetly for a tour and we haven't got ourselves together that much yet), but this week it seemed perfect to come at you from the video. 

Also, Doubt & Devotion (Week 2) with The Florkens goes up on Sunday. Please join in those wonderful faith conversations with posts of your own or, if you're more comfortable and inclined, in the comments section. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Talking Lenten Talk.

For me, a never-been-Catholic-Christian, Lent is a period of religious indulgence. And for those 40 days, I could not wait. I had big plans of rising early, spending time in His word first thing, starting my day the way all the good girl's do.

Then, Jason and I got to talking. I shared my plans with him. 
And he said, "I don't think it's a good idea." 
Cue my fleshy sin-nature. 
"WHAT? It's seeking God how can it be bad!?! Devil get behind me." (I wasn't that dramatic I swear)
I was pissed. How could he be anything but supportive?

He said, "I don't think it's a good idea because it'll take away from the bit of time we get to spend together in the evenings. The time where I sit beside you and enjoy the way you read the bible, write prayers and bible verses down, then spew out your findings to me."

And, instead of aww-ing and melting a bit, I got mad. I had plans. He's supposed to support them -especially when they include God. IT WAS THE NIGHT BEFORE LENT FOR GOODNESS SAKE. 

Then, God reminded me that Lent is about giving something up. And, I think, for me, giving up is dying to myself. If spending time together in the evenings is what Jason loves, if he enjoys that bible studying, Spirit enjoying time, who am I to ask him to do without? 

So, I'm not getting up any earlier for Lent. Chances are I'll be doing the opposite, staying up later, and sharing in God's goodness with Mr. T. Who better to indulge with than the man God made for me? 

Time to change the Lenten game plan: 
I'm dying to myself for the next 39 days just as Jesus died for me days before Easter. 

I'm learning that I'm less important than I think and going to spend Lent trying to put that thought into action. I know that others need to have their lives poured into, their hearts encouraged, their plates filled. And I am thrilled to know God will use me to do so simply because I'm opening that door to Him.

Also, I thought about giving up bad words. Then I said shit, asshole, and damn it in three seconds flat. I also used pissed in this post. Anyway, I'm going to work on my verging-on-a-sailor's-mouth, but I surely can't promise perfection.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

And in doing so, you came alive. [Marriage Letters]

Last month I wrote the first of my marriage letters. But I wrote it late. So this, the second marriage letter, is going to come close on the tail of the first. I promise they won't be so near to one another next time... It just so happens I jumped on the bandwagon late (just like Hunger Games, Twilight, and Pokemon).

These letters are the brainchild of Amber C. Haines and her husband, Seth. They write to remind themselves of points in their marriage, of moments in their relationship, and of their perspective of one another. I write for the same reasons, plus the chance for these letters to shed light on our marriage before children for our children because they won't know us as newlyweds otherwise.

This month we write about "What Makes You Come Alive".
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Dear Jason,

You smell like fresh cut pine lately. Like stain brushed smoothly over the wooden masterpiece you're so dedicated to creating. You smell like layers of paint over the lovely legs of our farm table. You smell like doing.

I remember standing just outside the doors of your lecture hall, awaiting your smiley face, when one of your friends stopped to tell me how lucky I was to have you. Never did I question that fact. He said, "Amber, Jason's a go-doer. Not a getter, he's not seeking more, he's looking where he can do what needs to be done." I smiled, agreed, greeted you. And him and I, we let that secret accolade be just that: secret. Because you didn't need us to tell you how much you love to do things.

Then we wed. Dad got sick. And I cried. I cry. Lots. In those moments when I melt to tears, you stop, halt, become still. Emotional, unruly tears fill all the space between us and haunt your ability to do. You burn inside with the desire to do whatever it takes to stop the sadness and the flood of salty drops. To do that one thing that'll set the world right, restore balance and refresh my usually giddy soul.

Doing. It brings life into you vibrantly and beautifully. Beautiful in a handsome, masculine way, my dear.

I thought homeownership would feel stressful, financially challenging, scary. Instead, it feels like a To Do list. And, in the way marriage brings together two, I'm enjoying ticking off the tasks with you. You've taught me the glory in doing, the reward in being done, and the challenge of always seeking what's next.

And, if I'm honest, I can't wait to watch you do fatherhood. You will do it so much justice. And you will bloom a little further just like those roses you're building planter boxes for. You will be pruned by a child's will and yet, you will flourish.

You flourish because of the way you come alive as a go-doer.

Love for you and all you do,

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

On Being Bold. And B.R.A.V.E.

The end of February snuck up on me. Does it manage to do that because January feels so long and cold, then in comes February only 28 days and full of celebrations? And, I guess, the house might have added to the crazed passing of another month. Anyways, how'd February and being the bold part of B.R.A.V.E. go?

Good as far as me taking on those opportunities in which boldness was required. Though there's a few I've shied away from that need to be addressed. Regardless, February was lived in bold. I decided to host a #sayyesproject Instagram challenge (and am filled by the participation thus far). I spoke about my faith and associated doubts candidly with Kate and the Doubt&Devotion link-up was born. I rapped on camera for my little brother's birthday. I stopped offering sponsorships in an effort to create space and time for other opportunities as well as create boundaries between blogging as a craft and as an outlet. I got pulled over and taught I'm less important than... everything. I moved from the house I've known as home for decades to a house Mr. T and I will now get to make home. I started talking about how hard the mysteries of house buying were to me. And, I wrote a marriage letter to Jason that begged me to bring down walls and be vulnerable.

My birthday is this month -have I mentioned that yet? So I'm focusing on the engaged part of B.R.A.V.E.. Engaged in celebration, engaged in these last few weeks before I hit 25 (which feels big and adult-like), engaged in my work -both professionally, personally, and spiritually.

March also brings Lent with it. I love Lent. I've grown up Christian and remain so, but Catholic blood runs through my veins (Popsicle was an alter boy) and I have such a love for the liturgy and structure of the Catholic church. Thus, Lent has been something I've loved to observe over the past few years. While I have dedicated myself to being thankful publicly in the past and to more time in the word and to less TV, this year I've decided to give up sleep. Not in the no sleep for 40 days way, but in the I will rise in the morning before my run and get with God. I will stop the snooze-fest and start in His word with His goodness. I know this will bring my level of engagement with Him to a whole new level and I'm excited to see what the days will look like with Him at the helm of it.

That said, engage this month. Please. And, if you're doing the #sayyesproject Instagram challenge and want the prompts uploaded into your iCal please email me and I'll send you the amazing prompt calendar that Mrs. Laura Beth made! (It's her birthday month too!)

And, how did February go for you?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Love. Mercy. Doubt. [Doubt&Devotion Link-Up V.1]

Welcome to the first edition of 

Kate from The Florkens and I are so glad to have you here, sharing your heart, and engaging in conversations about doubt, devotion, and all that's in between. We hope to create a space in which the hard parts of faith can be talked about openly and honestly with no judgment or condemnation but instead engaged conversation. 
The Florkens
You are invited to join us every Sunday for some talk on faith, religion, any and everything that lies heavy on your heart. We'll both post about our current struggles then at the bottom we'll invite you to join in the conversation either with a post of your own or in the comments section.

Our first link-up goes live today! 
Oh how we're thrilled to have you. 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
"Be merciful to those who doubt." -Jude 1:22

I grew up in church hearing and feeling that in order to be a good Christian, you must read the bible, not say bad words, and follow all of the commandments. I grew up hearing that it all just makes sense. I heard it made sense for centuries, for all those theologians and historically important leaders, and now it should make sense for me. I heard it made sense and I held onto those words as tightly as my little fingers would let me. I squeezed them hoping the tighter my grip, the greater my belief. 

But, it didn't all make sense. In all truth, it doesn't all make sense even now. What makes sense is that I'm precious to God. So precious, in fact, that He saved me from a dark and dreary life separate from Him. What makes sense is that love makes the world go round. His love. Mine and yours, that's just a bonus -a beautiful bonus. 

To address decades of suppressed wonder and questions, of fear that my curiosity would kill the Christian cat, of hating science and fact that needs no faith. And then a realization: I need mercy because I have doubts. Not just from other Christians, not just from you and from God, but from myself too. It is His love and my own mercy that allow me to give voice to those doubts. It is your listening ear and honest words that create a space for me to process and glean. 

God-loving or not, life hands us big,clumsy, difficult circumstances that defy everything we know of Him and me and you. Making sense of the chaos is tricky enough, then add the layer of keeping faith and holding belief on top of it and you'll find a breeding ground for doubt. 

It is what you do with your doubt that defines your heart. For years my doubt made me angry and frustrated, shaking my fist at God asking Him why He's doing this, why He isn't stepping in, why He doesn't love me enough to stop the hurts. Then, my angry arms got tired of being raised above my head and I realized it was my brain and my heart that needed more. More understanding of His goodness, more knowledge of His heart for me and the rest of the world, more encouragement and truth amongst the brokenness. 

So, I put the anger away and made space for the doubts. I granted myself the mercy required to ask questions, to give a voice to the doubts, to wrestle with difficulties. And it's led me hungrily to His words for a glimpse of His heart and hope. It's torn me up in ways so deep and so good while pushing me to search for signs of His greatness instead of letting the days pass and blur in front of my eyes. 

For now, I remind myself of my need for mercy and love and Him, I feed the hunger for wisdom while giving grace when anger rears it's ugly head, and mostly, I remind myself, it doesn't just make sense for many of us. 

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