Friday, October 31, 2014

from the heart of: jason thomas

Last weekend I attended a bridal shower as a pair of extra hands for the hostesses: my mom and brother's girlfriend. I love seeing and celebrating the beginning of marriage with other people because it's unbelievably inspiring in my own marriage, it's a reminder of those moments in the beginning that are easy to forget, it's fun to feel infected by everyone's joy in the upcoming celebrations. 

Two shutters sat in the other room among the pies and ice cream desserts. Two shutters covered in mini clothespins and bits of Kraft paper inscribed with the "recipe" for a good marriage or perfect date. All the stereotypical things said, things about fighting and sleep, about money and stress, about holding hands and secret kisses. Pens scrawled over the lines encouraging, inspiring, pumping fists for the bride and groom to be. Bits of truth and beauty hanging upon two grey shutters. 

It feels like an anthropological survey. Watching single women, engaged women, married women of all ages talk about marriage and love and relationships. You can see the heartbreaks, the wins, the romances, the beauty and the pain in a single room gathered around cellophane, mimosas, and ribbon. There's the advice and the jokes, moments of deep emotion and seconds of pure joy, all swirled together in tulle and glitter. 

The evening wound down, the ladies left, and the boys returned home to lend in cleaning and clearing the dishes and decorations. They asked about the shutters and the papers, wondering about this recipe phenomenon. And we asked them to add their own sage wisdom. My own man, giggled and made jokes about good dinner choices, but grabbed a pen and paper for his doing. 

And he wrote: 
He wanted to correct the "wifes" at the end but I wouldn't let him because I loved it just as it was.
I married Jason because I loved him, because he was kind, handsome, gentle, yet firm. I married him because I couldn't picture myself with anyone else, because he spoke fluent sarcasm, because he challenged me and comforted me. And yet, three years later, when I think about why I married him, my answer is entirely different, it's no longer about him or even about me, but, instead, about us. 

Because as I've watched the -inspirational, but not perfect- marriage of my parents fall victim to an atrocious disease that is taking every ounce of my father away from us, I know why I married. Because as we've attended weddings and I've wept as the father walks the bride down the aisle and then joyfully danced the night away in my own husband's arms, I know why I married. Because when I think about my highest highs and my lowest lows, the only constant is my desire, my deep and burning desire to share it with him, I know why I married. 

I married because I can't imagine spending the good days with anyone but Jason, but more than that, I can't imagine saying goodbye -in that final dying day way- to anyone but him. He's who I want to be my bookend -the functional and beautiful companion to me-, to experience with me my greatest of joys and my deepest of sorrows. Surely, marriage is difficult, it's selfless, it's about mad love but it's also easy and selfish and about simple enjoyment too.

The soon-to-be-newlyweds, they're lucky I let them keep the original. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

9 tips for a badass trip to costa rica

Basically this post is going to be a big old picture vomit combined with some tips and tricks for a successful Costa Rica trip (from our successes and our failures). 

Three things that we found made us successful in Costa Rica: 

1. Know some Spanish. Costa Rica isn't Mexico and doesn't neighbor a big English speaking country... That meant that English wasn't spoken as widely as we're used to so you've got to get by. I can understand Spanish (thank the good Lord) but struggled with the dialect spoken in CR (it is different just like British or Australian English sounds different than ours). Sometimes people would just test my ability to understand and then would transition to speak in complete English so be prepared for that! 

2. Ask questions. Costa Ricans love their culture and their country. We spent an hour and a half talking with one of our tour guides on the way home from a day trip and he taught us SO MUCH about the politics, social system, and education in Costa Rica... Those were amazing things to get to compare and contrast with America. 

3. Be prepared to move and look and be "natural". I'm not a hiker, we all know that full well, but going to CR I knew that we were going to be spending lots of time looking at, walking around, basking in nature. And I was afraid that I'd be sick of it, or feel like those are MORE trees that I have to check out, but instead, loved it. I got my 10,000 steps in (hi Fitbit) in every day that we were there because monkeys in all the trees by the beach. 

And pictures. Because you didn't come here just to read all my advice right? 
I guess we had a great time... I mean, that ridiculous smile on my face says I'm eating up every ounce of what Costa Rica had to offer. We truly loved the excursions we took part of, seeing so many bits of the country and the richness of its culture and jungle and animals. 

Three things you MUST do while you're in Costa Rica: 
1. Try the Pina Coladas. Because pineapples grow ALL OVER there and you'll never have one as good as theirs. Also, THE COFFEE. 

2. COFFEE. Duh. I mean, Jason was drinking three cups a day... And he's a man that wouldn't drink just one before we left. 

3. Zipline. We have ziplined several times together and Costa Rica's can not be rivals. We went to Verdana which is on the North Pacific side of the country, but there are several locations... Dreamy you guys.

As much as we loved the sights and jungle, there were a few failures on our part. We didn't do hours upon hours of research about the country until a week before we were going to move out and, well, that made us realize we didn't know as much as we thought we did and that logistics exist -even on vacation.

Three things that we would do DIFFERENT next time around:

1. Stay in a few different places around the country rather than simply in a single spot. Costa Rica has SO MUCH to offer and, though it's small, the roads are wild and aren't big beautiful freeways that make travel super easy, soooo, we didn't get to see some of the things we wished we could have.

2. Be aware of what "off season" truly means. We have "off seasoned" in Cancun and Cabo and even (sort of) in Hawaii, but none looked like the "off season" in Costa Rica. When tourism is down and there are fewer travelers the hotels make money by dropping their rates in order to attract locals. That meant every morning two charter buses (at least) rolled up to the hotel and dropped off tons of people who immediately flooded into the pool and bar. It felt like a Vegas pool party every day... Which meant there wasn't a whole lot of relaxing. 

3. Realize it can be hard to get there. We had some serious coordinating to do in getting from home to our hotel room in Costa Rica and back again... This meant there was some serious time spent in a van riding along the wild roads of CR. We loved our time there, but definitely realized we spent lots of it moving from one location to the next. This worked for us, but if you're looking to have a really relaxing vacation, this wouldn't have been ideal. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

all the king's horses and all the king's men.

In high school, before Baby Think It Over, there was a week every year where eggs were toted around in miniature car seats, where desktops had bassinets to keep one's b-egg-by safe, where parenthood was demonstrated in a "next best" way. Only in that week would football players skip the high fives, cheerleaders wear backpacks instead of their symbolic cheer bags, couples meet for custody exchanges instead of spit swaps on the black top. The b-egg-bies ruled campus. 

Your grade was dependent on your ability to keep your b-egg-by whole, without a blemish, dent, or scratch. You named it, you gave it a face, for a week, you protected it as the fragile little egg it was against a wild and unruly world.

I hated that week. Everyone was so edgy about their egg, so over-concerned with their grade.

Fragility annoyed me.

In youth group, our hearts were like the eggs. Needing to be guarded, to be protected, to be safe-kept. There were monthly suggestions and sermons on how to do this just right, how to be pure, how to be the perfect gift for your future spouse. Books were released daring us to kiss dating goodbye, encouraging us to be beautiful ladies-in-wait, discouraging dating because it is just so casual. Your heart, it's a fragile thing not meant to be broken, only made whole by the one He made for you.

Fragility disturbed me.

I knew God made us to endure hard things. He made us to live in a world, broken and sinful, in flesh that is stubborn and wild.  Our flesh can be beat. Illness and disease are probable. Age will slow us, aches will befall us, circumstance will muck up the plans. But our spirits, they are anything but fragile. I believe He made us to thrive in bringing Him glory, not to wilt, break, and die under pressure or storm or frustration.

Fragility isn't me or you either.

We will bend, chip, dent beneath the weight and heaviness of happenstance. Life will bore down on us like the sun on leather sandals, leaving marks, lines, patterns, but it is those very things that make us each unique in Him. We weren't meant to live protected, in our zone of comfort and ease. We weren't promised perfection, a buffer of spirit and peace. Instead, we were dared to do the hard shit, baring the heaviest and scariest of the thick.

Fragile's a mindset, not a characteristic.

And in the case that fragility is simply our state. May we remember we're wall-sitting Humpty Dumpties taking great falls, but He is a King whose horses and men can put our splintered selves back together again.
We are back from Costa Rica (safe and sound) but have been go-go-go since landing, so the recap of our trip and our thoughts on the Rich Coast will come on Wednesday!

Friday, October 24, 2014

22 Not-So-Simple Blog Post Prompts

A dear friend and I happened to tweet back and forth about all the blog posts sitting in our drafts and I got to thinking the Drafts Folder is an elephant graveyard of good, but incomplete thoughts. She said she thought I'd have the most creative list of post ideas and I was flattered. Then I realized, I have a lot of posts sitting around wishing for completion that just aren't making the cut, but that would be beautiful from the minds of others. So, here's 22 food (it's ironic how many actually reference food) for thought prompts for you:
  • What does your Instagram feed say about you? 
  • Use a bowl of spaghetti (and whatever toppings you fancy) as a metaphor for your life. 
  • Turn a song into a blog post: like this
  • Detail and celebrate comfort food for your soul.
    (Think like Chicken Noodle Soup for the Soul) 
  • Personalize and rewrite a poem to you and your life.
    (I did this with this poem at my mom's recommendation and adored it.) 
  • Address a hot button topic with which you have personal experience.
  • If you're marriage (or relationship) were a pizza or soup or calzone or sandwich, what would it look like? (more metaphor for you)
  • Pick your favorite piece of furniture in your home and draw a lesson from it.
  • How do you take your froyo? And how does this mirror your life? Or doesn't mirror your life? 
  • What hymn best celebrates your faith? And why? (Go deep here.) 
  • If you packed your favorite school lunch right now, what would it have in it? Realize the choices you make are memory laden and specific to you, share the importance of them. 
  • Write a letter to your high school boyfriend or best friend. 
  • Document your dinner from your dog or cat or tortoise's perspective. 
  • What are your fingerprint words or phrases? This one will take a bit of thought, but just wait until you realize what they are! 
  • Our relationships with our bodies are complex. Reflect on the things that make you feel powerful, strong, and appreciative of the way you are built. 
  • How do you take your eggs? And how do those connect to your life right now? 
  • Reflect on a time where circumstances were unfavorable, but so trasnformative for you.
  • Step back and think about your life as it is right now. Write about your feelings in regards to your job, your relationships, your home, your body, your hopes, your disappointments. 
  • Pay tribute to your childhood by remembering a prominent figure in your life. What was their catch phrase? What was their smell? Where did you see them? What did you do together? 
  • Thank your most influential teacher in a letter. 
  • Write about your faith. What does your God look like? Is it a He or a She? Do you lean on mercy or love or grace the most? Or is it all equal? Where do you struggle? What are your strengths? 
  • Reflect on the group or stereotype you filled in the lunchroom at school and the way you loved the safety of that place OR desired to break out OR felt a whole different way.
Mostly these prompts hinge on the fact that you're writing in a moment and only a moment. That means that tomorrow the answer could look entirely different. It's our temporality that makes writing so beautiful. We're on a never ending journey rather than a definitive quest meaning everything will change. 

Also I encourage you to get really obsessed with one thing. Writing about hope over the last (almost) month -yes I even wrote a bit on vacation- has really done some amazing things in my heart and my mind. Sometimes we need to ruminate on one thing for an extended period of time just for the practice of it. I know, it gets old and sort of tired, but just beyond that point is this lush beautiful set of ideas waiting for you to arrive. I hope you get to experience that one day. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

hopes and dreams [a marriage letter]

Dear Jason, 

I remember the first time I told you I wanted to write a book. It was midnight, dark, dark without moonlight. I was lying awake, thinking about it, about the way it was weighing on my shoulders, and how I wanted to tell you, but felt shy. Often I'd only let myself think about it at night, when I was sure you were unconscious and snoring softly beside me. But that night you stirred, like you knew I was mulling life over, and you ran your hand down my spine ever so gently, asking me silently if I was aware.

I whispered, I need to write a book. It's in there. And it's bugging me.

You simply ran your fingers down my back once again. It was winter and your fingers were cold through my flannel shirt. I wanted to see your face, desperately, and yet, I craved the privacy of not knowing how you first reacted. 

We were just a year married then. Fresh off tragedy realizing the temporal nature of life, the way marriages beautiful and lovely weren't free of loss, learning that love does conquer all in the hardest and scariest of ways. We didn't talk about it again for well over a year. Until now. 

I was shy when we started talking about the book again, like when we first started dating and I didn't know if you were interested or not. I was shy because sometimes our dreams feel silly when we speak them out loud. Sometimes they feel like dreams -imaginary and far out spots in our consciousness- and sometimes they feel like hope -attainable, beautiful goals. 

Now you ask about word counts. You tell me there will be a nice dinner when the manuscript is done. You walk through cerebral conversations with me. You do it with humor and genuine mulling over of my questions, problems, conundrums. You make jokes when I get too bogged down in the abstractions, then you pack away the issues at hand and bring them back to me with a fresh perspective. You promise you'll read it, you'll ask for my autograph, and you'll take me away for the weekend when I'm published. 

You spur my motivation. You laugh when I'm too serious and you engage when I'm stumped. You feed my soul. I hope I can be as nutritious to your hungry soul as you are to mine. 

May we always be filled with hopes and dreams,
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
These letters are the brainchild of Amber C. Haines and her husband, Seth. While they take a break from writing for the summer, I'm choosing to continue on my own. I write to remember mundane moments that would otherwise slip away, to hold tight to him, and to remember how life looks right now at this very moment, 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.

Monday, October 20, 2014

rich lives and square frames: another take on social media

Social media gets a bad wrap. It's like the head cheerleader in high school, the class clown in middle school, the teacher's pet in elementary. There's this assumption that it's always distracting us from what matters, always keeping us attached to our phones and un-engaged in real life, that it's growing a jealous, need-to-be-perfect monster inside of us. 

I understand and acknowledge there's shades of right in those opinions. But, I also disagree. 

Some days life is heavy. Like my shoulders are too thin and too scrawny -something I rarely feel- to bear the burdens. Some days I wonder if He's who I think He is, or if He's just a dream of what I want Him to be. Like my faith is waning and the mere act of something I treasure shrinking like that scares me. Some days I wish things looked different, that I worked at a high power public relations firm, that we lived in downtown anywhere and were chic, that I was chasing blond-headed children around a picture-esque yard with my own mini farm. Like this life, as it is, is boring, mundane, not worthwhile of sharing.

But then, I tap that app, I scroll. And I see richness -I see mamas and their babes pouring over library shelves, I see brides in gowns glowing in their grooms' embrace, I see chickens and pigs and puppies that are loved on and cared for. I'm thankful for those tiny windows into other lives, into moments that weren't mine to experience until now. I lavish in the captions, appreciating the greater context, knowing we're each writing our own picture book in small squares and typed words.

Then I find myself interested in my own feed. Scrolling, smiling, thankful that it's the story of Mr. Thomas and me. Realizing those little square frames hold bits of our dear life. And my smile, it says we are rich in deep and beautiful ways. It says the job title, the stamps in your passport, the size of the yard aren't important because the smiles exist, the moments are captured, the feelings perpetuated.

I find myself thankful for technology and its ability to so accurately capture the joys and the struggles, the way we get to share them, and the community that is formed. Go and scroll and love the life you've created while appreciating the diversity of our online community. Hashtags, filters, double taps aside, we all live such beautiful lives. 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
I wrote this post and then I read two posts that felt better, more involved, and certainly more beautiful, BUT dancing along the same lines as mine so I decided to offer them to you as well. Please just be so inspired by the lovely Awash with Wonder and always adorable Jaybird Blog.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Poetry. And Watercolor.

I wanted to share bits and pieces of what I've been working on offline. But I hate when writers write things and then share them and then publish them like the words are brand new. It feels, uncomfortable, inauthentic, ...something off... to me, so there's that fact. 

Plus I am trying to mull over what's there, what I love, what I hate, and all in my own opinions instead of seeking immediate gratification from ya'll and finding myself unduly supported or discouraged. Turns out that writing a lot of words is really wonderful for one's inspiration and can simultaneously disintegrate one's resolve that this is what she's made for. 

Regardless, this is happening and I actually burst into tears when I hit 10,000 words and tried to tell Jason. He, of course, looked terrified because he thought my computer took a dump or something. But it's true what authors say about writing being like raising a child that is beautiful and wild and not always willing to fall under your wishes or control. 

So I'll share a little poem that I wrote in an attempt to get the creative ball rolling. I'm weirdly attached to it, but I guess that's because it feels like the starting point and, well, aren't we affectionate about humble beginnings? 

Hope is from goodness, 
His, ours, and otherwise. 
Hope is from spare change for the homeless
(Cardboard sign on the roadside).
Hope is from honest work, 
Sweaty, tedious, frustrating, but endured.

Hope is from full bellies,
family meals, conversations over coffee.
From “there is more to life”,
“the light at the end of tunnel”, 
“I love you”s and “goodbye”s. 

Hope is best served warm,
Comforting and cozy all the way down.  
It’s like potatoes with gravy,
Chicken noodle soup, 
Risotto, but for the mind and soul. 

Hope is from tragedies and loss,
Gritty and scarred.
Hope transforms. 
It’s smokey, skin like leather, 
More Marlboro man than Tinkerbell.
Hope is from the history of making it, 
of pulling together and pushing through. 
For the future full of better times,
the promise of more.
So much more.

Hope is from recipes succeeded,
Pinterest projects completed,
Skinny days and strong moments.
Hope dwells in morning light, crisp and promising,
Evening dark, pockmarked by stars.  
It’s the universal ingredient, 
always perfect -breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

It started as a rewrite of this poem by George Allen Lyon, though it now looks nothing like it in completion. I guess that's writing.

How do ya'll get yourselves started, motivated, and inspired? And, hope, where does yours come from? 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Coffee Date Version VII: Pumpkin Spice with a Side of Hope

If we were on a coffee date, I'd invite you over for homemade pumpkin spice lattes with homemade cinnamon-brown sugar syrup and frothy milk. I'd tell admit that I hate them from Starbucks because they have that funny orange color and for no reason other than that -I don't get that whole "Starbucks has additives issue" right now because doesn't everything?

If we were on a coffee date, I'd update you on that book I said I wanted to write. I no longer want because it's started. Started and not in a little teeny way, but in a moving, shaking, there's lots of words there way. And I'd share that a home team has surrounded me, encouraging, listening, hoping, and celebrating even the smallest of victories.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd tell you that my TO READ list is gushing and overflowing and I just keep adding more to it. But that I'm intent on carving out time to be a critical, engaged reader because consumption helps output (or so I say). Now that I'm writing more, writing privately, I'm realizing that I want to take in words and ideas that are beautiful and inspiring. Right now this book is the front runner in that race.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd share about The Skimm. I've never been one for the news because it's so damn depressing all the time, but I have always been the kind of person who loves to be educated and interesting. Enter: The Skimm. It's a daily email (but only on weekdays) that shares all the day's headlines with sarcasm and links to articles that correspond with their snarky tidbits. I find myself laughing AND being engaged in current events. Two birds, one Skimm.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd gush that we're leaving for Costa Rica this weekend. That I'm thrilled for the sun and the ocean and cocktails and adventure, but I'm nervous because we're going somewhere new that we don't know about and, well, adventure, I'm reminding myself. That there's a volcano I want to hike and zip lines I want to whoosh across and relaxation I can't wait to endure.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd be honest about a change of seasons in my life and the subsequent change in my heart. I'm a girl that loves to keep lots, to keep all of it, regardless of if I have the space or not. But lately, that keeping season has changed and I'm enjoying the process of purging, of saying goodbye to some things, people, priorities, and making room for other, new enrichment. And, if I'm honest, it feels good.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd laugh about my new-found obsession with Pinterest. Instead of Google-ing everything, I now turn to Pinterest. I sort of blame Helene. But I also blame my deep-seated love for all the pretty pictures that my searches render. Jason's thrilled because I'm trying two or three new recipes a week and so far we have not had to try and enjoy a failure. In fact, he's given me all 9 out of 10s on the dinners, saying that 10s don't leave room for improvement.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd ask you about hope. I'd ask you if it's a feeling, a noun, a verb, a state, a perspective? I'd ask you how you keep it, where it comes from, who exemplifies it to you. I'd tell you that I'm addicted to hope, desperately in love with it, and that it's got something to do with that book thing. You'd share, because, well, that's what happens with coffee, isn't it?

Monday, October 13, 2014

opinions are like assholes, every body's got one

My dad always said, "Opinions are like assholes, every body's got one". May we realize opinions are easily formed in ideal circumstance and so seldom remain when all the tides have gone and changed.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A whole lot of people are talking about, opinioning (yes, just made that a verb) on, ruminating over the choice of one 28-year-old terminally ill woman, Brittany Maynard. For those of you who have been spared the painful arguments and many articles both criticizing and praising her the gist is this: she has a very aggressive, lethal brain cancer that will kill her regardless of her course of treatment. There are options available to her to attempt (that's an important word) to extend her life span, but those do not come sans side effects.

Some are saying euthanasia, others suicide. Some bravery, others cowardice. No one is walking in her shoes, some close -yes- but, I repeat, no one is walking in her shoes.

At 25, I cannot imagine, cannot even begin to fathom hearing that baby making should stop (because they were trying to conceive when she was diagnosed) because chemotherapy must start. I cannot imagine having the first few scans done and having a curable (though by a narrow margin) cancer progress into a lethal diagnosis.

Similarly, at 25, I couldn't imagine walking around the halls of a memory care unit with my father who resembles more of a skeleton than the man I grew up calling Dad. I couldn't imagine walking down a hall hoping he's still upright and moving instead of expecting his jolly salutations in the home he built. I couldn't imagine my heart dropping every time my phone rings and her name is on the screen, the nerves of saying hello and not knowing what news comes from the other end. I couldn't imagine wishing for death.

Some are saying he's fine, others hope for a cure. Some bravery, others annoyance. No one is walking in my shoes, some close -yes- but, I repeat, no one is walking in my shoes.

Doctors told us he's a ticking time bomb, he'd die within the first year after diagnosis. They offered this medication and that, peddled supplements and iPhone apps, saying we can try and keep this process from moving as fast. No promise of survival because fatal isn't kind to one's life. We tried this and that and all the in between and, he died, that healthy, fun, dad I knew. He died long ago when his work ethic, his humor, his larger than life presence disappeared. And now we're left with this shred of a man, a man that's a ticking time bomb who has ticked two years too long.

Had my dad -the healthy, vivacious man that he was- had the choice, he'd have spared us this suffering. He'd have passed knowing every one of us, telling us goodbye, holding our hands one at a time and looking us in the eye with an awareness of our last words. He'd have passed without sallow cheeks, sunken eyes, skeletal proportions. He'd have told me he loved me just one last time.

Instead we walk a long, ugly road. A road that offers him no peace, no solace, and no reward. A road that's offered us nightmares, that's stolen not just his memory but ours too, that's replaced memories of our healthy, fun-loving dad with the deepest experiences of honest suffering. A road that's stolen his humor, his dignity -every last shred, his passing surrounded by loved ones and replaced it with suffering, confusion, and final moments in a room full of strangers.

Fatal diagnoses. They're suffering in themselves. The choices, the conversations, the preparing one's self. It's terrifying, it's humbling, it's real life shit. So why, in our self-righteousness, must we add our opinions to the mix? Instead let us pray, for Brittany, for my dad. Let us pray for their peace, for their passing, for their families. Because, right now, the last thing a family such as these needs is another person telling them how to do hard things.

“Someone who thinks death is the scariest thing doesn't know a thing about life.” 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Romans 6&7

And because ya'll love it, here are my notes for you: 
And for chapter 7:

Questions to ponder: 
1. Paul remind us in Romans 8 that our lives are to be lived in accordance to something -here specifically he presents the flesh or the Spirit. According myself to the law is challenging, frustrating, BUT rewarding. How do you motivate yourself to remain in accordance with the law -especially in challenging circumstances? 

2. Romans 8:24 says "But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hope for what they already have?" I have spent many days thinking about hope and its source, its depth, its importance in faith AND in life. Where do you find your hope coming from -a spring within your faith or from the sureness that things will be better or something entirely different? 

3. Verse 35 emphasizes that we cannot be separated from His love. How does that embolden your faith and encourage you to work to better understand/live out your calling (remember Romans 1)?

Links, Links, and More Links 
How are we serving one another in our attentiveness and ability to notice?  (Nadine Would Say)

Slaveship is tricky and sticky and sometimes we're more stuck than we think. BUT THERE IS GOOD NEWS. (She Reads Truth)

It is so easy to be led by our emotions. But what if we don't, what if we choose to by led by Him? (Jolene Engle)

This is the sweetest illustration of grace I ever did see. (The Brenner Bunch

Also, the Milking Stool Ministry Facebook page. You're invited, simply request to join!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Birthday and Brown Eyes: An Ode to the Baby

Twelve years ago, the sweetest brown owl eyes graced this earth for the very first time. Brown eyes that spent eight weeks in six homes and I'm sure captured and broke the hearts of many in just small fragments of time. 

Eleven years and ten months ago, those brown eyes laid sight on us, a blue-eyed bunch, for the very first time. Brown eyes that said, hi, be mine. Brown eyes that said, I will gladly be yours. And so it was. Not without court hearings, without tears and worries, without beautiful moments of bonding that superseded blood. But, in the end, we were each others. 
From the moment those brown eyes and I had a chance to catch each other's attention, I was spun. Wrapped tightly and happily around his chubby little boy fingers, completely taken at every inch of his sweet soul. The power of love in the deepest parts of one's heart has not been out done since the moment those sweet brown eyes met mine. 

Just months old and teaching enormous lessons to his big sister through his unwavering affection for each of us. His heart -small in size, but giant in proportion- gave the purest of love that revealed parts of me I'd never known. Parts that could love someone else more than herself, that could care less about what other's thought, that didn't need him to be related by blood because it's nothing in the face fierce of love. 

Choices, the trajectory of my life, all changed in the wake of my love for him. A baby grown toddler grown boy almost teen, he's what brought my teenage dreams to their knees. Dreams of moving away seemed lame and foreign in light of his zesty life. Dreams of interesting travels and an important job seemed dull and devoid if at the price of his bond with me.

Sunday Chinese food dinners, dancing along with E-40, accidentally shooting a bird, he was all in, all thrilled, all looking for fun, confident in our desire to join him. Though my girlish tendencies aren't his middle-school, preteen gig, his brown eyes see Jason in heroic proportions. Proportions I might not have otherwise perceived. And then, I wonder what those eyes revealed in all those years they were looking up to me.
Happy Birthday dear brother. 
Thanks for teaching us all to be fun seekers, adventure eaters, 
And to happily inhabit spaces we'd never before seen. 
Your excitement about life is nothing short of inspiring
And your humor is my favorite kind.
Thank you for changing my heart and keeping me close to home. 
You're the best thing that happened to our family. 
Love you Midge. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

what i read: september edition

I've decided to get in on the Read Your Shelves action because, well, I have more books on our shelves that I haven't read than I have... Don't mind the three that are coming from Amazon in the next few days.

I keep telling myself that I'm going to stop buying and just get to reading, but, as I finish two or three, I find myself lusting after two or three more... Plus, it turns out there's a whole bunch of readers in the world and what good are you as a reader if you aren't recommending something. I take recommendations to heart, as in immediately put them in my Amazon cart.

We're trying to save, especially with a vacation on the books this month, so that said, READ. MY. SHELVES.

In college everyone said that if Jason was a dog he'd undoubtedly be a golden retriever. Anyone who's spent time with him would surely agree -myself at the top of that list. So, since I haven't spent enough time gushing over him the last month, I decided his "spirit animal" would go ahead and provide all GIF-tertainment (I just made that up, believe it or not) for this month's book reviews.
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by Susannah Cahalan 

"We are, in the end, a sum of our parts, and when the body fails, all the virtues we hold dear go with it."

This is hauntingly good. Hauntingly. Because it could be you or me or your best friend or your boyfriend. And seeing the way her family and her doctors fought for her was beautiful beyond words. Cahalan is a reporter for the New York Post when her month of madness sets on and disables her completely. Despite her inability to remember parts of the month, her reporting instincts kicked in upon her return to health and she began gathering doctor's notes, family and friends journals, videos, and the like to piece together the missing parts. And, so, a book. 

While the book deals with dry medical information, Cahalan injects such an energy into the facts that it feels personal, as though a friend is suffering while you look on. Initially I was nervous about reading because of our family's many scary experiences with my dad's brain and disease. However, I found myself inspired and encouraged by the way her family gathered around her, fought for her despite the doctor's apathy, and remained faithful to the woman she was prior to her illness. They remind us that family is more than just a genetic link, but a die-hard devotion. 

by Liane Moriarty 

"They would think she was savoring the taste (blueberries, cinnamon, cream-excellent), but she was actually savoring the whole morning, trying to catch it, pin it down, keep it safe before all those precious moments became yet another memory."

HONEST MOMENT: I struggled through the first 50 pages of this and was about to put it down when I realized that we were on our anniversary weekend away and that wasn't an option. So, push on. And then, by page 60 I'd fallen in love with the book and absolutely needed to know how things were going to turn out for Alice.

You'll spend the opening chapters working tirelessly to figure out what exactly is going on between the characters, only to realize that it's mimicking the mental state of Alice, the forgetter. After a quick fall at the gym and loss of a decade of memory, you realize that life as Alice knows it looks entirely different than she remembers. Slowly things begin to piece together. You move from a state of confusion to a place of honest interest and concern for Alice and her family (who she doesn't know she has).

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by R.J. Palacio 

"If every person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than is necessary - the world really would be a better place. And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every single one of you, the face of God."

Yes this is technically a "kid's" book. Yes it's so easy to read and the crayon writing on the cover sort of feels like it isn't going to offer anything to an adult. BUT. (And that's a big but.) It is rich. Beautifully, wonderfully rich. It's a reminder that every single one of us are fighting a hard battle, that we're all capable of making the choice to be kind or to be cruel. It's a reminder that we're more than our looks, our health, our bodies, but are, in fact, souls with hearts and feelings despite our age, gender, upbringing.

August, the main character, is a middle-school age boy with severe facial deformities that are not fixable with operation. There were moments I mourned for August and his family, and times that I was proud of their boldness. The book is written from the perspective of several different people, but all commentary revolves around August and their relation to him. I finished the novel with the hopes of bringing a little more kindness, a little more joy, and a lot less judgment to any and every table while realizing we all have our own scars, though they might not always be visible. In having scars, people will notice them, comment on them, and, while we might want to lash out, grace is far more beautiful than any damage free person.

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Women of the Word 
by Jen Wilkin

"Specifically, our pleasure increases in something when we learn its history, origin, and deeper nature. This is particularly relevant to Christians. We are called to be a people who delight ourselves in the Lord, who can say with conviction that "at your right hand are pleasures forever more" (Psalm 16:11)." 

I know that I already shamelessly plugged this last Friday in my Milking Stool Ministry post, BUT it's that good, that faith and earth and bible study changing. So, I shall talk bout it again. For the most part, I've been good at reading my bible and making time for Him. However, bible study was about finding comfort, about Him saying what I wanted to hear, about me getting a little boost -like my morning coffee- in my day.

Wilkin challenged every ounce of my thought process about bible study. She granted me peace in my heart and my attitude, but begged me to use my brain, to be smart, thoughtful, intentional in my relationship with Him. She says I dare you. Dare you to know Him, lean into Him, spend honest to goodness time with Him. And, I wasn't doing that, I was spending time making His words fit my agenda... Something all too easy to do with His words.

If you're going to buy a single book this month, this. is. it. 

And you guys know that I'm a huge fan of one extra for the road... Redefining (and doing so much justice to) the ice bucket challenge right here:
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Monday, October 6, 2014

say something. please for the sake of all that is holy, say something.

Like all the comments on the YouTube video, I thought "Say Something" was all about breaking up. That is, until I actually watched, and wept over the old couple living out the till death do us part vow. And I realized, it's such a big song, with such a huge statement, so much more than a break-up (though it works there too). 

I kept playing the song on my way to work and raising not only my voice to sing along off tune, but also my hands. Lifting them in a sort of messy, exhausted worship of Him. Lifting them like I don't do in church or anywhere else because I'm not in that easy part of faith right now. Turns out Christian bands don't have a monopoly on soul-shaking, faith-revealing lyrics.

My post about the accidental worship song A Great Big World & Christina Aguilera sing (there are many others who do it justice). Because, there's dark, heavy words in here and it jams up my ability to sew together a beautiful introduction, here it is. 

I encourage you to play the song while you read and then a million times thereafter. 
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Say something, I'm giving up on you. | I'll be the one if you want me to. 

God, do you hear me? Please hear me. Should I scream? Chant? Just never stop. Do I write it down? Immortalize it everywhere? I need you to hear me God. Deeply need you to hear me. I want to move, to understand, to hold out, but your silence is eerie, terrifying, making me feel forgotten. Did my prayers slip through the cracks God? 

Any where I would have followed you | Say something I'm giving up on you. 

You take care of things in the bible God. You part seas, you dry floods, you bless in barrenness. Where are you now, God? I've pleaded for your mercy, for your leading, for you to do things for me. Faith small as a mustard seed can move mountains. I don't need a mountain moved, just a little answer, just a date, a time, a limit. That's it God. All I need is to hear you, to know you're paying attention. Just a little answer. 

And I am feeling so small | It was over my head | I know nothing at all. 

It's not about me, is it? It's about you. All about you. I'm frustrated, sad, feeling like giving up, but that's all about me, not a lick about you. It's not about your immense strength, your undeterred patience, your willingness to carry me, to keep me keeping on, to say something just when I've grown despondent and desperate. You don't change because I do, you don't bend under the weight of my weariness, you don't fluctuate with my array of emotions. 

And I will stumble and fall | I'm still learning to love | Just starting to crawl. 

You've mastered this craft. This growing, learning, loving. You created it, you set the stage, provided the potential, molded the game. And I, I am hardly moving, just barely progressing, but you don't mind. You see those millimeters I've managed to pass in the last day and that's enough for you. You cherish the sheer exhaustion I have from the exertion despite a nearly invisible shift. I need your encouragement and cheering. Wave my banner high God. Help me to see it. 

Say something I'm giving up on you. | I'm sorry that I couldn't get to you. 
Any where I would have followed you | Say something I'm giving up on you. 

How is it that you aren't giving up on me? This disease, it shakes my faith in all the wrong ways. It makes me mad, so deeply and darkly mad at you. But you don't mind. You hear my threats and you see the desperation and you pat me on the back. In the midst of sobs, you rub my shuddering shoulders and sing over me. You hum -constant, comforting- as your warm presence floods all five of my senses. You know I'm not really, truly mad at you. No, I'm mad at me.

And I will swallow my pride | You're the one that I love | And I'm saying good-bye. 

I'm saying good-bye, not to you, but to me. To my fleshy dependence on my judgment, to my desire to know your timing, your purpose, to require knowledge without space for faith. I'm kissing my journey to be the best, the whole package, the quintessential woman good-bye, and welcoming a humble living out of my deep dependence and bottomless love for you. I'm admitting I don't know, exposing my wounds, and letting hope heal.

Say something I'm giving up on you. | I'm sorry that I couldn't get to you. 
Any where I would have followed you | Say something I'm giving up on you. 

God, say something, anything. Say you're here, say you're fixing things, say you've got this all under control. God, say it because I've given up on my efforts and answers. Say something, God, because you can, because you offer beginnings and you will bring ends, because you are. Say something. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Romans 5

The hot quote that I wish I could italicize and bold in my voice, but since I can't here:

"It's not about who deserves it or not, 
it's about what Christ did for me and my reflecting that out." 

I know that I didn't have my notes on here last week. Poo on me and my not making all the things happen, but grace. Oh my addiction to grace might be the most needy, intense thing out of all of us. But this week the notes are here along with my bible print-out pages that I've been using (and loving). 
And, that book, the beloved book from the beginning of my video, can be found here. Like I mentioned, I wasn't given the book for free or even asked to share it, but instead it's something I just happen to love that much. I promise it'll change the way you think about the bible and approach your study time -something I've desperately needed because I've been so apathetic about bible reading lately. 

Questions to ponder: 
1. Romans 6 asks and answers hard questions of our faith. Questions like: now that we have grace are we free to sin? After receiving the law (through our bible study) do we pursue His lead in our lives or are we running rampant knowing that His grace will cover for our mistakes? (This is a really humbling question to work through, or at least it was for my sinner's heart.) 

2. We all have a slaveship. Every. Single. One. Of. Us. BUT it's what that slaveship serves that makes our lives and tales different form one another. We can serve many things: greed, people, God, lust, etc. But only one thing can promise us a rich, everlasting reward. What slaveships do you need to break down (sounds so simply right?) in order to be more dedicated to serving Him? 

3. Romans 7 feels like a chapter of spiritual schizophrenia as our sin and the spirit wrestle with one another to achieve a place (or slaveship) in our lives. Do you feel that fight internally? How do you solve such a match of strong forces or do you just hope and pray that all things end up a tie? There are no ties in this fight, Jesus has already won, BUT there is our choice to serve either sin OR His spirit. 

The Verse of the Week
"Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, 
so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people."
Romans 5:18

Be encouraged by the fact that God provided that one person -His son- to bring each and every one of us the title of justified. The fortune that brings to our life is enormous and rich. The freedom it affords us is priceless. We are called by His grace. 

Links, Links, and More Links 
So. My book recommendation -Women of the Word- and it's study guide and the author's blog. You girls, it's all SUCH a wonderful resource for us. (Jen Wilkin)

Standards ya'll. Where do we set them? How do we hold them? When do we choose grace? (Brave Love Blog)


I decided to start a bible study board on Pinterest this week to hold all of the gold that is this constant pursuit of studying Him and His word and His people.

Finally, the Milking Stool Ministry Facebook page. You're invited, simply request to join and weigh in on the conversations going on there!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

don't even read this if you're hungry. don't even.

September is always such a good month. Jason's birthday and our anniversary ensures we spend the first half being celebratory in one way or another. Then Popsicle's birthday gives us more reasons to celebrate in the second half of the month. Meaning it's celebratory September for all the days of our lives.

Last month, I took on adventure for the sake of expanding my palette. And succeed I did. I drank beer instead of wine and got burgers instead of salad more times than I can count on my fingers. One burger was perfect for a hangover (though I did not have one) with a fried egg and bacon on top, another was a black bean patty as delicious as beef. I ordered the meat lovers pizza to share with Jason instead of my typical veggies with chicken choice. I asked my waiters what they loved on the menu, then ordered it -once getting a pork chop smothered in smokey, berry preserves. And I didn't have one meal that I didn't love (slash want to eat every last morsel including lick the plate).

I cooked a cheesy steak skillet that almost toppled Jason over in it's sheer melted-cheese-stringy goodness. I stuffed pablano peppers with mexican rice, black beans, and turkey to rock our plates and then my leftoers the following two days. I made scones before work one morning and remembered how much I love a good treat to go with my afternoon tea. I skipped out on afternoon coffees and, instead, have been enjoying tea both iced and hot. I bulked up my food-filled Pinterest boards with all the things I can't wait to make and, well, you should be just as excited about them.

Are your mouths watering yet? 

Yes, I'm so adventurous. If we're real, maybe not, but honestly, adventuring your dinner choices is the best thing in the land. But that was so last month. Meaning October brings with it a new focus.


I toyed with the idea of writing for The Nester's #31days series. And, well, I'm going to go ahead with it, but I'm not going to be writing online. Instead, I'm going to be doing my regular content here and my 31 Days focused on hope there in a notebook, or Evernote, or Word, or on napkins. This is a task that'll challenge me to be disciplined and graceful with myself.

When I write, I want it to come out perfect. And, well, that's never happened for anyone. So October will be spent writing, writing, writing on the 31 prompts I've written into my planner. Then, God willing, November will be spent doing the NaNoWriMo. Cross all the fingers and all the toes and throw pennies in a well wishing for me and prayers and all things good and great and kind.

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