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I wake up to a little voice at my bed. I open my eyes groggily, knowing it’s way too early for her to be awake. But awake she is. She’s blurry next to me, but I can tell she’s expectant and I reach for my glasses. Ah yes, there’s her just-awakened, little two-year-old self, her hair curly and crazy, all over the place. I leave my husband sleeping in bed and take her to use the potty. Realizing her flannel p.j’s are already soaked, I run the bath water, warm and soapy. I pour the water over her head, her hair straightening flat against her back, the water cascading over her little shoulders. I lather up her arms.

 

“That feel better, honey?” I ask her.

 

“Yes, thank you, Mama,” she chirps in her little morning voice.

 

My heart melts that one so small would be so sweetly thankful for a warm bath and clean skin.

 

We head downstairs with her big sister. Breakfast is definitely in order . . . and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. We eat banana muffins and I settle the girls with sippy cups and a weekend cartoon. I sneak back into bed and cuddle long with the hubby, slipping in and out of sleep just for a few more lazy minutes. And then it’s time to hit the day.

 

I clean a few leftover dishes from our cookout the night before. I chuckle over little conversations, smirk over bits of sarcasm, and smile over a movie where shared laughter and tears all rolled into one. It is good to share “hang out” days with friends.

 

My mind shifts and I mull over this post. A couple of days before, a friend had asked if I would be willing to write about my Ideal Day. Knowing it would be fun, but that it would also stretch me, I excitedly, but very hesitantly said yes. So, now I explore what an ideal day would even look like for me. I try to slip out of my usual routine . . . it takes more than a few minutes. A run with my husband by the light of the morning stars, surprises me. We don’t run currently. Actually, I realize, we haven’t jogged together since our honeymoon. I turn that over in my head.

 

The girls play dress-up. I Pinterest-surf. The hubby descends the stairs and we sit at the table and catch up on news and articles of interest over coffee. And then I go back to Pinterest. We laugh over our little ones. A few minutes later, one of them does something annoying and we share frustrated faces and then smile and shake our heads. I know that this is parenting: pure joy, wonder and gratitude, all mixed with the battles against our own selfishness and wishing them into little adults. Oh, how I want to savor them and rest longer in the joy and wonder.

 

We eat leftover BBQ and the best potato salad (ever!) for lunch. He runs out the door for a haircut, I fold loads of laundry and hang fresh, clean clothes on hangers.

 

My mind does a U-turn, back to the “Ideal Day” question. A drive zooms into view. The kind of drive I’ve seen in photographs. The top is down, our favorite music is playing, maybe just the two of us, maybe the kids sitting in the back seat, happily chatting amongst themselves, while we enjoy the scenery, or even do a little out-loud dreaming. Funny, I’m surprised by where I would want to drive.

 

He comes home, looking handsome, and we get ready for a date. His brother and new wife walk through the door and the girls are so excited by their “babysitters”. We slip out the door, knowing our little ones are in very good hands and we escape to reconnect and grab some good food.

 

He sips a beer. I sip a sangria. We talk food and sports, family and politics. It is good to have a conversation where the only interruption is the waiter asking if we need anything. The hubby’s been so busy lately. We’ve been coasting — somewhat content, but somewhat trapped in the routine of responsibility and our individual, co-existing worlds.

 

I turn the conversation toward the idea of this post. I ask him what his ideal day would look like after I sheepishly confess that, really, I’m a little scared to dream about mine. He nods his head, understanding the fear of dreaming. I also tell him how the things coming to mind are surprising me . . . how unconscious desires are bubbling over as I hesitantly give way to even thinking about them. I tell him how a jog under the stars sounds heavenly to me. With him. He’s just as surprised as I am.

 

We’re quiet a few minutes. I ask him what he’s thinking.

 

“I’m just surprised by what I’m finding would be included in my “ideal day” if I could create it. It would definitely include driving….”

 

I laughingly interrupt to tell him a drive was on my list too.

 

“Along the Pacific Coast Highway,” he says, finishing his sentence.

 

My eyes widen, realizing this was the road I’d seen in the picture. Black roads hugging rocky cliffs, white waves crashing alongside, and the Pacific Ocean as far as the eye can see.

 

“Really??” I squeal. “Me too!”

 

We both smile. Stunned. We have never, ever talked about this desire before. All the disconnectedness and busyness of routine and responsibility melt away in the moment that we realize that underneath the Bread-Winner and the Homemaker, behind the Daddy and the Mommy, despite 8 years of being Husband and Wife, we still have things to learn about one another. We beam, knowing that we have to make this happen and that there is an adventure on our horizon.

The Pacific Coast Highway – photo courtesy of The Travel Channel

 

As I try fall asleep that night, I dream of touring windy roads with my best friend, the salty air whizzing past and all around us. And then I shift, reversing the day in my head, realizing that, really, this day . . . this one day . . . had all the elements of an “ordinary” ideal day. Sweet moments with my little ones, a date with my hubby, a new realization about one another, visiting with family. The only thing was, I didn’t recognize it for what it truly was. When I walked into the family room at noon and pillows were strewn everywhere, Goldfish crumbs galore, a needless mess, I lost my temper to the tune of the vacuum cleaner. When the hubby had to work for a bit, I steamed and huffed and puffed, thick as a locomotive. When little ones pushed my buttons, I pushed theirs right back. And I realize: I can turn any day into a mini-version of hell if my attitude is in the wrong place.

 

But more importantly, if my heart is in the right place, any day is pretty much ideal already.

 

Any day that I’m enjoying the day’s gifts in all of their glory, even embracing all of their imperfections, while still hoping and dreaming about our future? That’s my idea of an ideal day.

 

So now? I’m excited to see where else our dreams will take us. I realize that if I peel back my frustrations over the everyday routine and the responsibilities of making ends meet and raising a young family, I really already have the ideal on a daily basis — if I only take the time to see it.

Click on the image to learn more about how to write about *YOUR* Ideal Day – and have a chance to win it (if it can be won)!


		
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The Seeing Grace

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Is it really Monday again? The weekend was heavenly. The busyness, and the unexpected quiet of my husband’s presence beside me. Not just him, physically by my side . . . but mentally. Emotionally. Busyness and soul-quietness, all at once.

But the afterglow of the weekend fades and Monday morning startlingly jars us into gritty family life. The little one shuts a door, not knowing that her big sister has her hand in between the door and the door frame. And the pressure on Firefly’s fingers blows her top and she screams and wails and I run to the door to move the little one’s body away from the door in order to release Firefly’s fingers from between the hinge. I cringe. I thought I’d heard a crack. Her knuckles are indented and already swollen.

We go ahead and try to ice it. She screams louder. She’s never liked ice. She never seems to realize that we’re trying to help her when the ice pack makes its appearance. Its presence always seems to add insult to injury and her cries make our ears ring and our patience wears thin as she fights and screams against us.

None of us handle it well. We all sit on the couch, Firefly on my lap, squirming and combative, and the fault lines in each one of us quake and flinch and there’s no taking it back. Family fault lines tremble in the stressful moments and make themselves more than evident.

She moves her fingers. The swelling goes down and she begins her lighted smiles again.

Jonathan leaves for work through the back door. I don’t say goodbye. I make the fault lines deeper.

But He comes in those moments. I begin to believe that when the family ruts arise to the surface, that their very existence made evident is simply pure grace. Sometimes a smaller, stressful moment shines light on deeper rifts . . . deeper things that need addressed. And He comes in the Monday morning earthquakes, shifting familial, underlying tectonic-like plates, and healing is brought to the light of everyday life. This is when we have a choice.

When plates are shifted, we can try to smooth over the cracks and fissures with resentment and bitterness . . . a sort of stagnant form of “moving on” with life . . . or we can leave the cracks and fissures exposed, a hands-held-open sort of giving up, and ask Him to bring His healing.

Jonathan calls a bit later to check on her. We talk. We apologize. And we realize that we have some work to do and some prayers to pray. And there is grace in the seeing. In the not being blind to our faults. By His grace, the deeper ruts will heal and a Monday morning quake will bring a life’s worth of healing.

He is good.

#562 that it was just the door frame’s crack I heard

#563 grace in the seeing, a humbling in the knowing

#564 quick apologies

#565 that when we ask for wisdom, He will give it (James 1:5)

#566 that parenting keeps us on our toes . . . and our knees

#567 unexpected unity

#568 answers to a prayer I’m not even sure I prayed

#569 our small group’s wonderful potlucks

#570 a fun stretching

#571 painting with a friend

#572 swinging from a tall tree and long, pink ropes

#573 three nights in a row, eating with friends!

#574 sand in the sandbox

#575 sweeping the back porch

#576 weeding the flowerbed

#577 that there is delight in our work

#578 baby smiles

#579 married love

#580 warm summer sun

#581 her dancing on stage for first time

#582 sweet, pink flowers in a vase

#583 sore shins from a long, mountainous walk 🙂

#584 Cherry-Limeades

#585 His undeserved Presence

Joining the gift-thankers

The Hard Thanks

Joining others in the hard thanks

 

It happened again last night. A group of people getting to know one another and the typical “couples” questions came up.

 

“Tell about yourself. Let’s get to know one another. How did all of you husbands and wives meet?”

 

We, my husband and I, don’t like telling our story. It’s gritty. It’s ugly, really. And our hearts still feel raw at times. I skim just the top off the story, and I’m still reeling a few hours later. It’s not that we mind the question. It’s hard to answer, but in order for anyone to truly know us as a couple, or even as individuals, the chapter must be told.

 

It’s not the question we mind.

 

It’s our story itself.

 

It started out all well and good. I was seventeen and I had all the butterflies and hopes and dreams over a certain brown-eyed, brown-haired, brilliant young man. We were best friends. And then . . .

 

we fell in love.

 

We planned on marrying from the start.

 

It felt like a fairy tale. Our families loved each other. Our families spent lots of time together.

 

And then.

 

It all fell apart. Our parents’ marriages disintegrated right before our eyes. Within two weeks of one another, both sets of parents were separated. Accusations flew. So did denials. But, relationships between parents became too close. It can no longer be denied.

 

We surveyed the devastation and thought it was all our fault. If it hadn’t been for the two of us, falling in love, our families would still be intact, we thought. We broke up. Again and again. Wondering how we could ever navigate a marriage in the midst of two families that were now feuding.

 

But we loved each other.

 

We couldn’t stay away.

 

God sent us counsel.

 

And in September, after Hurricane Ivan left our hometown flooded and our honeymoon destination shutdown, we woke up to a beautiful, blue-sky kind of wedding day. The kind of wedding day every girl dreams about. Ivan means, “God is Gracious.”

 

Yes.

 

We stood on the rocks of a Mountain church and pledged our vows to one another. Looking back, I realize we kept the vows before we ever even said them. I hope to live them for the rest of my life, by God’s grace and only His.

 

 

When the seemingly normal questions come, my hearts shrinks back in the wanting to hide. In the wanting for the simple beauty of just a regular love story. In simple family ties.

 

But God gave us something different. And I’m learning to accept that a little grit, a little lightning, make the most beautiful vessel-like glass.

 

Ah, yes. I must find the eucharisteo of the past  . . .

 

that I might live it in the present.

 

#327 the necklace with nine and twelve . . . my comfort in the not understanding

#328 that we had two years before each blow

#329 Jonathan’s roommate’s encouragement, when we thought we were crazy

#330 that we can understand each other’s wounds

#331 that our siblings have never blamed us

#332 for truth-speakers when we didn’t know what to believe

#333 that He helped us to hold onto one another through it all

#334 that we actually went through with it, we said the vows

#335 that we can be honest about the wishing our story was different

#336 that we recognize that it made us stronger

#337 that our story is not finished

#338 that God builds on chapters

#339 that I love him more than ever

#340 two beautiful baby girls

#341 that if I knew this would still be the result, I’d marry him all over again

Marriage Glory

We’ve only been married 6 years, Jonathan, and I. I am no expert in marriage by any stretch of the imagination. But when someone invites a discussion on marriage, I can’t help but get a bit giddy and want to join in, even though I’m a day late. 🙂

 

I’ve not a whole lot to say, no advice. I think that our marriage is probably a lot like many others and I’m learning the joy and awe in loving my marriage for what it is. I know that I probably spent the first five years letting our marriage sift through my hands . . . taking it for granted, wishing it was different. That we were different. I was so focused on wanting so much more that I was missing the fulfillment of what I had . . . and what I’ve had and have leaves me so very humbled.

 

The Other Groom has slowly . . . gently been opening my blind eyes to the beautiful nuances of my own romance. And the more He uncovers my eyes to the already-there-beauty in our own togetherness, the more I fall more in love with it (our romance) and the more  I fall in love with him.

 

Because as a young bride, I thought that the truly strong marriages were the ones where the couples seemed “in love” all the time. But the more He grows me, the more He shows this thankless heart what true beauty is, the more I learn to love our marriage’s imperfections and how they drive us to learn each other and to learn of Him. Sometimes, I just need to ask Him to show me the breath-taking bird’s-eye view of the mountainous ups and downs.

 

 

Maybe this Valentine’s Day, instead of aching for more “love” through our girlish, rose-colored glasses, we can learn to embrace our real-life love stories for all their full, intended beauty….

 

 

 

What is your love story???


For us, we have lived in a cozy lover’s nest, and also in large, nearly empty rooms (read: no furniture). We have lived on love, wondering if we’d have enough money to make the next rent check, and we have stood in awe at God’s abundant provision. We have basked in love’s bliss, long into the night, and spent weeks on end, with barely a word spoken between us. We’ve shed thankful tears while holding our newly swaddled daughters, and at times, bitterly resented being “tied down.” We’ve spent a whole “date” cycling through tears (those were mine, in case you were wondering), yelling, and silence, and spent movie nights cozily cuddled on the sofa. We’ve argued over how to discipline our children, and shared eye-twinkling glances over little, precocious heads. We’ve spent solitary nights on the couch, while the other huddled lonely under bed sheets. We’ve spent days apart, one at work, the other tending to our little ones, where we missed each other so badly, our hearts literally ached. Other times we’ve quietly looked forward to Monday’s arrival. I fold his laundry, he washes the dinner dishes. I bathe the kids, he makes them giggle until our sides ache. We’ve sat, scared and anxious, in doctors’ waiting rooms. We’ve hugged the breath out of each other.  We’ve nearly suffocated our love in our own apathy, and bravely drawn the other out until apathy’s shroud has melted away.

 

To me, this is the glory of marriage.

The daily wrestling of living the vows.

The reveling in the vows’ bounty.

I am honored.

 

 

 

Click here if you'd like to read more discussions on marriage....

 

 

More is More

I think I can count the number of flower bouquets from him on one hand.

 

Let’s see . . . one, two….

 

Yup, one hand.

 

My husband’s not much of a romantic in the familiar use of the word. Anything that feels the least bit contrived, like Valentine’s Day? He’d rather do without it, thank you. As a young bride, it took me awhile to see past this seeming bah-humbug way of his and into his heart.

 

But I can’t count the number of times this man of mine has surprised me with a long-desired CD, or maybe one of which I knew nothing, but promptly fell in love with. Two or three times a year, he’ll get that sheepish grin on his face and hand me a nearly-square plastic case — handpicked songs and lyrics that, unlike a spray of dried roses, still speak to me.

 

We’ve always been lovers of music, he and I.

 

We used to take piano lessons from the same music teacher back in our highschool days. Our teacher was a lady with short, silvery hair and large-rimmed glasses, with no children of her own. She was devoted. Once a month, her students would meet in classes according to advancement and she would teach music theory. They were extremely boring and nerve-wracking classes, as we’d have to critique one another’s performance of a recital piece. I suddenly began, however, to look forward to those once-a-month meetings as I got to know a particular brown-haired, brown-eyed boy who rocked at Grieg and Williams and Beethoven. Our teacher had two pianos in her darkly lit, red-carpeted basement and she would pair us off to work on scales, arpeggios and chords. I loved it when he and I got paired off. 🙂

 

Technique. Oh, how I hated it, but I was fairly good at all the little exercises because I could pretty much sight-read anything placed in front of me. I quickly learned that this guy who often sat next to me had a difficult time sight-reading but was a whiz at playing by ear.

 

 

It was several years before I told him that I used to purposefully stumble over my notes so that he wouldn’t feel embarrassed. 🙂 He looked at me like I was crazy.

 

So while, I could quickly read notes, my musical talent pretty much ended with the need for sheet music sitting right in front of my eyes. He on the other hand, wooed me at the piano, playing music that simply poured out of him. No sheet music, no rules, no lines. I could hear the sentiment. I could hear the dreams, the aspirations, the longings.

 

He won my heart while pouring his all over black and white.

 

 

He woos me like that in the everyday.

 

I think it’s partly my personality, and partly the fact that I grew up as the oldest of eight children, but I quickly learned that life goes much smoother if you just don’t rock the boat. Follow the black and white lines, follow the rules, don’t listen too much to your heart’s undertones and things will be much easier for everyone involved.

 

And this is probably mostly true in many relationships and aspects of life. Certainly, in a household of eight children, my parents didn’t need one more strong-willed, needy person to tend to. Growing up, I did a lot of dying to self . . . by keeping quiet. These were invaluable life-lessons for me.

 

But in the intimate relationship as a wife, I am learning that my “dying to self” sometimes looks exactly the opposite. This husband wants me to voice my needs? He wants me to open up to him? He wants more of me?

 

In the beautiful, intimate confines of marriage, the giving up, the laying down of me . . . is to give more me??? To not remain silent, but to knock? To ask? Receive? No holding back, no stumbling over who I am to supposedly make things easier for him?

 

This is a vulnerable place to be. This is scary. This is much more risky.

 

It is much easier to be low-maintenance.

 

And it is my downfall. Because my “gift” of being easy to live with and keeping a low-maintenance personality is laden with pride and the comfort of hiding behind invulnerable walls. It takes strength to come humbly and admit need or desires.

 

 

Whether he realizes it or not, he leads me to Him, just in the asking me to set aside all former pretense. All the safe practices of self-sufficiency.

 

They both call me.

 

Listen.

Come.

Pour out my heart.

No hiding behind safe black and white.

I dare.

Joining other women discussing marriage today at....

 

A Prayer for the Vows

***(Please excuse the lack of paragraphs. WordPress is bunching them all up together for some reason….)***
I wake up while stars are still in the sky. I groggily slip out from under the covers. I know that he is already awake and has been for quite some time. He has been working while the girls and I still slept. I walk to the kitchen and all I have to do is pour the coffee into my favorite morning mug. He’s already had a cup or two. Suddenly, I feel a little spoiled, but my heart bows in wonder. You see, when you marry your highschool sweetheart, you have the sometimes frustrating, but always honor-infused privilege of watching your spouse grow up before your very eyes. You grow up together, really. No matter what the age of your first introduction, husband and wife are witnesses to one another. Discipline is only one of the ways I’ve watched my husband grow over the years. I learn from my brown-eyed boy, become man. The one who says that I was taller than he was when we first met. I was 13. I don’t remember that…..
Even before we were married, our relationship had a lot of ups and downs. Some of the more difficult aspects of our relationship came from outside of us, but some were just . . . us. We were young. We were and are two different people.
Because in a marriage there is always one.
And always two.
The constant melding of two hearts, two lives, two distinct people with their own needs, dreams, desires, trying to become one. This is hard, life-long work. This unity does not automatically occur at the moment you vow your lives to one another. It doesn’t spontaneously happen simply because you make love to one another. It is in the continual melting of the metals of our cores – leaving the dross, leaving the safe and known – that we become something more pure and unwavering.
How I long to live this.
Late in the night, before his early morning work and before the coffee, I cuddle close and think on marriage vows. And I remember….
In the times of the worse,  the poorer, and the sickness, these are the times for which we made our vows. These are the times our words put on our flesh and His Life is breathed. Our vows were made . . . for this.
So, in the Better . . . give us grace to revel in love – love with abandon. Let us remember our past, rejoice in our present, and look toward the future with hope.
In the Worse . . . let us cling to one another, standing strong in the midst of life’s complexities. Save us from our own selfishness. Use the Worse to make us Better, that we may step out from marriage’s dark nights, more brilliant . . . more loving.
More one.



In the Richer . . . give us generous hands and hearts. Let us be wise with your gifts and thankful for your Provision. Let us also be poor in spirit, poor of selfish-wants, poor of desiring things that are not of You.
In the Poorer . . . let us be rich in love. Rich in joy and affirmation and affection. Love does not feed the hungry tummy, but it feeds the soul. It feeds the foundation of a marriage . . . a family.
In the Sickness . . . let us nurture and care for one another in our weakness. Be our True Healing – healing in the places we don’t even know are sick. Let us be joyful, for joyful hearts are good medicine.
In the Health . . . give us fallen-to-the-knees gratitude. Let us not take a day for granted, but let us tuck away every moment of catching up on each other’s days, every kiss, every wink, every finger, every crook-of-the-arm cuddle, every hand holding, every walk through the door after a hard day’s work.
In the Love and Cherish . . . let us love as You love. Let us be a channel straight from Your heart to the heart of the one we love. Your kind of love is the only love that withstands time and nourishes truly.
And in Death . . . let there be no regrets. Let us have lived lives full of a million “I Love You’s” in word and deed. You bring Life in Death . . . let our marriage speak when we no longer can….
Then there are the times of the in-between . . . neither better, nor worse – the times we just are. These are the times that feel most safe, but are in actuality, more suffocating. Give us strength to push past our apathy. Let us not be content with mere side-by-side, lukewarm living. Give us emboldened assertion to pursue each other and know each other. You are our Life.
You are our Life.

With our bodies, we Thee worship.

Maybe the Way to Rewrite Your Past, is to Simply Turn the Page

2011. Twen-ty-e-lev-en. I like the way it slips off the tongue, like a smooth wine suspends in the mouth. I think I’m going to like this year. At least, I have an unexplained, insistent hope for it.

 

After certain little girls had eyelashes to cheek, their little chests bobbing softly in the night, the hubby and I had one of those talks that will live on in the memory. One of those talks where the gate of honesty is unlatched and its hinges rotate to wide-open. We talked of dreams, some new, some that have been buried deep, assumed to be impossible. We talked of our life story and how we wish we could go back and rewrite so many of its chapters. We talked a lot about  “what-ifs”. What if this hadn’t happened, or what if we had made this decision, or what if so-and-so hadn’t done such-and-such, or what if the timing had been just a tad different, or what if, what if, what if?

 

I’m not really sure what to do with the what-ifs.

 

I don’t think you can stash them away in hopes that they’ll be forgotten. I think they’d always lurk at your door and barge in when least invited.

 

I think that maybe we have to look them straight in the face. Unblinkingly. And we either have to come to grips with the fact that things happened a certain way, or we have to ask God to redeem them through us. Or maybe both?

 

We don’t have the power to change the past, but we do have the power to change the present and the future. And even more than that, we know One who either wrote our past to lead up to a certain future, or He allowed our past and is in the process of working it out for good. Either way, I refuse to let the what-ifs paralyze us.

 

And while I struggle in understanding the ideas of free will verses God-ordained-destiny and wondering how they package up -nicely and neatly – I know that I can trust Him. As C.S. Lewis said about Aslan, God is not always safe. He does not always allow things to be as I would wish them to be. But, he is good. And I believe that with all my heart.

 

Maybe we need to stop dwelling on the what-ifs of the past, and begin thinking about the what-ifs of the present.

 

What if God is calling us to do this? What if God wants us to do that? What if He’s paving the way for this?

 

What if????

 

And our eyes open wide as the what-ifs of the past give way to new roads for our future.

 

So, as 2011 begins, I am more thankful than ever for my life. And I don’t just mean my living and breathing and moving body and mind. I mean that I am thankful for the story He is writing and that I am a part of it. And so are you, my friend.

 

So are you.

 

Fresh thanks….

#115 no fear in honesty with him or from him

#116 awakened dreams at the beginning of a new year

#117 while viewing Tangled at the theater, at the part where Rapunzel escapes the tower for the first time, hearing Firefly  frantically and loudly say , “But her mama said ‘no’!” =D

#118 a little girl asleep in their daddy’s arms

#119 laughing with girlfriends

#120 brand new, fluffy, blue and white pillows

#121 one last hurrah

#122  falling in love with where we are

#123 bath-crayon drawings

#124 Dove’s love for bears

#125 a rock garden of Christmas lights

#126 time alone

#127 that I miss seeing the red buckets

#128 lingering, simply to cuddle

#129 fresh motivation

#130 that there is One who knows our what-ifs, past and present

#131 that He closes doors and opens windows