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Maybe This is Restoration

It’s 6:00 on a Saturday morning and it is quiet in our house. The leaves have grown to their fullest on the tree that stands tall behind the white fence in our tiny back yard.

Brokaw barks when the wind blows.
Michael sleeps with the foot of the bed raised.
And I sit on the edge of the couch on the heating pad, macbook pro on my lap, tapping away at the keys. And I need another cup of coffee, as always.

Hello, everyone. I miss you.
My world is busy. Too busy, really.

I have only been to the gym once in more than a month. I feel my wobbly bits growing and I’m not happy about that.

Last weekend, Michael and I didn’t leave the house at all. My SUV sat parked in the driveway in the same exact spot from Friday morning until late Sunday night. We ordered a pizza and watched Steel Magnolias and went for a family walk and picked a magnolia. I had no idea how they open and close. That’s weird.

The weekend was glorious and way too short. Sunday, I sacrificed church for writing and the muse came and it was good but I missed church.

I read on Facebook this week that Glennon Doyle Melton (a.k.a. Momastery) said that writing is like peeing. It sounds weird, but I can totally relate. Well, I guess I just haven’t had to pee on the blog in a while. I’ve been spending a lot of time learning and preparing to write my book. It’s an exciting process but wow does it take a lot of time and energy!

I’m processing some big thoughts about being a wife and being a caregiver and how what I really feel like I am something in between, and I have a feeling when I figure it out, you’re going to love it, and I’m going to love it, but right now I’m just so tired and I feel empty and not like I have a lot to say.

I’ve enjoyed reading a lot lately, though. And here are some books I recommend:
Atlas Girl, by Emily Weirenga
Carry On, Warrior, by Glennon Doyle Melton
Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg
Work Happy, What Great Bosses Know, by Jill Geisler
Perhaps my reading list is a glimpse into my confused soul?

Recently, our 12-cup coffeemaker died and we didn’t replace it.
Last weekend, our blender died and this week I made smoothies in the KitchenAid mini-chopper.

Michael has a new home health aide and together they cleaned the downstairs, and I was equal-parts thankful and feeling guilty. The lawn needs mowing and my hair needs highlighting but I’m considering staying in denial on those two.

So much of what I thought life would look like by now isn’t so. I realize this post sounds more melancholy than I actually feel, which is an example of how much my writing still needs to grow. Early this year, Michael and I prayed for a year of restoration. We hold tight to 1 Peter 5:10: “The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

As I type this verse, my heart opens.
Maybe this confusion I’m feeling is actually restoration?
Maybe this career drive, this all-the-sudden desire to lean back in at work, to hope for the future there, is restoration.

In that time of deep grief after we first got married, when I almost lost myself, so much changed. In some ways, I’m still just a shell of the girl I was before. But in some ways, I’m back.

Maybe this is restoration.
Maybe restoration is exhausting and confusing.
Maybe restoration takes faith.
I pray I’ll know it when I see it, and that I won’t miss it.

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What if We Traded in Our Wishes For Dreams?

Jill Phillips wrote a song called “Steel Bars.”
I love it. Look it up.

Sometimes I feel so imprisoned inside my own limitations.
Surrounded by my sin.
My discontent.
Not holy discontent.
Sinful discontent.
The kind that causes you to look around and wish for anything and everything that is not your current reality.

I wish I had her arms.
I wish my husband could mow the lawn.
I wish we could afford to go to that concert.
I wish I didn’t have to work.
I wish I could sleep at night.
wish
wish
wish

At the end of each wish is a tastier, greener-grass, more-fulfilling, easier life.
The problem with all of those wishes, though?
They are lies.
Because if I had her arms, I’d want her arms.
And if my husband could mow the lawn, I’d wish he wouldn’t do something else.
And there are never enough concerts.
If I didn’t work, I’d wish I did.
Sleep is something I wish for when I’m exhausted, but something I wish away when I’m on a productive streak.

I’d rather dream than wish, anyway.
Because at least dreams are something I can work towards.
Dreams are possible.
Dreams are actionable.

We can take our dreams to our God and to our friends and to our husbands and mull them around. They can bend and stretch and sometimes die or become something else, but they’re moldable.

We can do something about dreams.

So today, I take my discontent and all my “why me’s” and my wishes to the cross.
Lay them down.
Trade those burden in.
For dreams.
And goals.
And possibility and grace and favor and ask God to partner with me in making change, instead of begging for a different life than the one He clearly has designed for me.

I’ll put one foot in front of the other.

Trust.
Hope.
Pray.
Run towards God with my questions and my fears and my passions and dreams.

A couple of years ago, I was producing a TV interview with a presidential candidate and his wife and there was something she said that stopped me in my tracks. She was talking about a very difficult circumstance they had to face in their life and she said that she was able to move forward when she stopped asking God “why,” and started asking Him “what?”

I stopped the timer on my iPhone, which I was using to time the interview. I opened up my notes app and typed that in there.

I still use that lesson. I knew when I couldn’t sleep last night because of my sinful discontent that I was back in the weeds of the “why.”

It took some crying and complaining and kicking and screaming, but now I’m back at the “what?”

Let’s skip the why step, y’all.
It’s no fun, anyway.
Let’s dream instead of wish.
Pray instead of complain.
Set goals instead of waste time.

I think the easiest thing to do and the hardest thing to do is to decide to love where we are right now.
It’s easiest because the only thing that needs to change is us.

It’s hard because everything inside of us is telling us that we shouldn’t have to/don’t want to/don’t have to/it’s not fair/it’s not our fault/etc.

In the wise words of The Fray “Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same.
The thing is right in font of us.
Let’s love that.

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Twenty Years Later

I was in high school on a summer mission trip when my life changed forever. In an instant I would forever become paralyzed. So it is weird this time of year when this date, June 16, pops up. 
For most anyone it’s just another day. For any of us that morning in 1994, we didn’t expect what would unfold. But everything stopped a moment when I landed face first on that mat. 
I’m forever grateful for the friends who got to work stabilizing me so I’d be safe until medics came. And for friends and family who stayed by my bed. For the church and school who chipped in when we needed help but really just got used to it all with me. For my surrogate family who helped with getting ready in the morning or in bed at night, meals, and errands. For my surprisingly normal life. 
I’m grateful for my wonderful wife who’s shared the burden and opened up in a way that’s given us opportunities to get to know so many new friends in our shoes. Who has helped me work through the most difficult days as we’ve traded who’s strong for the other. 
They say it’s important to commemorate these landmarks. June 16 will always be a day we remember because it redefined my life in so many ways. On this day I always remember the chorus of loved ones who have been faithful along the way. 
Thank you!
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Brace-Myself Thursday

You guys are familiar with #tbt, right?
Throwback Thursday, they call it.

I call it brace-myself-Thursday.
It happens on Instagram and Facebook. People you haven’t talked to in 20 years post pictures and tag you and when that little red flag comes up in the top right corner of the Facebook app on your phone, you die just a little, because you don’t know… is this good or bad?

Will I momentarily be sending a message begging for an untag? Or will I wish I was still that thin?

I couldn’t get a couple of pictures old high school friends posted last week off my mind.
I think when I look at these pictures, I’m barely recognizable.
But, I love them both.

Number one:

Okay, you guys.
Bear with me.
I believe this is 1994.
It appears we are having some sort of Valentine’s Day party.
This is the JV and Varsity cheerleaders of Indian River High School, sitting on the floor of our coach’s classroom.

I’m third from the left, in all my Freshman glory. In a vest and what I do believe may be a bodysuit. Unconfirmed that Chrischa, to my left (who I was undoubtedly sitting next to because she was wearing Pumas and was insanely cool and I looked up to her so much) is making that face because of my bodysuit.

A couple hours later, this #tbt picture surfaced:

This appears to be an Alpha banquet, where the new “Alpha Angels” are being initiated. If I remember correctly, this is actually Sophomore year. I’m on the end on the right, standing next to my best friend, Courtney.

Alpha was a community service club at school. We did nice things for people, and visited churches, and wore tinsel on our heads sometimes, and handed out candy at school. We were a club of the pretty, popular girls, with some normal girls sprinkled in there. We were tight.

I’ve looked back at these pictures several times over the last week, squinting to see the details. Thinking hard to remember that awkward girl with the dark hair.

I’m fascinated.
I think 20 years gets you just far enough away from that girl that it gives you eyes to see her from the outside.
Not from her perspective, but from the perspective of now.
I can’t stop squinting.

I had a great high school experience, thanks in part to the girls and the experiences in these two pictures. By the skin of my teeth, I made it into both of these two groups. I would spend those two years feeling like I didn’t quite belong, but thankful to be there. Like at any moment I would be publicly outed for not being as cool as everyone else.

But I got in, thank God. I never would have if I hadn’t laid it on the line. If I hadn’t tried out for cheering, and had to go out there and do my little routine a second time, because the scores were that tight.

If I hadn’t sat through those Alpha interviews in the cafeteria, totally stressing out that I was running out of floral things to wear that weren’t technically from the right stores, but were close.

I made it in because I was vulnerable enough to try.

A couple of years later, I got to be on the other side. Not saying I was ever the coolest girl in school. I definitely was not. But I ended up being head captain of the cheerleaders and Courtney was Alpha President, and I was her Veep, and like most Veeps, I did nothing.

And by then, it was all argyle and plaid, not florals. And we had plenty of the right clothes and didn’t fear being found out.

I miss high school.
But, I don’t miss the dark hair days of fear.
I miss the blonde days, when we were on top of the world.

The other thing these two pictures make me realize is how grateful I am that my mom pulled me aside on family vacation in between my Sophomore year and Junior year, and taught me how to rock a box of Clairol Hairpainting. Highlights equal confidence.

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On Deathless Love

I love Summer nights.

Summer in Hampton Roads is the best, because there is ALWAYS something going on.
This weekend it’s Harborfest, in Downtown Norfolk. I’ve been going to Harborfest since I was a little girl. There’s live music, vendors, all these cool ships come in from other places, fireworks, it’s fun.
Michael and I went last night to see the band, The Hand and the Heart.


We also saw his cousin, Caitlin, who was passing through town. The weather was perfect, the crowd wasn’t huge, and it was fun to be out and about on a Summer night.

After the concert and a couple of beers, we were feeling romantic, so we took a walk along the waterfront, and walked down to the Armed Forces Memorial. The memorial is made up of these iron-cast actual letters from soldiers and sailors at war, to people they love back home. The letters are from the Revolutionary War to the Gulf War. I’ve read that they’re going to add letters from the Iraq war and Afghanistan.

We walked around to the letters that were lit up in the night Summer sky. Michael read a few out loud. I read a couple out loud. It was moving. Yesterday was the 70th anniversary of D-Day, and I couldn’t stop thinking about those brave boys, storming the beach that day. They were so young. SO brave.

This letter from the Civil War stuck out to me.

The soldier writes, “Sarah, my love for you is deathless.”
At the bottom of the letter, you can see he died a week after he wrote this.
I bet she got this letter after he died.

“My love for you is deathless.”

Michael’s power wheels are somewhere getting fixed right now. We sent them off a few weeks ago. So, last night I had to push him around Harborfest. It wasn’t a big deal. I like to think of it as a bonus workout.

Recently, we’ve dealt with a couple of health things and last weekend I let my worrying get out of control and I thought about how, one day, he’s going to die.  Not anytime soon, y’all. Don’t freak out. But one day we’re all going to die.

You want to know how selfish my love is?
I don’t want him to ever die!

I feel bad about that. Because of our faith, we believe that Michael will be completely healed in Heaven. He will be whole. Walking! And yet, my selfish love would rather have him here with me, paralyzed. Suffering. Waking up and facing this every single day.

I think that’s kind of mean, and I usually cry if I think about it. I wonder if I’ll get to a point one day that my love will grow to wanting Heaven and wholeness for him. I don’t know.

For now, I’d rather stand behind him and hug his neck and kiss the top of his head and hug with the sides of our faces as we watch a band by the water on a Summer night.

That soldier wrote his love for his wife was “deathless,” and as I pushed my husband around last night, reading those letters, I couldn’t get that line out of my head.

I want to love like that.

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Life Audit: On Finding Margin in the Middle

I’m sitting at Cafe Moka with a large Sumatra pour over, with an hour to burn before CrossFit.
I worked a 17-hour day yesterday, so I didn’t go in today.

What I’ve learned over the last 12 hours: There is absolutely no replacement for sleeping in the dark. I’ve worked overnights for several years over my career. I have had awesome $40 memory foam eye masks, thick black curtains, ceiling fans, air purifiers that hum in the background, and two guys who snuggle up to me – one who frequently rubs my back, the other who snores really loudly, and even when you add all that up… you still don’t get what it feels like to sleep in the actual dark.

It’s amazing.

So, I feel pretty good!

I realized recently that I’m not doing enough of the things in my life that make me happy. Notice I said happy, not joyful.

As long as I have my priorities with God right, I can have joy.  Joy is great. But I prefer to be joyful AND happy. I guess I’m just a cheerleader like that.

Michael helped me make a list of the things that make me happy. They are:
1. Alone time
2. Shopping
3. Going to the beach
4. Writing/Reading
5. Traveling

He’s helped me to make a conscious effort to make room for those things in my life.  It makes such a difference on my happiness scale!

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Nags Head for the weekend and I was completely spoiled by my mom. That was enough to last for a couple of weeks.

This week, I was stressing myself out, so I knew I had to take action.
Tuesday, I spent a little alone time at Starbucks. I caught up on bills. I listened to a podcast.
Then, I found out Michael had a quadriplegic mishap so I came home to a mess. BUT, because I was relaxed and happy, I was able to clean everything up and move on without making a scene. Win!

Wednesday, after work, I went to the beach for a few hours. It was awesome. I found out that you don’t have to pay to park at the meters before 10am. Win! I think I’ve been having a bit of a “what in the world am I doing with my life?” crisis. It’s not a quarter-life crisis, because I’m too young for that. It’s not a mid-life crisis, because I’m too young for that. I think it’s just a burnout crisis. Anyway. The beach helps.

Thursday was the 17-hour day, but it was a good day.

And now here I am at Moka.
This is good.

What I’m learning about myself is that I need margin in my life! I’ve read this a million times in leadership books, and I know about the sabbath and all that. Duh. I think what I’ve been doing wrong is I’ve been powering and pushing through the week and doing all of my rest on the weekend. It seems like budgeting a little bit of margin here and there within the week is what I need.

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I’ve Counted Down To This

We have been SO BUSY lately. Good busy. The kind of busy that includes family in town, going out of town to visit family, planting flowers, going to the beach, working, working, working, cooking, cleaning, and vacuuming out vehicles.

It’s all good stuff.
But there’s a lot of it.

One of my favorite things about the way Michael and I match up is that we both need time at home, to just chill. It’s how we reconnect with each other, and how we both recharge.

That’s exactly what we are doing today, and I’m salivating over the thought of doing nothing, all day long.

Know what I mean?

Nowhere to go.
Nothing or no one to take anywhere.
Nothing to buy.
Or wash.
Or do.

It’s an amazing feeling. It’s Saturdays like this I know my friends who have kids, miss.
The 6:00am-all-you-hear-is-the-ceiling-fan-spinning.

Aaaahhh.

I finally cleaned that ceiling fan, by the way.

Cheers, you guys. I miss connecting with you all. I’m praying once I have a second to sit still, I can be filled up, and have something worthwhile to say again.

For now, I will do nothing.
And I’m not sorry about that.
I kind of love it.

Wishing you a day of nothing, too.

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On Blooming

The thought of blooming is all over the place, if you read Christian women’s stuff.
I get it.
It’s the symbolism, right?

Something is planted.
Watered.
Then, after a time, it comes to life.

It’s a beautiful picture, really.
The imagery of it all.

The flowers are really pretty.
They’re colorful, and they smell nice and they make people happy.

None of the “bloom” stuff comes with pictures of dirt, though, does it?
But those beautiful flowers, before they get to be beautiful flowers, they’re just measly little seeds, buried in a bunch of dirt.

I feel like that, sometimes.
Like just a little seed.
Under the weight of a bunch of dirt.
I want to grow.
I have great desires to be tall and full of life and beautiful.
But I can hardly breathe under this dirt.

Do you ever feel that way?

I was thinking about blooming when I was writing this morning at Starbucks. I was thinking about how often times, I look around and I am so quick to be jealous.

I’ll compare my seed-in-the-dirt to someone else’s fully bloomed flowers. I think that’s more beautiful than what I have.

I want a baby to take to a strawberry patch.
I want a house with a wrap-around porch.
I want to be an author and a speaker and a professional blog-conference-goer.

But, I’ll spend another Mother’s day getting a card from Brokaw.
In my condo.
And I’ll work overnights in a TV newsroom.

It’s okay, though. Because these dreams inside of me are seeds. They are being watered, and one day, they will bloom! There will be new life. New beauty. A sweet aroma.

I can feel it coming.
In January, as we looked ahead to 2014, Michael and I decided our theme for the year would be “Restoration.”

“The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
-1 Peter 5:10

It’s happening.
The restoration.
I have a renewed desire to be alone with my God, to lean into what He’s dreaming for my life.
To trust that He loves me just like He says he does.

Almost every Sunday in our church, at least one song has to do with the resurrection. New life. I love that.

I’ll bloom one of these days.
For now, I’ll drink the water and just get ready for it.

And you know what? I think that’s a beautiful thing.

So friends, if you’re here in the dirt with me, give yourself a little grace. We’ll bloom. When it’s time.

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Cooking is a Big Deal

For the last two weeks, I have not been cooking. I haven’t made any meal plans. I haven’t prepped anything. This is crazy to me, because part of the rhythm of my life for the past few years has been planning meals, chopping vegetables, cooking in batches, and portioning everything out into little plastic containers for myself and my husband.

But, y’all. I am now a weekend-only cook. It’s crazy.

I love to cook. When we first got married, I dove right into learning how to bake and cook, and I loved it. I was making bread left and right. I liked to bake muffins on Saturday morning. Sundays, I would pre-chop the veggies we were going to use for the week. It was newlywed bliss.

Life got a little busier, and all of the baking made us a little bigger, so I adjusted.

I subscribed to a couple of meal-planning services like Fresh20 and eMeals, and it was fun buying the groceries and doing the busy work, without having to come up with dishes and sides.

Somewhere along the way, it stopped being really fun and started being a chore. It wasn’t that I didn’t love it, it was just that every waking moment I was in my house I was either taking care of someone or some plant or animal, chopping or cooking food, or cleaning the house. I lost my groove.

I fell asleep thinking about whether I thawed the meat I’d need when I woke up, so that I could double-cook on a Tuesday.

It was crazy.

Well.
It’s better now.
And this is even crazier: I am not cooking!
(insert control freak panic attack here)
Michael and his home health aide are. And they are doing an amazing job.

At first, I didn’t like the idea. I cooked up some crazy notion in my head that if they did it, that meant that I was a bad wife. Wives are supposed to cook for their husbands, you know. I drummed up thoughts that I was putting off my responsibilities or being lazy. Michael told me that was ridiculous.

He told me he enjoys it. And he does it with a sweet servant’s heart. And it’s so cute how proud he is of his dishes. I’m so grateful he has a willing aide who enjoys this kind of work.

The first week, I was a nervous wreck, trying to control everything from the internal temperature of chicken, to which container it was in. Insanity. I’m weird.

But last week, I gave in, gave up control, and just ate. And I ate good.

Taste and see that the Lord is good, y’all! He just provided for me out of nowhere. I feel blessed and loved and full and grateful. Because planning, prepping and cooking every single meal a family eats (even when it’s just a family of two people) is no small deal. It’s a big deal. It’s a lot of work and it takes a lot of time.

I wonder what I’ll be buying at the grocery store this week. I’m excited.

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Only If You Let It: Thoughts on Life After Easter

Last Sunday was Easter. So this girl, who usually wears jeans to church, put on a dress.

My entire outfit was from StitchFix. I felt feminine and pretty and Springy and it was glorious.

We sang songs about Jesus raising from the dead, and I was reminded that THAT is what my life is built on, and THAT changes everything and dreams and hopes and redemption ARE possible because of THAT.

Enter the resurrected life, right?

Because the Friday and Saturday before Sunday were not great.

Sunday: I made soup and we snuggled and rested and I did not mow the jungle that is the back yard.
Monday: I left work ON TIME for pretty much the first time, ever and I went to the gym. This resulted in me not being able to move normally for the next four days, but it was a good sore and I was happy to have it.

I started reading Stephen King’s book, On Writing, and discover I have things in common with Stephen King. Never would have guessed it but hey, I love active verbs, so that’s that.

Tuesday: Didn’t go as I planned.
Wednesday: Didn’t go as I planned.
Thursday: Didn’t go as I planned.

Friday: I left work later than I wanted, but I spent the afternoon with my dad. You guys remember, my dad almost died a couple of months ago, so the fact that we were sitting outside, and he was showing me how to till up a garden, is kind of a big deal. Three months in the hospital changes your perspective, but only if you let it.

So, my point is this:
This resurrected life, it’s still not perfect.

We’re going to have plans that don’t pan out.
We’re going to lose the battle to do the good and right thing, sometimes.
But Jesus rose from the dead, y’all! And that changes everything.
So, when we get down or swallowed up… it’s okay… because He beat all that, and we get to, too.

But, much like perspective changes your outlook only if you let it, hope can change you, but only if you let it.