Keeping At It

Friday, May 22, 2020

May 18, 2019

In the last year or so I've come across several different challenges to give advice to your younger self. The question has been posed in reference to looking at where you are now and speaking wise words to the self who fretted over your future or who frittered your time away. The motive is learning from the years behind you to use today to get yourself to a tomorrow without regret. On one occasion, I came across this idea in the form of a FB post where a young woman I know coming up on her 25th birthday and sought wisdom for people who had recently neared the end of that decade of their life.

These questions give me pause and opportunity to examine what has been my 20s. Hard to believe it, but I will be 30 in the fall. It's an odd realization in that mostly I still feel 19. I think that's the age I'll always be on the inside. Grown and yet on the cusp of what's next. Responsible to make decisions that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Also hard to believe in that the last 10 years have been so full and so much has happened that it seems like it surely should have taken MORE than 10 years to hold it all.

When I'm faced with these questions, as I most recently was yesterday, I realize that by the grace of God my answer looks the same as it does when I face a new calendar year or the beginning of another personal trip around the sun. 

I mentioned yesterday that my word for 2020 is KEEP. That word came to me as I ended 2019 seven months into a new thing with only a few months to go before taking on another huge, life changing thing. Namely, a husband and a son respectively. 2019 was a year of receiving. And I knew that 2020 was going to be all kinds of different with changes happening on every front. I can't be alone in realizing that that could potentially be a recipe for A LOT of overwhelm. And so as I prepared for the year ahead, I asked God to keep me and I resolved to be kept even as I sought to diligently go about keeping of my own. 

It was important to me to carefully and purposefully keep up my relationships that began long before I even knew Jordan's name. It was important to me to see to it that I keep learning and growing in being Jordan's wife. It was important to me to keep house and to dedicate myself to it's total well being. It was important to me to keep up my personal walk with the Lord in all its disciplines. It was important to me to keep the parts of me that don't change like reading and writing and making walks a priority. It was important to me to keep learning and growing as a faithful mother to the child I hadn't held in my arms yet. 

While change was on the horizon and my hands had been filled with new thing, nothing had really changed. I was still me. I was still believer, woman, daughter, sister, friend. Now wife and mother were added to the list. The faithfulness that the 9 years before had worked out in me would still be called for and would be called upon as I moved into 2020. 

And so...that is my advice. To them and to myself and to anyone who asks. 

When I look ahead, I look ahead with hope and gratefulness. My hope remains in God. I am grateful to Him for what He has taught me and where He has brought me over the course of the last 10 years. When I look back, I see a decade that I wouldn't change. Those days have added up to a life I am so eager to continue. Even when it was hard. Even when I didn't think I had it in me to keep at it, I did. And I am. And I recognize that God and His grace is what I have to credit for that. 

And so, as this decade gives way to the next and as this year picks up where the last one left off, I want to be about the work of keeping at it. 

Through His Son. By His grace. For His glory. 

One day, one year, one decade at a time. 

And I believe that when I look back, I'll be able to say once again...It  all added up to a life I am quite pleased with. A life whose habits and goals I am eager and grateful to keep. Not by my might, but by His power. 

On the Telephone

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Feb (6 or 10)  2020, My Mom's first morning staying with us! <3 br="">

We're not sitting down to coffee these days. We're texting and zooming and talking on the telephone. Recently, my sister and I had one of those plop down on the bed or pull up a bar stool at the kitchen counter chats. We rambled this way and that until she had to go to bed. If it wasn't for her...I'm not sure I'd still be blogging even though I want to and I'm glad I did put so much effort into it for so long. She brought it up, like she does every so often. And so here I am. There's a draft hanging out that would be pretty fitting...but I'm not in the mood to clean up an old piece of decent writing. Here's a coffee chat style post befitting the days we're living.

If I laced up my shoes and popped my son into the stroller and called you on the's how it'd go.

I'd tell you about what God has been teaching me because that's always a good place to start and a catalyst to solid conversation. These days it looks like lessons on speaking up with clarity which seems to be the number one lesson I've been learning over the course of the last year and a half or so. It's huge. Especially when you're navigating those early days of marriage and trying your best to stay as close as you reasonably can with the rest of your family. It also looks like lessons in patience which has been the theme for the last year. First I had to be patient with my increasingly pregnant self and for the last 15 weeks, I've had to be increasingly patient with the little boy who made me a Mom.  He's been in the middle of another developmental leap (the book Wonder Weeks has been SO helpful as I navigate his fussy periods) which has everything out of whack and has started doing this ear splitting squeak that is nothing like the cries and squeals and coos that have come before this. And it looks like lessons on discernment which has come up again and again and again - in my study of James, in podcasts, and in a free book I forgot I had downloaded.

I'd tell you about our one year anniversary that just happened on Monday. It's been an amazing year. We've moved 2 times. We traveled for 5 weeks. We've been through the process of job interviews, me leaving my job at the library, losing a job, interviewing all over again, preparing for another job that will take us to anther town, navigating pregnancy and the birth of our son, starting a rhythm of family devotions, learning to live together, parenting classes, birth classes, establishing ourselves as a family in our church, and that's really only the beginning. On Monday, Jordan had a day of surprises for me. It looked like omlettes with homefries, cribbage, a few rounds of racing videogames, a leisurely walk, a made to order steak dinner along with steak fries and asparagus that he shopped for and made eaten under the heater on the patio, and the best cheesecake ever made by my sister. My Mom kept Elias during the dinner portion of the day and it was a fabulous way to end such a monumental day. I didn't think I'd see a first anniversary let alone with a child of my own in hand. And while he hoped and prayed for a wife, his prayers of gratefulness show me that he didn't exactly expect it all either. Here we are. Thanking God for His gifts and seeking grace to steward each other and our son well.

I'd tell you about my word for the year, which is KEEP , by the way. And about how I've enjoyed tracking it all in the captions on the pictures I post on FB and IG, which is as close to blogging as I get. I love taking time during nursing sessions to get SOME words out. Along with all that's new, there's a lot that is familiar. Things like birthdays and holidays and my personal walk with God and the relationships with family and friends I've had long before I even knew Jordan's name. Most recently, was Mother's Day and my sister's 22nd birthday. Both of which were very very special to me.

I'd tell you about why that is...After a mix up with our cars in which Jordan accidentally drove my car and BOTH the carseats to work, my sister graciously brought over the cake pans and cooling racks and a few ingredients I was planning to use to make her cake at their house. And then proceeded to stay and visit until after 11pm that night while I baked and frosted her cake....and then she and my brother came by and picked up the cake so that I didn't have to worry about it toppling over in the car when I drove over there by myself the next day. That evening, we feasted on chicken nuggets, smashed potatoes, and Jay juice. Then she opened her presents (with everything going on...mine is yet to arrive :/) and eventually we moved onto a seriously yummy cake. This year was a chocolate cake with Costco's white chocolate mousse filling, a butter cream frosting, and a chocolate drizzle. One of my favorites to date! It got late and Jordan agreed to stay the night. And so her birthday lingered on till the next morning when we made chocolate chip pancakes and bacon to round out the celebration.

Mother's Day was more of the same...We first watched the church service before heading to the kitchen to cook up chili cheeseburgers, onion rings, and a broccoli salad. I'd made sweet tea and my oldest youngest brother made the buns from scratch. And it was so wonderful to be together in our old familiar places and our new ones as I kept having to sit down to feed the baby. I received so many gifts - which was such a surprise! The first of which was my son sleeping 7 hours straight for the first time ever. There were 2 handdrawn pictures for his room drawn and framed by my sister, a first year frame from my brother, a bookmark and print of my son's foot tag-teamed by all, and a round up of gifts from It's A Southern Thing from my Mom (Mamma Says Game, A Reckon Ball, and a towel that has things she most definitely said to me printed on it). After pictures under the blossoming apple tree (to commemorate the closest thing to engagement pictures my Mom took of us last year), 5pm came all to soon and we had to head out before the dessert of strawberry shortcakes we had planned.

I'd also have to tell you about the reminders God has given me of how much I depend on His grace to be who I am. It shows up in His Word often and yet...real life provides practical reminders as well. I don't have to, but I'll give you a snapshot into the one that fittingly came on Mother's Day. Everything was lovely and beautiful and special and going so well. Out of nowhere, it all came to a halt with me losing my cool. We were getting food on the table and sitting down to eat. My son had reached the end of his happy to be held by someone else spell. He was getting tired and hungry and everything happened all at once. I sat down to feed him knowing the plate of food in front of me was going to have to wait and that the sunny spot I had chosen was likely going to be too much for him under the nursing cover. He starts wailing, my Mom offers helpful pointers, and I cannot get him to calm down or start eating for the life of me. Lies start flying through my mind rehearsing my frustration and knowing that I've done the wrong thing by choosing the seat that I did and my inability to handle things. I fly up out of my seat trying to get my chair scooted out enough while holding my son and said who knows what as I sought a quiet place to try to distract him from his distress long enough to get him to start eating. Needless to say I had to calm down. I had to confess my very uncalled for behavior and words - all in the middle of the most beautiful celebration of my shared motherhood with my Mom who has always been so faithful in mothering me even now as I seek to mother my own child. That outburst is a black spot in a way and yet...It is a stark reminder of my great need for God's strength and wisdom and peace.

I can be tempted to think I've got it all together and my life's work has been to prove that I do. In reality...I've got a heart full of sin and a mind swimming with lies. By God's grace, my heart has been changed and those lies give way to His truth. Day by day. Moment by moment. Now, I have a tiny little boy to nudge me toward God and to my standing before Him and to the grace He supplies. And that, is a win. Especially when that grace and that nudge come by way of confessing sin, seeking forgiveness, and pressing on in faith with His truth on my lips and in my mind.

Before we hang up, I'd ask you how things are with you. I'd sit and listen and carefully craft my version of your words back to you to make sure I understood what you said. I'd gather prayer points. And I'd try my best to offer encouragement if I could find words that seemed fitting. And I'd do my best to bring it back around to what seemed most pressing on your heart when things inevitably rabbit trailed away.

So...How are things with you?

Catch Up: SC Times Three

Monday, December 09, 2019

Sprinkled throughout the posts I bring your way, is going to be an effort to share the happenings of the time this space sat dormant. I've got a stack of index cards with things all planned out, a year's worth of pictures, and the words to tell the tales. 

First up, are the three trips I took to SC. There was the trip I took in August of 2018 which was planned at the last possible minute because my Dad had been on me allllll summer to come and make use of his pool before he closed it up for the season even though he knew I had been planning a trip that same November for my brother's birthday. The price and timing were right and one last bit of warmth before a North Idaho winter set in sounded pretty fantastic, so I packed my bags and went. I timed that trip so that I could celebrate my Dad's birthday with him as well. We traveled to Greenville and Asheville and ate cake and cooked out and met up with my Mom's side of the family. I accidentally ran into Robyn after countless tries to see each other when I've been in the area. I got to see the place were Zelda Fitzgerald died and the window where Scott looked out his window on the guests coming and going as he worked on his latest scenes.

Then, came THE trip I had been looking forward to all year (the pictures from this trip, are mostly on my phone...I need to figure out how to add them to this post). Summer was long gone, fall had set in, and I was about to celebrate my brother's birthday with him for the first time in 9 years. We were both beside ourselves. Little did we know that trip was marked by the beginning of a brand new relationship that would end up changing the course of well...everything. He says he totally called it. I was quite clueless and wondered when God was going to show me (or the guy) that it was time to walk away. I finally got to meet Renee and we sat in a little DD sipping hot drinks and chatting until the last possible minute about all that God was up to and totally enjoying sitting across the table without miles and keyboards in between us!

Then, following that relationship continuing and progressing to the point of getting engaged and planning a spring wedding, my sister and I made what we dubbed our "last hoorah trip" in April. That trip was marked by the three of us (my brother, sister, and I) driving out to Charleston to see the sights and the faces of ALLLLL the cousins we have down there.

It's crazy to me that I can sum up those momentous occasions with three paragraphs and a handful of pictures. I guess that's how life goes. The memories and fondness live on. Those three trips, each at the end of one season and beginning of another (literally and figuratively) will stand as major mile markers and times I'm increasingly grateful for. Every time I say my see you laters on the East Coast, there are two questions on everyone's mind, namely, "When will she be back?" and "Will she ever be back for good?"

Each time my visit begins winding down, I go over them again and again. I wipe the tears from my eyes as I've done for 24 years this day after Christmas and I shrug my shoulders and take a deep breath and rest in the fact that while I really don't know, He does. I'm no closer to knowing than I was before. A number of things have kept me on the West Coast all these years and behind every one of those things is the God who establishes the steps of my visits and my residence.

I say see you later trusting that there will be a later and that my home for now is granted me by Him. I text and call and flip through the pictures and make the food and the tea and remember. I thank Him for all the love and memories the East Coast holds and work hard to believe that I'll always be right where He means for me to be.

On Advent, Writing, and Life Right Now

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Lisbon, Portugal // May 28, 2019

I'm sitting cross legged on the floor because it's good for Baby listening to a Christmas Jazz playlist sipping an iced brown sugar latte surrounded by my planner and the index cards I filled with editorial notes for this space back in September with a heart encouraged by today's Advent devotions, an early morning drive with my sister, and the December temperatures that have it RAINING today. If the length of that sentence should tell you something, it's that this post is going to be ALL OVER THE PLACE. 

Grab a drink. Settle in. And let's have a coffee date. K? 

This Advent, I've got four things going. And not surprisingly, every day's reading ties together. I'm kind of amazed because they're not only tying together, they're reinforcing what God has been teaching me lately. While what I really want to do is come here each day to type up an Advent devotional of my own that sums up what I've been learning, I'll settle for taking it down in my journal and continuing to come here when I can. 

I will share with you what I'm doing and what the last three days have held...I begin each morning with the day's literature themed devotion from Biola University that you can find HERE. Then, I click over to my email where I have been receiving the Gentle Leading Advent guide from Abbey that you can sign up for HERE. After that, I go through my daily Bible reading plan (currently, I'm going through 1 Samuel and a Psalm). On Sundays, I finish up by opening up the pdf The Village Church made available and scrolling down to the page that corresponds to that week of Advent which you can find HERE

On Monday, I found myself steeped in HOPE and the light of the Gospel which is Christ Himself that shines out into the darkness of this world. On Tuesday, I was reminded that God has prepared a HOME for us and that we are on our way there. Today, I was reminded of the PATTERN OF FAITH and that while we wait, there are promises of God that require no waiting. Along the way, I listened to a sermon my Mom shared and have continued working my way through Piper's series on the God who strengthens His people. Let's just say...There is no shortage of truth. God's Word goes out and gets passed around and as it does, He works in our hearts to make them sure and firm and GLAD IN HIM. 

Even my prayers have changed lately. As I pray, I don't just pray for peace or faith or joy or help. I pray that God would draw those on my heart and mind to Himself and satisfy them with Himself as He teaches them to know Him and to be known by Him. Somehow...I expected and prayed for His blessing over them without longing for them to walk with Him and was disappointed by their struggles. My struggle to trust God makes so much sense and I'm watching it give way as I seek His will in His way ACCORDING to His Word. I'm not just praying that He would do them good, but rather, that He Himself would BE their good. 

As far as writing goes, I'm back to that place where the only writing I seem to be doing is in my journal. I've found myself there a lot over the years and then slowly but surely I get drawn back to the pages elsewhere. I still have dreams of being published and passing my words around and maybe even making some money. There is no "good" time or "right" time, you just have to sit in the chair and write and keep at it. Lately, I think about the women before me who have carved out space for their craft. They've silenced every excuse and made room. And something came of it all. They have books and articles and interviews and thankful people to their names. Some of them, like Mary Higgins Clark who just released another fantastic suspense novel are 91 and STILL AT IT. Their stories encourage me. They wrote in private. They were rejected. They figured it out and kept writing and found a way to get their words out there and that was the real work, after that, they just had to keep doing what they'd been doing all along and maintain willingness to share it. 

That's mainly what I had tumbling around my mind this morning as I shuffled around our apartment. I think I'll go ahead and hit publish, hoping this makes some kind of sense.

What's happening in your life right now?

What has God been using to encourage your soul? 

Looking to Him: One Year At A Time

Thursday, November 07, 2019

I've been meaning to come here for way too long. Some of you know what the year has held. You've watched on IG and FB and we've shared heart to hearts. You've prayed and waited and celebrated right along with me. That's honestly going to be most of you...And I couldn't be more grateful to all of you! 

It's hard to believe all that has happened. The other day as we were planning the holidays my Mom said something about the possibility of my sister being married with a baby on the way by this time next year and we all gave her a guffaw. But...The last year has shown me exactly what God can do. 

I woke up this morning and read a post that Natalie shared. Years ago, I read along diligently making up one of the 700,000 + visitors to her blog as she wrote about life in New York City with her husband and the Baby they waited so long for. I remember when they left the City and then when she stopped writing and when she closed her blog down all together. I didn't know what was up and I honestly didn't suspect anything, least of all, that she had been miserable for a long long time. Reading the words she gave someone else permission to write about her and then took the time to share gave me pause....It made me grieve for her and consider what writing and blogging have meant and looked like in my own life all these years. It made me think about the cost of what we women give to those in our care and what happens when the life that we knew comes to an end for one reason or another. 

The seasons in a woman's life are MANY. While they appear to come and go effortlessly, there is much going on behind the scenes. Much that only other women can fully comprehend. I've finished quite a few of them and written about each one here time and time again. You've watched and listened and wondered and prayed and granted wisdom. Again, I thank you.

Now, it's November 7, 2019. I haven't written a real post in over a year. I haven't written regularly in even longer. Part of me was holding back. Part of me decided I didn't want to spend the time I had to myself here. Part of me wondered where to even begin. Part of me was waiting to see what it was God was doing. 

This morning, I read Natalie's story and the familiar fears that kept me gladly putting one foot in front of the other right where I was began to creep in. Making wonder and question and fear. I hadn't even gotten out of bed and my mind was reeling. And then I began to ponder the last year and that's when the words came to me. I asked myself if THIS is what I wanted and if it could be described as "my dream" and if not...what it was I wanted and what "my dream" would be described as. I remembered the summer I told Pastor Larry that what I wanted out of life and to do with my life was "what God wanted for me and what He had for me". 

That's what I've had and what has gotten me through at every phase. Looking to God and accepting what it as He had for me and diligently attending to what He filled my hands with. 

One year ago today, on November 7, 2018, I woke up and called my Mom. I was in South Carolina preparing to spend my brother's birthday with him for the first time since 2009. I'd arrived the night before after getting dropped off at the airport by the guy I'd spent most of the last 11 days with. We met at church back in the spring and spent the summer hanging out off and on after finding ourselves getting to know each other at various events. We'd gone swimming and hiking and spent time on the beach and cooked for hoards of people and watched movies and he'd come over to my house to play cards with my sister or my Mom. We'd been careful to keep ourselves surrounded by people even though neither one of us saw anything coming to life between us. 

He dropped me off. I got on the plane and wondered what was going on and asking myself what it was that I hoped would happen next. That night, he called with news that the Army was sending him to the training he was waiting on and that he'd be gone by the time I got back from my trip, but that he wanted to begin courting me. It was late and we talked to make sure we both knew what those words meant. The next morning, I called my Mom to tell her and to ask her to meet with him. Later that day, I found myself having lunch with my Dad. We ate gyros at Dinos and sipped our Dr. Peppers. I got a call from my Mom when we were in line and she had more to say and more questions to ask. As I nibbled on fries dipped in tzatsiki, I told my Dad about this guy and the direction he was hoping things could go next. 

Two days later, that guy got on airplane and started training that would do much in defining his future and also the characteristics of our relationship. It was November and he began calling me every single day. Our time to talk was limited with the exceptions of some Friday nights and Saturday mornings. We had a lot of ground to cover and questions to consider. The goal wasn't to get close to one another, but rather, to discern if we were a good fit for each other. He wanted to see if I was the kind of wife he was looking for and I agreed to see if he was the kind of man I could agree to submit to. 

So, we talked. We listened and prayed and read books to help shape our conversations. The days turned into weeks. December rolled around and he decided to come home for a visit. Everyone knew something was up because for all his time in the Army, he didn't usually come home on leave. He came and we had something like 13 days to visit friends and family and celebrate the holidays together. I was filled with so much uncertainty wondering what would happen next and I was still wondering what it was I was hoping for. I had examined him over the phone night after night and now here he was in person. 

Two weeks later, I flew to San Antonio with his Mom to visit him. And the questions were over. On that trip, he surprised me and asked me to marry him. I said yes with absolute certainty that it was not only a good decision, but that it was also right. 

Boiling the last year down into a series of paragraphs with pictures seems like cheating you out of all the details. I'm torn between wanting each step along the way to have its own post and wanting to pick up from HERE, where we are today. I know I'll be writing about this year for years to come. 

It's November 7, 2019. One year ago today...I became aware of what God had been preparing for both of us and both of us for. The thing is...It's not just for us. It's for our families. Our Mothers. Our siblings. Our children. Our children's children. And it's for Him. For His glory and the sake of His name. 

I woke up today in the arms of the guy who took and who takes his role seriously. He didn't ask me until he was certain. He protected me every step of the way so that if we had to walk away, we could. He didn't tell me he loved me until he knew he would say those words to me on every single day he has left on this earth. He agreed not to kiss me until the point he was given permission to do so during our wedding ceremony. He calls me "wife" and he is my husband. 

I'm here, having received a courtship and an engagement and a marriage and a honeymoon and then a baby and now a home from God. One year later, we're working through things and on things to make sure that our habits and our lives and our relationship are in order according to Him. We grant grace and forgiveness and love and we try to make sure our relationship is a blessing to those around us. We look to God just as we did when we were trying to figure out where it was He was leading us. 

One year. So much has changed. I'm still who I was and I still look to Him. I'm still daughter and sister. Now, my house is 8 minutes away. I'm also wife and mother. I traded in my job at the library for role of volunteer. I spend my days keeping house for him and preparing it for the baby that will join us in the middle of winter. 

This year, it happens to be his day off. My sister came over for breakfast and a Christmas movie before work. We sipped chai tea, cuddled up in blankets, and she leaned over and put her head on my shoulder. And she asked me about this post. Here it is, sister of mine. Hopefully it will make way for more to follow. I've started getting the words and the story out. 

God works in the lives of His people. Always. In and through every circumstance. What we have is Him and His grace and His truth. Marriage is meant to be one thing and in order for it be what He means for it to be, we have to look to Him. It's what I did while I was single. It's what we did while we spent all those hours on the phone and in between times. It's what we did in the 11 days we had together before our wedding in May. It's what we've done every day since then. And it's what we'll do with every day He grants to us. 

He does what He wills and teaches us to look to Him. And that's where our assurance comes from. In every season. No matter what. In every role we find ourselves agreeing to.

One year at a time.