Monday, July 28, 2014

Multitude Monday, Take 328

Thanking God this week for...

6299. grace to get up with my early alarm
6300. encouragement from Steve
6301. 99-cent iced coffee
6302. boys being the most spectacular shoppers ever in the history of Kroger, on a day when I really, really needed that
6303. husband washing me with the water of the Word

6304. this book free in the mail, uncomfortable though it may be

6305. first bruschetta pizza of the summer
6306. first bruschetta chicken of the summer
6308. grace to model confession and repentance to my boys
6309. time in the gospel of Mark with a friend

6310. Microsoft Office for free through Steve's work
6311. five gallons of organic blueberries (plus all the berries we ate while we picked :)

6312. zinnias (at least I'm pretty sure that's what this is...)

6313. boys asking theological questions, talking about God and Heaven
6314. a date with my favorite six-year-old

6315. the way he leans over his handlebars to go faster
6316. the fact that he still wants to hold my hand
6317. grace to ask for help when I feel weak and full of despair
6318. Steve's ability and willingness to preach truth to my unbelieving heart
6319. being a God who remains faithful when I am faithless

6320. the (intentionally) muddy play area at Edwin Warner Park
6321. little boys getting dirty and having fun

6322. both boys' recent enthusiasm and gratitude about the meals I cook
6323. time spent working on the house with Steve
6324. progress, slowly but surely
6325. blueberry cheesecake flapjacks for Saturday morning breakfast

6326. answered prayers
6327. a dear friend's incredible beauty and strength, exalting Christ in the midst of trials
6328. grace to pray when I don't feel like it and have only a mustard seed of faith
6329. the thunderstorm coming before we went to bed, so we could find the bathroom window leaking and fix the problem instead of waking up to a flooded mess
6330. Jesus' perfect obedience in my place

Monday, July 21, 2014

Multitude Monday, Take 327: Ohio Gifts

Lots of gifts to count from the past couple of weeks! My awesome parents took the boys--both of them! at the same time!--for a few days, then Steve and I joined them in Ohio for a family reunion in honor of his grandfather's 90th birthday. After that, Steve and his younger brother came back here, and the boys and I stayed in Ohio for the rest of the week. I've been thanking God for so many blessings, including...

6255. safety on the road over hundreds and hundreds of miles driven
6256. my parents' desire to spend time with their grandsons and bless us
6257. a lunch date with my future SIL
6258. a wrong turn that led to a serendipitous meeting with my brother at his fire station

6259. an afternoon with a dear friend
6260. streaks of lightning in the sky, reminders of His power and majesty
6261. a quiet house and a break from mothering responsibilities
6262. anniversary date at Tin Angel

6263. these gorgeous eyes

6264. seventeen years of walking with Jesus
6265. seventeen-plus years of friendship with my BFF who was saved the same night
6266. accountability for prayer with two dear friends, helping me grow
6267. rich theology skillfully packed into poetry
6268. a road trip with no kids, uninterrupted conversations

6269. big hugs and snuggles from little boys after a few days apart
6270. excited stories of what they did with Grammy and Pops

6271. an evening spent catching up with old friends
6272. a bike ride around the neighborhood where I grew up
6273. Paige Benton Brown's powerful preaching

6274. longevity in Steve's genes

6275. my nephew begging Aunt Amy to push him on the swing
6276. getting to watch my niece's t-ball game
6277. Grandma building Lego with the boys
6278. an evening spent catching up with my BFF
6279. getting to snuggle her brand-new baby

6280. a bike ride and an ice cream date with my niece

6281. quiet afternoons to sit on screened-in porches and read/write during naptimes

6282. the REAL train at the Toledo Zoo//cousins sitting together and behaving!

6283. these little Cindy-Lou-Who pigtails :)

6284. orangutans, gorillas, spider monkeys
6285. unbelievably cool and pleasant weather (whoever heard of going to the zoo in long sleeves and jeans in JULY?!)
6286. gorgeous flowers in my parents' yard

6287. Jude's guilty conscience and tender heart
6288. my dad's homemade ice cream, best there is

6289. no mosquitoes in my parents' backyard
6290. a tour at the Mazza Museum of International Art from Picture Books

6291. the legacy of a love for books and reading that my mom has built into me and my sons
6292. an ice cream date with Grammy and Pops
6293. boys being the BEST little travelers they have EVER, ever been when I had to do the trip home with them by myself--seriously specatular!
6294. sweet reunion with Steve
6295. this gourmet dinner he had waiting for us

6296. the work my brother-in-law did on our house while I was gone
6297. quality time Steve got to spend with his brother
6298. a home and a family in Heaven that must be beyond spectacular, to outshine all this :)

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Things I Learned in May and June

In the chaos of kindergarten end-of-the-year and preparing for our vacation, I forgot to get my "Things I Learned in May" post up--now here it is July already. WHERE is our summer going???

A few random tidbits I've learned over the past two months: 

1. The word "berserk" comes from Norse warriors called Berserkers, whom ancient Norse literature describes as having fought in "a nearly uncontrollable, trance-like fury."

2. It is liberating to click "unfollow." I tried to pull back from my Facebook usage during Lent, with minimal success--it is so easy to get sucked back in. In the meantime, a friend posted a "farewell, Facebook" blog post, and her words challenged me to try harder. I decided that while it wasn't realistic or necessary for me to completely log off, I could pare down considerably. It was hard, but I went through and "unfollowed" a huge number of the people on my news feed. I didn't want to unfriend people altogether; this way, they can still see my stuff if they want, and I can always pop over to their page and check in to see how they're doing. But their daily updates don't show up on my feed, making a lot less new material for me to scroll through when I log on. It really isn't necessary for me to know what's going on with people I really wasn't close to in high school or college and wouldn't be in touch with at all if not for FB! And keeping up with their lives meant less time for keeping up with relationships that really are important to me.

I so need to learn this lesson at a deep level: EVERYTHING I say "yes" to means saying "no" to something else. Am I saying "yes" to the right things, or am I inadvertently saying "no" to more important things because I don't want to make choices that seem difficult in the short-term? Sigh...

3. At her coronation, Queen Elizabeth II wore 45 pounds of crown jewels, robes, etc. My full review of her biography Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch is on Goodreads.

4. Related: I can listen to audiobooks at double speed on my phone. LIFE. CHANGING. My whole life I have found it depressing that I will never be able to read all the books I want to read. The more I read, the more books I find out about and add to my list--and new ones are published daily! But now I can get through twice as many books. It's probably a little insane how excited this makes me.

5. Every language has phonotactic rules--restrictions on vowel sequences, consonant clusters or syllable structure. And because of these rules, the closest you can get to saying "Merry Christmas" in Hawaiian is "Mele Kalikimaka." Fascinating little video here--if you're a word nerd like me, you'll love it (just a few minutes long, and fast-paced). 

6. There are three different ways to pronounce "banal." I always thought it rhymed with "anal," and was thrown for a loop when someone in an audiobook pronounced it differently. Turns out both ways, plus another yet, are acceptable. Whew.

7. After months of wondering how people were getting all those smiley faces and other miscellaneous icons in their Instagram comments, I finally figured out how to install the Emoji keyboard on my phone.

8. James A. Garfield was an incredible man--my new favorite president. I loved Candace Millard's Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President. So tragic that he was in office such a short time!

9. Nail polish that's 2-3 times more expensive as other brands does not actually last any longer than the cheap kind. *cough* I'm looking at you, essie *cough*

10. Don't leave important paperwork on the dining room table, ever. Let's just say this was learned the hard way on a morning that involved an overturned water glass, a birth certificate, signed forms and the intention of registering for first grade. 

What have you learned recently?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Multitude Monday, Take 326

Given that it's now Wednesday, I wouldn't ordinarily bother with this post, except that I already went to all the trouble of uploading pictures on Monday--so here's last week's gratitude, better late than never, I guess. Thanking God this week for...

6230. Vacation Bible School for both boys
6231. coffee with a new friend
6232. lunch at Pizza Hut (still using Book-It certificates!) with a friend and her boys
6233. Jude still little enough to eat from the buffet for free
6234. invitation to my brother's wedding in the mail

6235. Elijah's reaction to my zucchini bread pancakes: "Mom, these are so delicious! You're the best cooker of breakfast ever!"
6236. regained ability to do lots of real pushups
6237. an encouraging first meeting with the principal at Elijah's new school
6238. Jude helping me make zucchini lasagna

6239. making it to the zoo just in time to catch the DinoTrek exhibit

6240. patient goats

6241. baby camels drinking from a bottle

6242. Galapagos tortoises coming close

6243. fun outing with the boys

6244. sunbeams filtering through the trees

6245. the prettiest loaves of bread I've ever made

6246. brunch with a dear friend to break up my road trip

6247. safe travels up to Cincinnati and back by myself
6248. an excellent audiobook to pass the time
6249. a beautiful day for an outdoor bridal shower
6250. getting to come celebrate with my future sister-in-law

6251. girls' night with my mom and an aunt
6252. making it back for church Sunday morning
6253. the boys' faces and eager hugs and kisses when I walked in
6254. our pastor's edifying, passionate preaching

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Steve and Amy: A Love Story (Conclusion)

[continued from part fifteen // start here]

The first order of business after I moved home from Denver in August 2004 was setting a wedding date, and just that simple task was dramatic and frustrating--it was a microcosm of the entire process, in fact. I'm sorry to say that wedding planning was not the joyful, dreams-come-true time it could have and should have been for me. A year (minus one day) was far, far too long to be engaged; we wouldn't recommend it to anyone.

The long-distance aspect of our relationship got more and more difficult; Steve burned up the road making the 3.5-hour trip between Cincinnati and our hometown. I took on two part-time jobs, thinking that 20 hours of each would be the equivalent of one 40-hour-a-week job (WRONG...oh so very wrong). And I went through a dark, dry, scary wilderness in my walk with the Lord.

Event planning is not my gift; making choices about thousands of details is a nightmare for an indecisive perfectionist. And it seemed like things went wrong at every turn, from the dilemma of finding a church, to the drama of trying to find the perfect dress, to a mixup with the invitations...

Steve, my mom, and my matron of honor, Julie, helping assemble invitations--we put on dramatic faces for the picture, but it really was a pain! say nothing of the poor decisions and lack of foresight that led to a lackluster reception. Oh, there are so many things I would go back and do differently!

At any rate, Steve graduated from college in June 2005; I traveled to Cincinnati with his family to celebrate his graduation and move all his stuff back home.

We had three more weeks to finalize last-minute wedding details (and secure our first apartment--and in his free time Steve built a beautiful solid cherry bed for us!) and long was time to say "I do."

After all the stress and frustration of planning, I'll never forget standing at the back of the church on the night of our rehearsal. Our musicians--three dear friends of mine from college--began singing, and I was bouncing with giddiness. I had known they would be fabulous, but when I actually heard them, I was beside myself. People kept asking little detail questions throughout the rehearsal and I was all, "I don't even care! Figure something out! I am getting married tomorrow and I am SO HAPPY!" :)

Though I wish I would have thrown a better party for our guests, the ceremony itself (which had been the focus of my attention and planning) was everything I had hoped for and more. Because of my unbelievably talented friends, we seriously had the best wedding music in the history of weddings, forever and ever, amen.

The parts of the ceremony that didn't go smoothly (like the fact that no one could find a source of fire for the mothers to light their candles, or the fact that there was no wine or juice in the communion goblet) were little things that were funny and memorable even as they happened. And most of it came off beautifully.

So, after sixteen years of knowing each other, seven years of real friendship, three years of off-and-on unrequited love, eighteen months of dating, and a 364-day engagement, Steve and I were finally Mr. and Mrs. on July 2, 2005.

The cake was one detail that turned out perfectly--I had lots of very specific requests and our baker more than delivered!

We honeymooned in Maui, a dream vacation...

...and then, two days after flying back home, we packed up our lives and moved to the South. In the space of two weeks we had a new marriage, new job, new home in a new state. But God was gracious to give us a wonderful first year as newlyweds. We had our challenges, sure, but it wasn't the difficult, conflict-wrought first year many married couples experience.

The two of us at Steve's older brother's wedding, which was just eight weeks after ours--2005 was definitely the summer of weddings for us, as we participated in three besides our own!

Two kids later (four years and counting past our "five-year plan"), we are still here in Tennessee, and still growing together and loving each other.

In the process of writing this (ridiculously drawn out) love story, I reflected to Steve that it's strange how, ten years later, old insecurities still bubble up. When I read through the details, it totally makes me laugh, and I love it because it's our story. Countless times I have enjoyed laughing with Steve as we tell it in person, tag-team style. But when it came to posting it on my blog for the entire world to read, at times I started to feel defensive and even a little embarrassed, specifically when it came to Steve's perspective.

Suddenly I was reminded that our story was not the fairy-tale-esque story I had concocted in my mind all those years, the kind everyone might have been expecting after nine episodes of know, where the scales fall from Steve's eyes and he confesses that he is madly in love with me :) It made me want to jump in with all kinds of disclaimers, like, "but he developed feelings for me soon after that! It wasn't long before he was asking God to ease up on the feelings!"

I wondered if I had stretched out and built up the story too much, to the point where it was really anti-climactic and even odd. Maybe my perspective is just totally skewed. But for some reason, underneath all the laughter, it still made me squirm a little bit to read about how Steve did NOT want to date me and had to be dragged into this kicking and screaming.

When I shared those feelings with my husband a while back, he responded in his usual wise way:
It is interesting reading your perspective here, mostly because it hadn't even occurred to me what you would be feeling. I have been too engrossed in my own feelings to stop and ponder yours. 

So, given that, let me give you my perspective. If there is anyone who should feel embarrassed, it would be me. The way I see it, me being apprehensive about dating you has much more to do with my blindness than it does with your value. As I think about where I was way back then, I tend to drift to two main thoughts; my thick-headedness, and God's unmerited grace in spite of that. I wasn't asking for a wife at the time really, and would have likely been asking for the wrong thing if I had been. Yet God, in his mercy, gave me you, whom I believe has done much to sanctify me and bring me joy. 

Is our story fairy-tale like? Not really. But, for the most part, neither is anyone else's. What our story does do is point to God as a loving father who knows his children (better than they know themselves) and seeks to glorify himself in the working out of the details of our small little lives. Who ever heard of an all powerful king taking notice of the peasants of his land, to the point of arranging their marriages for their own good?  

And that, I think, is a fitting place to end this series. The story of Steve and me isn't a Disney movie or a blockbuster rom-com. In a way, it's better: it magnifies a kind and generous Father who wisely and lavishly loves His children, giving us gifts "far more abundantly than all that we ask or think"--gifts that will make us more like Jesus and bring us joy along the way. Steve has been, and continues to be, that kind of gift to me...and so I give thanks, for the crazy love story God has written in our lives, and the story He continues to unfold. 

The Entire Series: 
1: Second Grade Beginnings
2: Junior High Crush
3: Kissing Dating Goodbye
4: Falling in Love, Onstage and IRL
5: "Are They Dating? They Should Be"
6: Other Fish in the Sea
7: Enter Prince Charming (Not Steve)
8: Not Actually Over Him After All
9: Have I Just Made a Huge Mistake?
10: A Wrench in Steve's Plans
11: A Revelation: Steve Speaks
12: And So It Begins
13: Cautiously Growing Closer 
14: Define the Relationship: Just How Serious is This? 
15: Sparkly Jewelry
16: I Now Pronounce You Husband and Wife

Monday, June 16, 2014

Gifts at the Beach (Multitude Monday, Take 325)

Last week we received too many gifts to recount here, in the midst of a family vacation to the beach! We joined my parents and some extended family for a few days on Hilton Head Island. It was the boys' first time to see the ocean (well, Elijah was there when he was 10 months old, but that didn't count as a vacation for anyone, trust me!) and we made so many wonderful memories. A few photos to illustrate the blessings...

6214. this view
6215. ripples on water and sand

6216. wave-jumping

6217. reunion with an old friend, and getting to meet her husband

6218. bike rides at low tide

6219. boogie boards

6220. sand play

6221. ice cream runs

6222. incredibly generous and loving grandparents

6223. a boat ride to see dolphins up close!

6224. walks on the beach, sand between our toes

6225. first light

6226. these incredible colors in the sky
6227. grace to get out of bed and not miss this beauty
6228. girls' outing with my mom and aunt
6229. family photo outtakes :)