Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Things I Learned in July

Emily at Chatting at the Sky does a roundup every month of "things I learned this month." It can be anything--her examples include "educational and informative...mindless celebrity services or products...weird quirks you have...inspirational and introspective." There are no rules, Emily says; "whether profound or ridiculous, all lessons are welcome and celebrated." I thought it sounded like an interesting prompt, so without further are a few things I learned in July.

1. "Pilau" is pronounced "PER-loo." Thank you, Southern Living, for setting me straight that the traditional Southern chicken and rice recipe I printed off six years ago or so is not actually "pee-lahw." Seriously? I mean...seriously? PER-loo?!

2. HTC One phones purchased on eBay cannot be activated on the Ting network. So sad. I want a smartphone mainly for the camera, and after a lot of research concluded that the HTC One was the way to go. Found a good deal on eBay...and was unable to activate. Le sigh. #firstworldproblems

3. Otherwise, Ting is AWESOME. We switched our service from Sprint and we are SO pleased. We can have smartphones and use as much or as little data as we want, rather than paying minimum $30/month for data with Sprint. We pay *actual* usage instead of a plan with overages--if we use fewer minutes or texts than our plan, they bump us down, and if we use more, they bump us up to the next tier rather than charging $0.20/text like Sprint did. This past month we used a whole lot more texts than we ever did before, plus some data, and paid half what we paid monthly with Sprint. HALF! If you're interested, let me know and I'll send you a referral link. We got $50 credit by using a referral link from a friend when we signed up.

4. When you see a really great airline ticket price, you should snap it up instead of deliberating for a few days, because when you go back to book it, you'll hate yourself and the world when it's gone up by over $100. #morefirstworldproblems

5. Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial, a monument on South Bass Island in Lake Erie, celebrates the longest undefended international border in the world. And that peace was secured through disarmament after the War of 1812. Steve and I visited there for our anniversary getaway a couple of weeks ago--hoping to post about it with pictures soon.

6. Everybody does better when Daddy's around. I am so not cut out for single parenting, and thankful I so rarely have to do it.

7. Sonic is not the place to go for milkshakes. A friend told me I had to try their chocolate fudge bacon milkshake, and I was irresistibly intrigued, but it was a disappointment. Sonic doesn't mix their milkshakes well enough, so it's like trying to drink soft serve ice cream through a tiny straw. Not so satisfying when you have to work so hard that the insides of your lips end up hurting. #firstworldproblemsagain For the record, Hardees has better milkshakes...we got free milkshake coupons from the library's summer reading program or I'd never have tried theirs.

8. I will never again attempt a road trip with the boys without a couple of good audiobooks. We got two Ramona audiobooks from the library this last time and didn't hear a peep out of Elijah for four solid hours. Amazing.

9. Maple syrup separates when frozen. Really weird and fascinating.

10. Peaches tan like people do. I bought 25 pounds of peaches from "The Peach Truck" last Saturday and the man pointed out a yellow triangle on an otherwise-reddish peach. He said that was where a leaf had been covering the peach.

11. A dance lesson with my husband is the best way to get me out of a funk. Steve bought some lessons for my birthday and we took our second one last week. Can hardly wipe a silly grin off my face the whole time we are dancing. So much fun.

How about you--what did you learn in July?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Multitude Monday, Take 292

Thanking God this week for...

5312. three gallons of blueberries
5313. a friend sharing vulnerable parts of her heart
5314. boys not being bothered by their three gazillion bug bites :(
5315. Steve running to CVS to get itch-relief creams for me to try
5316. reminders of how fragile my body is and that this world is not my home

5317. camphor + menthol
5318. a college acquaintance's spoken word performance of "James: Faith in Motion"
5319. corporate prayer
5320. Elijah's affection and lavish compliments
5321. a swim party with his Mother's Day Out class

5322. crazy-gorgeous weather...I cannot get over how pleasant this summer has been compared to normal Tennessee June and July!
5323. another dance lesson with Steve
5324. the way dancing with him lifted me out of a funk
5325. finally connecting with a new friend
5326. the downtown library

5327. Elijah singing "Jude's song": "Hey Jude, don't take it back. Sing some songs, and make it better..."
5328. Jude's spontaneous, endearing expressions of gratitude
5329. eight years of living in the South
5330. dancing with Steve to Brian Setzer Orchestra's "This Old House" in our living room

Monday, July 22, 2013

Multitude Monday, Take 291

Thanking God this week for...

5277. lunch at a hole-in-the-wall Thai place with my mom
5278. late night workouts at Mom's gym
5279. iced cappuccino
5280. old family photos
5281. ice cream with my best friend and all our crazy boys

5282. Jude with Blue Moon ice cream all over his face
5283. kids splashing in an inflatable pool
5284. glaring reminders of my weakness, sin, need for a Savior
5285. Steve's encouragement that those around me need Jesus, not me
5286. a road trip with my mother-in-law

5287. boys being *awesome* travelers
5288. Ramona audiobooks
5290. sweet reunion with Steve
5291. the reality that sweet reunions with loved ones on earth are but a shadow of the joy when we finally see Christ face to face

5292. Steve's brother coming down to help with house projects for a few days
5293. his mom's willingness to make the long trip with me and the boys
5294. beautiful evidence of His grace at work in friends
5295. a friend's beautiful example of repentance
5296. getting a tour where Steve works, being able to picture him at his desk now

5297. his company taking safety very seriously
5298. rhubarb!
5299. a new stove, handed down from my ever-generous parents
5300. Sarah Kay's spoken word poetry (wow-out-loud videos here and here)
5301. our house finally refinanced, at less than half our former rate

5302. tiny freckles sprinkled across Elijah's nose and cheeks
5303. an evening to catch up with Steve
5304. hearing how I had an impact on someone, a decade after the fact
5305. zinnias in a mason jar
5306. first zucchini pizza of the summer

5307. the joy of raising boys who love books

5308. our church, extra precious after two weeks away
5309. Steve making an obstacle course all through the house for the boys
5310. Grandma Kaylor's rhubarb crunch
5311. His sovereign love

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Steve and Amy: A Love Story (Part 9)

[continued from part eight // start here]

Fall of my junior year of college was the worst semester of my life up to that point. Emotionally, spiritually, academically, I was a wreck. Ever since Tom had started pursuing me, I had been baffled at my own freaked-out reaction to the very scenario I thought I had wanted. I had never experienced such turmoil or confusion.

Here was Tom: this amazing, godly guy who was pursuing me, who obviously cared about me. And I was considering turning him down? For what: this other amazing, godly guy...who had no feelings for me and probably never would? I mean, who DOES that? Was I CRAZY?

Thoroughly overwhelmed, I asked Tom for some time to think. I tried to regroup and focus on God (a promising Bible study called Falling in Love with Jesus proved unfortunately cheesy and unhelpful). I think on some level I had this ridiculous idea that I had to have my life all together, had to reach a certain level of spiritual maturity and single-minded devotion to God, and once I had arrived, then God would bring Mr. Right onto the scene. What I had yet to learn was that I would never "arrive," and that as I sought to know Christ, He would in His generosity and kindness use Mr. Right to grow and shape me into the woman He designed me to be.

Meanwhile, one of my friends (I'm sure others suggested this as well, but I remember one in particular) urged me to tell Steve how I felt. She argued that I needed closure--I had to come clean with him, and find out once and for all whether he could ever care for me or whether I should finally and forever move on. Yet I instinctively knew that I could never do that. If anything was ever going to happen between me and Steve, it had to be on his terms. I couldn't do the chasing, that I knew for sure.

As the end of the semester approached, my answer to Tom was long overdue. I concluded with tremendous sadness and fear that I could not close the door on Steve. I wasn't over him like I thought I was--and among other things, I thought it wouldn't be fair to Tom for me to date him when I still had feelings for someone else.

He was hurt, of course, and baffled--I'd given him every signal that I was interested, and now I was going to walk away, just like that? The conversation did not go well. And after he left my townhouse, I spent the weekend crying. I certainly didn't "have a peace" that I had made the right decision. No, I wondered if I had just made the most horrible mistake of my life. It was truly awful. I went home for Christmas break heartbroken, confused, wondering what in the world I had just done.

[to be continued...]

Monday, July 15, 2013

Multitude Monday, Take 290

Thanking God these last couple of weeks for...

5228. eight years of marriage with the man of my dreams
5229. tons of gorgeous, unusually cool weather
5230. getting to surprise Steve at work with a picnic lunch
5231. a sweet friend babysitting so I could go
5232. her beautiful example of servanthood

5233. time to chat with her and simultaneously preach truth to myself
5234. tickle time
5235. snuggle time
5236. tandem bicycles
5237. you, the person who takes time to read my blog

5238. invigorating workouts
5239. Jude loudly and exuberantly singing made-up songs
5240. my friend Danielle's recipe for Lazy Day Duff, aka super easy and delicious blackberry cobbler
5241. a new memory project
5242. yellow cherry tomatoes

5243. spiral staircases
5244. Jude reciting The Little Engine That Could from memory while turning the pages of a totally different book
5245. Elijah's hilarious facial expressions and gestures when talking on the phone
5246. my nephew's one-word exclamations: "Amy! Bi-urk (fireworks)!" "Amy! Bug!"
5247. fireworks and floating lanterns

5248. screened-in porch with a swing
5249. an ice cream date with my niece
5250. a fabulous novel to read just for fun
5251. old people thinking Steve and I were newlyweds
5252. birds singing, swooping, squawking, swiping

5253. sunlight filtering across the yard
5254. Steve building an epic train track for the boys
5255. bright pink umbrella with ruffled edges
5256. pizza subs with my BFF
5257. bermuda shorts

5258. hundreds of fireflies blinking along the roadside
5259. kids swinging, sliding, hanging, climbing
5260. kids splashing, giggling, dogpaddling
5261. rash guards = less sunscreen
5262. warm, chewy, gooey brownies

5263. Granny's laugh
5264. family stories
5265. grace to apologize to Elijah
5266. post-storm sky, a brilliant gray-turquoise
5267. a cookie date with Elijah

5268. Jude articulating his feelings: "Dat make me sad!" "Dat make me mad!"
5269. old buildings and their history
5270. modern conveniences like air conditioning and indoor plumbing
5271. orange sun sinking into water
5272. lush pink hydrangeas

5273. Psalm 78
5274. fifty-cent train rides
5275. family beyond what I deserve
5276. eternal home, family and Father far beyond the best I have known in this life

Friday, July 05, 2013

Steve and Amy: A Love Story (Part 8)

[continued from part seven // start here]

I returned to IWU as a junior in the fall of 2002, and it wasn't long before my hopes became reality. Here's where, because I am already stretching this story out ridiculously anyway, I can tell a funny sidebar story about why you should never answer the door while brushing your teeth.

On a Friday afternoon in September, I was brushing my teeth in our campus townhouse when someone knocked on the door. One of my housemates answered and called out that it was for me. I went to the top of the stairs, looked down and saw Tom. Not thinking anything of it, I said, "What do you want?" He said he wanted me to come downstairs, and that's when my brain apparently ceased to function. Rather than returning to the bathroom, spitting out my toothpaste, and then walking downstairs, for some insane reason I continued brushing and walked down the stairs to see what he wanted. Awkwardness ensued. It turned out that Tom had a rose behind his back, and he was there to ask me to homecoming. Somehow I managed to say yes around a mouthful of minty white foam.

So we went to homecoming, and not long after that, Tom took me on another date when he explained his desire to take our relationship beyond just friendship.

Inexplicably, I freaked out.

For all the longing of my heart to meet Mr. Right and get married (I was, after all, on a conservative Christian college campus...cue all the jokes about "MRS degrees," "Ring by Spring or your money back," "IWU is like a shoe factory: we bring them in, fix their souls and send them out in pairs," etc.) the actual prospect was scarier than I expected. I had subscribed to the "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" philosophy, so I was determined that I didn't want to start a relationship unless I was reasonably certain it was headed for marriage. Was I really ready for this? Were my feelings for Tom on that level? Could he really be The One? Thoughts about him and the whole situation had been all-consuming, and in this season of singlehood I was supposed to be 100% devoted to God...did I need to step back and learn contentment in Christ first? I had so many skewed and immature perspectives on dating, relationships, journeying with the Lord...bless my 20-year-old heart.

Right around that same time, I had some meaningful interaction with my old buddy Steve. I sent him a frank email about something he and Kaleb had done that had hurt me, and his response amazed me. He was humble, teachable, gracious, caring...and my old feelings for him came rushing back. It also happened that Kaleb was getting married that fall, and perhaps in part because of that, Steve and I saw each other and talked to each other more than we had since high school. He had grown as much as I had, and he was as attractive to me as ever. As things were developing in my relationship with Tom, my friendship with Steve was strengthening again. And I began to realize that I wasn't "over" Steve like I thought I was.

[Steve and me at Kaleb's wedding in November 2002] 

[to be continued...]

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Steve and Amy: A Love Story (Part 7)

[continued from part six // start here]

During my first two years of college, I traveled for the university on a "Christian Service Team." Our six-member group sang a cappella music at churches nearly every weekend throughout the school year, and then spent the summer traveling to youth and family camps. It was a little crazy: they gave us a van, a trailer full of sound equipment, and an itinerary, and said, "See you in ten weeks." Talk about a learning experience and a summer full of memories!

Our team was two girls and four guys. The other girl, Stephanie, became my roommate for two years, and her friendship is a precious gift to this day. Three of the guys changed between the first and second year, but one guy traveled with Stephanie and me both years. For the sake of his privacy, I'll call him "Tom."

This is the point in my story where it gets a little tricky, because I really can't tell the story of Steve and me without talking about Tom. Yet I have so much respect and affection for him that I don't want to share in a way that is hurtful or disrespectful. Thankfully Tom is happily married now, so I can look back on our friendship with gratitude and rejoice in knowing that God had the perfect girl--not me--in mind for him all along.

During our second year of traveling together, I began to develop a little bit of interest in Tom. And as  the summer progressed, it seemed possible that maybe the interest was mutual. The thing you have to understand here is, when you travel with someone like this, you get a super realistic picture of who they are. You see them at their best and at their worst; you observe how they handle nightmare campers and bad directions and lack of sleep and disorganized camp directors, how they react to team conflict and how they respond to powerful speakers. You pray together, you worship together, you spend hours upon hours (upon hours) in a van together. So if you can come through all that and still be interested in dating the person...well, I'd say your marriage prospects are good. You certainly aren't going into the relationship blind.

So for the first time in my life, it seemed reasonable (not just a farfetched daydream) to think of beginning a relationship with a guy I would marry. I knew it was best for nothing to happen while we were traveling together that summer. (It was incredibly common for ministry team members to fall in love; I can think of several who ended up married--but it could also be messy and complicated, and our team didn't need that dynamic.) My hope was that once we got back to school in the fall and were all done traveling together, Tom would pursue me. At least, I thought that was my hope. I was equal parts excited, terrified, thrilled, anxious, uncertain...but it seemed like maybe, just maybe, this could be IT.

Steve? I was pretty much over him. Old feelings crept up now and then, when we'd go home on breaks from college and I'd see him in person, but mainly it appeared that perhaps The One had arrived on the scene--and it wasn't Steve.

[to be continued...]

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

In Which I Get Mushy About Eight Years of Marriage

"When over the years someone has seen you at your worst, and knows you with all your strengths and flaws, yet commits him- or herself to you wholly, it is a consummate experience. To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us."
~ Tim Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

Steve, he loves me like this. Over and over I have wondered how.

I've been reading through old journals of mine from college, and noticing alternately how very far I have come since then,and how I still struggle with some of the same things. One thing I saw as I read a journal from a decade ago is my wrestling with understanding God's grace. How is it that He can really love me when I act the way I do? How is His disposition toward me one of mercy and compassion, not disgust, fury and disappointment?

Though I know these things are true, I must admit that I still have a hard time believing them. And then I look at my husband. Somehow Steve sees just a glimpse of the ugliness in my heart, and he responds with gentleness. He experiences a fraction of my selfishness and sin, and he continues to love and serve patiently. It is, perhaps, a fraction of a glimpse of how a patient Father, a gentle Savior, sees fully and yet loves perfectly...


Way back when, I had some pretty messed-up views on dating and relationships. I figured I had to get to this holy place of contentment, and then I would be qualified to begin a journey with a man. I thought once I "arrived" spiritually, then I would somehow be ready or worthy.

What I didn't know was that I would never be ready, that I would never be worthy, but that God delights to bless His children with undeserved gifts. What I didn't know was that a man could be His greatest vessel for showing me more of Himself and refining my heart.


Steve and I celebrate eight years of marriage today. I am eternally grateful for the fun that we have together and for the way that he points me to Jesus. It is a kindness from God beyond measure.


[P.S. In honor of our installments of the love story coming this week and next. I promise!]

Monday, July 01, 2013

Multitude Monday, Take 289

Thanking God this week for...

5194. little boys' joy in simple games
5195. Elijah slowly learning to read!
5196. Jude pretending to read
5197. fresh lettuce from our garden
5198. coffee chocolate chip muffins

5199. evidence that Compassion's child sponsorship program WORKS
5200. the privilege of sponsoring two kids
5201. a visit with a friend before she moves out of state
5202. popsicles at Las Paletas
5203. black bean tacos with feta and cilantro-lime slaw

5204. snappy grapes
5205. the way my mom has modeled friendship with women
5206. boys finding earthworms, transferring them to our garden
5207. thoughtful, articulate people who challenge my views
5208. Jude "babywearing" with his beloved Clifford

5209. eight quarts of blackberries
5210. an orchard where we can pick, relatively close to our house
5211. Friday night games and fellowship with a few church families
5212. a two-dollar bouquet of zinnias at the farmers' market
5213. Jude snitching blackberries off the kitchen counter

5214. boys insisting on taking their shirts off because Daddy did
5215. Steve's homemade pizza
5216. Jude, when we were reading a book about friends and I asked who his friends are: "Lijah is my fwend!"
5217. an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade
5218. its being conditioned on Christ's perfect obedience, not my own

5219. deep theology discussion with Steve
5220. gorgeous weather--this June has been SO nice compared to last year's 100+ degree days!
5221. a family hike at Percy Warner Park
5222. view of the Nashville skyline
5223. the rumble of distant thunder

5224. the feel of cold butter mixed into soft flour with my fingertips
5225. blackberry shortcake...not quite as good as strawberry, but still delicious
5226. first sweet corn of the summer, eaten off the cob
5227. not merely forcing us to submit, but inviting us to share in His joy