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The Rivah x 2

About once a year, I wax poetic about “the rivah”.  I talk ad nauseam about how wonderful and peaceful and truly relaxing it is.  I go on and on about how the Northern Neck has quickly become one of my favorite vacation spots ever.  How its beauty is unassuming and yet resplendent and how I never EVER want to leave.

I’ll spare you all of that today.  (Ha.)

A few weekends ago, Mary Grace and I headed to the river for a girls’ weekend before she’s launched into the world of kindergarten.  (I know.)  I bravely stepped back and let Mary Grace call the shots during the course of those few days.  Not surprisingly, this translated to: (1) dead-animal-hunting (read: she started a collection of every dead/decaying sea creature and insect she could get her hands on), (2) a weekend-long possibly-hazardous diet of McDonald’s and Slurpees, and (3) lots of talking.  So much talking.  Bless her chatty little heart, the child never.stopped.talking.

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Basically, it was great.  I always love one on one time with the kids, and this was, for sure, a weekend that I’ll always remember.  And the best part?  We didn’t have to mourn our departure because…

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alas!  We knew we’d be back a mere FOUR days later with THE WHOLE CREW!  I’m pretty sure our grand arrival disrupts something in the delicate Northern Neck ecosystem.  No really.  I googled “noise pollution” and started feeling a little guilt-ridden.  Regardless, it was all kinds of wonderful.  For us.  Not the rest of the planet.

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On one of our last days of vacation, I looked at Matt and informed him, “I’ve officially reached my maximum level of relaxation.  This is as relaxed as I can possibly get.  Just so you know.”  For Matt, few words are more enchanting.  I’m telling you- the place is pure magic.

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Sadly, however, the magic had to come to an end.  Upon our arrival home- within moments of setting foot in our house- I looked at Matt again, this time devoid of any relaxation of which I had previously boasted, and I said, “Alright, Matt.  You watch the kids.  It’s GO TIME.”  And I started flying about, maniacally unpacking and washing and scheduling and emailing and allofthethings.  After an entire weekend of this, um,  maybe-not-endearing behavior, I finally collapsed on the couch and sighed, “Ahh.  That’s better.”

Sorry, babe.  Hope you enjoyed the enchantment and magic while it lasted.  There’s always next year.

a jar of stones and a 10 year anniversary

I remember it like it was yesterday.  We were sitting in pre-marital counseling, giddy-excited because THIS IS IT!  He put a ring on it, and we’re getting MARRIED!  Twenty-two years young- fresh out of campus housing and college dining halls- and yet so convinced that we knew exactly what we were getting ourselves into.  We were sitting side by side and most likely hand in hand when our pastor asked us about discord in our relationship.  “So, tell me- what do you guys fight about?” he asked.

We looked at each other, thought for a moment, and laughed.  “Well.  We’ve never really fought,” we replied with an air of pride.

He smiled kindly, as pastors do, all the while surely blessing our naive little hearts.  After all, he had scored the personality tests we had taken just weeks before.  The tests that verified how vastly different Matt and I are in personality.  The scores over which we chuckled, shrugged our shoulders, and moved on.  Because this marriage thing?  It’ll be a BREEZE.

We were so cute.

That was ten years ago.

Actually, this was ten years ago:

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One whole decade.  And it feels pretty momentous to me.  Because, as it turns it, marriage is wonderful.  Beautiful.  Sanctifying.  But totally and completely not a breeze.

It takes work.  Sacrifice.  So much effort some days that it’s far from romantic.

Which is precisely why I handed Matt a jar full of rocks this morning.  For our anniversary.  Just hang on, it’s really not as bad as it sounds.

In the Bible, there’s this story about a guy named Samuel.  God had just saved his people, the Israelites, in an epic battle against the Philistines. And so, Samuel decided to set up a rock- which he called Ebenezer- to commemorate the occasion and to help him to remember God’s help.

“Thus far the Lord has helped us,” he said. (1 Samuel 7:12)

I feel this today.  Me and Matt?  I may be biased, but I think our marriage is pretty awesome.  With every additional year we have under our belts, we have learned how to love each other better.  We have more history, and it’s made us stronger.

Still the truth remains: marriage is a straight-up battle ground.  Because a good marriage doesn’t just happen.  You gotta fight for it.  And sometimes, in all of the fighting, we need to take a step back and remember how far the Lord has brought us.  How much he has done for us.  His help thus far.

Enter the Jar of Rocks, aka our Ebenezer stones:

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This idea is not original to me.  Okay, so it kind of dates back to Bible times.  But it also dates back to a recent wedding we attended in which they made something similar.  Regardless, it is now officially one of my favorite items in our home.

Written on each stone is a moment of God’s goodness, an event to which we can look back and remember.  Remember God’s goodness.  His providence.  His love.  His hand on our marriage and our family.  Tangible reminders for when my own memory fails.

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Samuel actually isn’t the only one in scripture to use stones as a reminder of God’s goodness.  After God allowed the Israelites to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land, Joshua, too, set up his own pile of stones.

“He said to the Israelites, ‘In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over.  He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.

Every event, every moment, represented by the stones in our jar, points me to exactly that.  That the Lord is powerful.  Powerful in our marriage.  Powerful in our family.  And, in light of this, the only response we can have is awe and worship.

Some days, connecting and relating and marriage in general comes easily to us.  Other days, it, quite honestly, looks a lot more like really hard work.  However, if our marriage, imperfect though it may be, can point anyone back to the Lord’s goodness and power- if we’re brought to worship in light of all he has done- then the fight and the effort and the daily surrenders are not in vain.

Ten years later, I love Matt more than ever before.  Seriously- it’s not just semantics.  But what’s even more awesome is that this crazy journey of the past ten years has allowed us this great wealth of experiences and reminders of God’s past grace upon which we can draw.  These years have taught us to run to God for our comfort, approval, and satisfaction more than ever.  To pursue Christ above all else.  And THAT, you guys, is the ultimate win.

Here’s to many decades more.  I have a 20 pound bag of stones all ready to add to our jar as the years fly by, and you better believe I plan to use ’em up.

rethinking #myworld

We didn’t get a pool membership this summer.  I wish I could end it there with a neat little period and an implied message of “and they saved lots of money and lived happily ever after.”  But the truth is, in my nauseatingly-spoiled-American way of thinking, I had convinced myself that I was robbing my kids of something that they needed.  That I was stealing away part of the childhood that they deserved.

Oh my gosh.

But it doesn’t stop there.  Disney World.  Dance classes.  Top ranked schools.

I’m pretty confident that I’m not alone on this one. As parents, we want to give our kids every opportunity and experience and leg up possible to bring them happiness and to help them find success in this ruthless world.  We dream of Ivy Leagues and Fortune 500s, and we do what it takes to get our kids there.  Heck, we even hashtag our kid pictures with #myworld and #myeverything because that’s truly what we believe and, quite honestly, how we behave.  Early on, we allow our children to get nice and comfy right at the center of our everything, and it takes no time at all for our budgets and schedules and lives to revolve around their perceived needs and desires.

I’m preaching to myself here, y’all.  Because this is a battle that I fight often.  Daily, even.  You guys, I want my children to know in the marrow of their bones that they are dearly treasured.  That we love them with a “no matter what” kind of love because that’s how we’ve been loved by our God.  But if I end up raising kids who, years down the road, look at me and say, “Hey mom, thanks for making us the center of your world,” I would go ahead and stamp myself a failure right then and there.

Lord, no.  My job is the exact opposite- to teach them that they are not the main character of this thing called life.  That “in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).  Yes, that.  In God and for God we live.  As counter-cultural as this may sound (and as difficult as it may be for me), I’m not living for my kids.  Nor my desires to make their every dream come true.  Despite what my idolatrous attitude and actions often suggest, I desperately want my kids to grow up with a much larger vision of their world than themselves.

There is not a single thing wrong with vacations and lessons and gym memberships.  Not. A. One.  It’s just that I know my mess.  And I know how quickly my heart grows anchored to these things.  How quickly I turn good things into ultimate, must-have-or-else things.  And I am well-aware of how naturally I make myself the center of my own little universe and get all grabby for what I think I deserve in this life.  Man, how I want so much more for my kids.

Oh God, may their grip on the things of this world be loose.  May they buck hard against the “have more, be happier” messages this world preaches.  And may they be far more passionate about loving others than their own self-fulfillment.

And may they forever be satisfied with entire mornings spent in sandy little creeks in the woods. Because, for the record, it turns out that I’m not “robbing” my kids of their childhood after all.  If only I could figure out a way to get a reclining lawn chair out here, we’d be golden.

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The Allisons do the east coast. Sort of. Actually, that’s a total stretch.

A few months ago, we got word of an upcoming family wedding in Pennsylvania.  We were stoked because (1) we love Matt’s cousin (the groom)  and (2) the wedding happened to be in Lancaster County which = Amish country which = so much fun.

So my busy little brain got to work.  And decided to make a trip out of it.

Now, I know families who travel all the time with their young kids.  Their children can navigate an airport like pros.  They trek through foreign lands like it’s not even a thing.  They are practically birthed bi/tri/quadruple-lingual from their international escapades.

Me?  The thought of spending the bulk of a week working our way through a few nearby states with three kids felt like a Really Big Deal.  A Really Fun Deal too because it would involve planning!  itineraries!  museums and all kinds of really nerdy things that I love!  But I wasn’t convinced it would go over smoothly.

And Matt?  He was a little more wary.  His ideal vacation would never (ever) involve anything even remotely resembling an itinerary, so I’m pretty sure my ever-evolving Google Doc outlining our every stop along our very-mini-tour of the east coast gave him hives.  And the number of times I heard, “Catherine, this is not a vacation.  It’s a TRIP”?  Too many to count.  Regardless, he played along like a champ.

So, the kids and I went ahead of him for Stop #1.  The great city of Richmond, Virginia.  AKA The Motherland.  Okay, so we spent a few days with my family which was not quite exotic, unfamiliar terrain.  BUT.  I did insist that we hit up some of the Richmond Greats.

Like Belle Isle…

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where Carson totally geeked out, having recently completed this book by a local Richmond author.

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We then made an obligatory stop by another epic Richmond favorite, Pony Pasture…

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with Slurpees.  Which filled me with more nostalgia than I could even handle.

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After a few days of RVA excitement, we hit the road.  Hershey, PA was up next.  We bypassed the amusement park while managing to sell our kids on the excitement of the free “tour” of the Hershey factory.  They were thrilled.  It was free.  WIN.

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Our hotel was a quick hour down the road in the heart of Amish country.  (Technically, it was in the heart of Intercourse, Pennsylvania.  Yep.  However, I am FAR too immature to continue to type that one out over and over again.  Deal.)  Anyway, it should surprise ZERO PEOPLE that, within an hour of landing in Lancaster County, my sweet daughter somehow obtained this police set from a local shop.  They were trying to get it off their hands for a quarter, and she jumped on the opportunity.  The rest of the afternoon was spent watching my handcuffed children chasing each other around the quaint horse-and-buggy-filled streets of Intercourse.

It was precious.

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Next on my itinerary was dinner.

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Because, in all of my Type A, Google-happy planning, I discovered the best place ever.  A dairy cow/peacock/BULLDOG farm.  I know.  And they serve amazing homemade icecream to boot.  Which clearly = dinner.

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The next morning found us at Josh’s wedding.  In the middle of this amazing scenery.  It was enough to make me announce to Matt that I was on the verge of becoming Amish if it meant I could be surrounded by that kind of beauty.  He then reminded me of the whole electricity thing, and I had a prompt change of heart.

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While I was taking in the scenery, my eldest was taking in the awesomeness of feeling like a superstar at a Carson-side-of-the-family wedding.

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After saying goodbye to the peace of Amish country, we hit the road for its antithesis- D.C.

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We only had two nights in D.C., so we hit the ground running.

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(And skipping.)

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But at the end of the day (and after many, many miles of walking), some were more enthused than others.  Ahem.

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After a late night of monuments, we headed out for the museums the following morning.  Where I apparently only took pictures of a giant African map.  And a giant bug.

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For the record, we managed to do three museums (Natural History, Air and Space, and American Indian) as well as a brief stop by the Capital before we (i.e. the kids) called it quits.  (And for the record, I consider that a huge success.)IMG_3632

Because no trip to D.C. is complete without a stop by the National Zoo, we did just that on our last day.  Just a brief (cough, five+ hour) visit (in the rain) with Lucy The Orangutan & Company.  Y’all.  I grew up wanting to be Jane Goodall.  No shame.

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All in all, it was a fantastic trip.  Sure, so there were some minor meltdowns and tantrums and marital disagreements over the itinerary.  (Hint: I maaaay have underestimated Matt’s desire to, oh you know, eat REAL MEALS on our trip.  Because, remember?  Dairy farms!  Buggies!  Monuments!  Lucy the Orangutan!  Priorities.)  But I was (and am) floored by how well they (and we) did with the miles we logged on foot and in car.

And so now we rest.  While I covertly begin to scheme and plan our next family adventure.

(Sorry Matt.)

(I promise I’ll plan some real meals in our itinerary next time.)

(As long as there aren’t livestock and primates competing with our time.)

the two sides of summer

So, I’ve had a recent epiphany.  Just weeks ago, I decided that actually I really like summer.

This is totally news to me.  Sometimes I get really introspective and make grandiose decisions like this.

But really.  Summers typically seem to drag on.  Historically, I have thrown up my hands two weeks in and prayed for fall to come quickly sohelpmeGod.  Because, the heat.  The little wanna-be-tyrants in my home 24/7.  The general lack of structure and schedule and BLESSED SCHOOL.

This year?  It’s been, dare I say, enjoyable.  Fun.  Sometimes restful, often exhausting.  And it’s flying by.

IMG_3388I attribute this primarily to the fact that my kids are getting older.  We can do things like paddleboat in the open seas (okay, or maybe Lake Wheeler.  whatever.) without kids flying out or flailing around.   It’s really pretty incredible.

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Now, before I get too Pollyanna on you, let’s just reflect on this for a minute:

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So there’s that.  From, oh you know, just a few hours ago.  I never said this summer has been perfect, you guys.  I mean, this is what I’m dealing with:

IMG_3397 1 Oh hey child of mine who dramatically hung her little bow-topped head to pout over the fact that I wouldn’t allow her into a snake habitat.  Over my refusal to ignore the less-than-subtle DANGER SIGNS.  Because I’m the worst mom ever.  Apparently.

That’s just what we do.  We vacillate between DRAMA:

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DRAMA: No, the bonfire didn’t overtake our backyard and burn down our house as I had feared would happen.  Rather, this happened to be the night Matt accidentally knocked three (THREE.) of Carson’s permanent (PERMANENT.) teeth loose (!) with a baseball.  And that in the background, my friends, is Matt’s “crap, I’m in the doghouse” look.  As I said, drama.

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PRECIOUS:

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PRECIOUS:

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And (yes, more) PRECIOUS:

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There have been days this summer in which a hefty amount of delusion crept in, and I’ve thought, “Dude.  That’s it.  I need to HOMESCHOOL. We’ll just ride bikes and paddle boats around all the livelong day, and life as we know it will be like SUMMER FOREVER!”

And then, by God’s grace- and for the good of my children’s intellect and futures- I pick up my phone, glance at my most recent texts, and snap back to reality.  And I praise our good Lord above for public school teachers and for the coming fall.

summertime miracles. and other things less miraculous.

It’s 8:18am, and my kids are still asleep.  Every one of them.  If it wasn’t Kids Week at our church (our equivalent of VBS, aka the Most Exhausting Week of the Summer, Maybe Even Year), I’d be terrified that something horrific happened.  But I’ve checked on 1/3 of my kids, and he’s breathing (taking a cue from my husband, I conducted my own risk analysis on the decision to check in on the other 2/3.  The risk was so not worth it.), so clearly I need to do something very productive.  Like post an absurd number of pictures of THE BEST SUMMER EVER.  The summer in which any semblance of sibling rivalry flew out the window.  In which my darling cherubs dutifully completed chores from Pinterest-inspired chore charts.  In which 8pm bedtimes arrived just too quickly for my liking.

Ahem.

It really has been a great summer so far.  However, when a friend of mine asked yesterday if I ever lose my temper with my kids because I seem “just so calm and put together”, I laughed.  Hard.  And clued her into the previous hour of my life.  You know, the hour during which I sweetly informed my daughter that if I heard one more utterance of any variation of my name spoken aloud ANY MORE TIMES THAT DAY, my head would explode.  (She said my name again, and I made a loud explosion sound that startled her to the point of tears.  I totally need to author a parenting book.)

I have decided this morning, however, that I am a much better parent when my kids wake up after 6am.  Sleeping past 7am?  Playdoh and glitter and fingerpaint for everyone!!  Never mind the fact that I have not yet had the chance to, oh you know, actually parent this morning because of this aforementioned miracle.  I just feel the Stellar Parenting Vibes radiating out of me.  And not just out of guilt from the faux-head-explosion-scene yesterday.  Or maybe a tiny bit.

Okay.  So the pictures.  In no particular order.  With no cute captions.  But copied and pasted onto this blog because, when my children one day sit in their therapists’ office recalling that time mom threatened to explode at the mention of her name, I will be able to point them to these pictures of their childhood summertime bliss and ask, “Oh dear, grown, hopefully-out-of-the-house child of mine, do you NOW see why your mother was so worn out by 5pm?  Why she started twitching at the 27,000th “mommymommymommy”? Now, go and do likewise with your own children and report back to me how it feels.  K, thanks.”

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It’s now 9:02am.  The kids are awake and sitting in front of Netflix.  I’d take a picture of that too, but I’ve got an image to maintain here, people.

it gets easier (and when it doesn’t, there’s always chocolate)

Yesterday, something magical, magnificent, and wholly confusing occurred.

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We had just returned from a hike in a nearby forest.  Matt was the first to settle down with his book.  Because I was not ABOUT to let him kick up his feet and relax without me, I followed quickly behind.  But here’s where it got insane.  Our kids also followed suit.  They sat and read with us.  Silently.  For an extended length of time.  Everyone except Elizabeth, that is, who heard the quiet and came running to document this oddly wonderful event.  Because even our four year old understands that things like this just don’t happen in our home.

Between chapters, Matt and I would glance over at each other and mouth the words “WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE?”.  Obviously, we weren’t about to ruin a good thing with audible expressions of shock and glee.

So, dear Mama of Littles,

This picture is my offering to you this Monday morning.  As you mentally prep yourself for another week- for the exhaustion of newborn cryfests and potty training and chasing wobbly toddlers everywhere because if you don’t THEY WILL SURELY DIE- just know that it gets easier.

One day, they WILL sleep through the night.  (At least, for the sake of your sanity and the sanity of everyone around you, I really hope they do.)  And you’ll be able to send them outside alone, mostly confident that they will not surely die.  And, I know this is a tough one to fully grasp, but just hear me out: one day, your child will walk on their own legs to a REAL TOILET and will do their business by. their. own. selves.  Just let that sink in for a minute.

So, Mama of Littles, be encouraged.  You got this.  And even if you don’t- even if all youknowwhat is breaking loose by 9am and you’re convinced there is zero chance you will survive until bedtime- well, I have a few words of wisdom for your weary soul:

1. Chocolate chips.

2. Headphones.

3. Bathroom.

Take items one through two into #3 stat.  Oh, and you’re going in alone.  Just for a few minutes.  Let them yell your name (HEADPHONES, people) and stick their grimy little fingers under the crack of the door all they want.  Lock it.  If concerned for the safety of your children, utilize Disney Junior.  Just do it.  It will not rot their brains.  I work in PEDIATRICS, y’all.  This is what I DO.  Take my word for it.  (Even if it does, I claim no medical responsibility.)  (But I will accepts treats when you finally grasp how glorious it feels to have a few minutes of sanity and chocolate interspersed in your day of chaos and toddlers.)

When you emerge, take a few cleansing breaths (ideally not in the same vicinity as your Diaper Genie) and take hope.  Yes, hope that there will come a glorious day in which you will find yourself reading independently, silently, with the same children whose bottoms you were just wiping, like, yesterday.  But also hope in Christ and his new mercies and sustaining grace and God’s ability to keep our children alive when we are D.O.N.E. by 10am.

Much love,

Catherine, Mother of Three Self-Toileting Children*

*In a spirit of full-disclosure, they still wipe boogers on the walls.**

**I just can’t with this.  Dear Parents of Teens, please send encouragement that this, too, shall pass.

weekend miracle

This weekend, something purely miraculous happened.  I got dressed in real clothes.  And real hair.  As in not running shorts and a ponytail.  AND Matt and I went out together!  Without kids!  IN REAL CLOTHES!  If you think this is not blog-worthy, then you just don’t even know.

After moving in a few weeks ago, a neighbor asked me if I’m a runner.  “I’ve noticed that you’re always dressed in running clothes,” she added.  I paused.  “Well.  Define ‘runner’,” I wanted to ask.  Because, there was that 10k I ran a few (ELEVEN) years ago.  It doesn’t matter how many friends I have with that fancy 26.2 sticker on their car; that dumb 10k will forever be the crowning moment of my ohsobrief running career.

I hardly got the words “uh, nope” out of my mouth before she began inviting me to her running group.  Her running group that trains for ONE HUNDRED MILE RACES.  100. Miles.  Apparently, that’s a thing.  People do that.  At one point, I was being educated on the ins and outs of ultra marathons when it occurs to me- my poser-self was standing around in running shoes while my new 100-mile-friend just happened to be dressed like a normal person.  In normal people clothes.  And just like that, I vowed to start getting dressed more often.

This weekend was my chance for success.  (Success at getting dressed.  Not running.  Come on, people.)  Wedding season has arrived, and it began with Rebekah.  We’ve known Rebekah since the days Matt helped with the student ministry at our old church, and we were thrilled to head to Richmond for her big day.  It was such a beautiful wedding, made even more beautiful by the fact that it was held at the same church where Matt and I were wed nearly ten years ago.  As we waited for the wedding to begin, Matt and I whispered back and forth.

“I don’t remember doing any of this.”  “Shut up, of course you do.”  “You’re sure we got married here?”  “YES we got married here.  Of course we got married here.”  “I don’t know.  That was so long ago.  I don’t remember this AT ALL.”  “Stop being dumb.  I totally do.  I think.

We settled on the fact that we did indeed get married.  At that same church.  Almost ten years ago.  Dude, marriage is hard.

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Moving on.  So I posted the above picture on Instagram and people were all, “oh y’all look great! what an adorable couple!” which made me feel like I may have misled everyone. Because what I didn’t post was…

IMG_2957the “hey! let’s take a selfie by the butt statue!” picture.  You can dress us up…

Okay.  Now that we’ve established that we’re very sophisticated individuals, deeply appreciative of the arts, shall we move on?  We shall.

Miracle #2.  We spent an entire 24 hours alone sans kids.  This rarely happens.  And by “rarely”, I mean next to never.  This is not a good thing, I know.  All of the marriage books tell us that we’re failures because we’re not getting away for enough date nights and just-the-two-of-us vacations and whateverelse together.  And YES these are all good things.  Great things. Things that I wish existed all the time in our reality.  But apparently our reality is not the same as the MarriageBookAuthors reality because, you see, we have these three small people in our home called OUR KIDS.  Kids who need adults.  Adults who, incidentally, are not banging down our front door begging to watch our precious little blessings while we frolic in the tropics.  (Though, if you happen to be one such adult, please call/write/send smoke signals.)

BUT.  My inlaws offered to take the kids for the night.  My parents offered to take the dog.  And we were left with one choice.  Freedom for one glorious night.  In a mostly-decent, Priceline.com-special hotel.  Where I would fall asleep by 10pm, rise by 5am, and jump up in the middle of the night exclaiming that “Matt!  I hear the kids!”  (I don’t remember this.  Rumor has it that he had to remind my half-awakened self that we were in a hotel and that the kids were indeed not within earshot.  Even for mom ears.)

Basically, it was the best weekend ever.

Just don’t ask how many days I’ve gotten dressed this week.

(The answer is one.)

dear self of 2008…

Dear Self of 2008,

You’re going to love it here.

I know.  I KNOW.  You don’t want to move to North Carolina.  And I know you feel like you’ve just moved to the middle of freaking nowhere.  You’re hyperventilating at the thought of having not. one. single. bookstore. within a reasonable drive.  You’ll cry A LOT at the thought of living hours from family.  And you just want out.  Now.

What would you say if I tell you that you’re going to grow to love this place?  That the years you spend living here are going to wreck you and shape you in the best way possible.  That the tears you shed in having to move here will one day be far outnumbered by the tears you shed in having to LEAVE here.

Self of 2008, I know you have some resentment about having to work to put your husband through seminary.  For a seminary degree that you don’t even think is necessary because obviously you’re going overseas as missionaries and CLEARLY missionaries don’t need to go to seminary.  (Also, self of 2008?  You have a lot of opinions.  That never really changes.)  Anyway, that husband of yours who promised from Day One that he’d NEVER work at a church.  Or be a pastor.  Girl, just take a few deep breaths. We’ll get to that one in a minute.

Back to you working.  I get it.  You feel like the responsibility of keeping your family financially afloat on your part-time salary is fourteen steps beyond daunting.  But you know what?  God’s gonna provide.  Generously.  Unexpectedly.  Bank statements aside, your job alone and the relationships built there are going to quickly become some of the biggest blessings in your life thus far.

And that whole seminary thing?  K, so here’s the deal.  I’m not going to lie and say all of this went down seamlessly and without lots of, well, friendly “pushback”.  But let’s cut to the chase.  You’re not going overseas.  Not now anyway.  And SURPRISE!  Your husband’s going to be a pastor!  At a church!  A really large church.  I know how you’re feeling right about now.  And, I hate to break it to you, Self of 2008, but you’re going to be working through Some Big Feelings regarding this whole upheaval-in-your-life-plans thing for months.  (Years, even.  Sorry, self.)

I need you to know this, though.  And GOOD GRACIOUS you’re going to learn this a lot over the next few years.  You know that God you spend a lot of time talking about and praying to and studying?  Well, God- the one who created everything that is and was and will be- yeah, so he knows what he’s doing.  Better than you do, my friend.  And he’s good even when you think his plans are crampin’ your style.

You’re going to have a complicated relationship with your church for a while.  Because, thanks to them, your husband is now a pastor!  At a church!  Remember?  And because you suddenly discover that, lo and behold, pastors are REAL PEOPLE.  With their own sin and failures and junk.  And for some ridiculous reason, that’s hard for you to grapple with.  Also, because your own little heart may just be a really hot mess.  Yeah, that too.

But God’s going to use that place and those people to show you Jesus in a new way.  You’re going to grasp the gospel like never before, and your messy little heart is going to be rocked.  And as you work through your own issues, you’re going to learn, ever so slowly, to love the church again.

Really, what I’m saying is that you have no idea what you’re in for.  It’s going to be an unbelievably difficult and beautiful and exhausting and sanctifying six and a half years.  Those years are going to be a perspective changer.  Because as you eventually step into the next season of life, you will be able to look back on God’s graciousness in those bittersweet years in little Clayton, North Carolina.  You’re going to be filled with this overwhelming sense of confidence that he is FOR YOU.  And he loves you with a “no matter what” kind of love that still blows your mind.  And he’s good.  Always.  Always.

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five firsts

It’s been an eventful few weeks, and we’ve experienced quite a few firsts…

1. Mary Grace’s first lost tooth.

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For weeks, there was incessant chatter about her wiggly tooth.  Ever an entrepreneur and desperate for enough cash to buy the latest Skylanders trap, Mary Grace was considering this whole tooth-shedding deal her newest business venture.  As such, she enlisted all the help she could get from any willing tooth-wiggler she could find.  And I sat back and let it happen because MOVING.  (This will be my excuse for everything for the next five years.  Just so you know.)

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2. First bunkbeds.

The girls, for the first time ever, are sharing a room.  In bunk beds.  Prior to moving, I had received many words of warning regarding this bunk bed decision.  “Don’t you dare!  They will fall out and be marred for life!”  “They’ll never sleep again!”  Meanwhile, others encouraged me, saying it was no big deal for their kids.  THANK YOU JESUS, my girls fell into the “no big deal” camp.  Because I like my sleep.  And I like their sleep.  And lo and freakin behold, they are sleeping better now than they ever have.  Bunk beds for the win!  (And if you think that I’m crazy enough to risk waking them up for a picture of two sisters sweetly sleeping in their new beds, you are just so wrong.)

3. First training-wheel-less bike ride.

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A childhood rite of passage- the removal of training wheels- went down yesterday.  And aside from some bloodied knees and scraped elbows, it was a success.

So, let’s review.  In the past two weeks, this kid has lost her first tooth, learned to ride a two-wheeled bike, and OH YEAH, has attended kindergarten orientation.  The days are long, but the years are for REAL ridiculously short.

 

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4. First snake bite.

GROSS.  Our goofball dog loves to romp around in our new woods like she’s one with the wildlife.  Nevermind the fact that her genetically modified breed can hardly survive in a grassy backyard on a breezy summer day.  Either way, she learned her lesson (or not. she’s not all that bright.) when she was bitten in the face by a snake last week.  Again, GROSS.

This led to some, uh, lively marital discussions.  Matt was all, “Eh, whatever.  She’s a dog.  She’ll be fine.  Don’t worry about the vet.”  And then he started throwing around phrases like “risk analysis” in his case against taking our snake-bitten much-loved pet to the doctor.  God bless the man, but let’s just say my reaction was VERY DIFFERENT.

Needless to say, we went to the vet.  And me and Matt?  Oh, we’re fine.  You know, now that I’ve apologized for my “harsh tone” and he knows that the words “risk analysis” are never to be used again when in reference to (a) snakes or (b) Lucy.

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5. First (and probably last) time my seven year old thought, “Dude, mom might actually be cool.”

Prior to our move, we introduced Carson to Super Mario World.  This served several purposes.  Naturally, we felt a growing burden to introduce our firstborn to the finest in video game history.  We had no choice- it was our parental duty. We take this parenting thing seriously, people.

Also, self-care.  Because a girl can’t pack all day long.  This is how it went down: Carson would play and get stuck on a level.  I would swoop in, wipe away his tears, and promise to beat the level while he was in school.  I mean, I do what I can for my children.  SACRIFICIAL LOVE. The moment we were home from morning carpool, I’d run in the door, kick the moving boxes to the side, and settle in to crush some Koopa tail.  In afternoon carpool, Carson would make a mad dash to the car to hear the rundown, I’d show him the pictures of defeated castles and ghost houses, and he’d whoop, cheer, and lavish me with praises.

Whatever.  Being a mom is a thankless job.  I take what I can get.

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