Today, just thankful

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    • Waking up on Sunday morning to the sound of rain outside the window, just lying in the dark thinking, “I don’t have to get up right now. I can enjoy this.”
    • Downton Abbey (how am I just now watching this?) and Maggie Smith portraying the Dowager Countess with lines like, “Of course it would happen to a foreigner. No Englishman would dream of dying in someone else’s house.”
    • Late brunch on Sunday (well let’s be honest, if you don’t eat until 1:00, it was lunch with eggs, but whatever you call it, it was delicious).
    • Birthday cards and birthday presents and birthday phone calls. It is nice to be remembered.
    • Finding out that my college roommate, Kaitlyn, won’t be going out of town after all, so I get to spend all weekend with her!
    • The new Valentine’s Day Pact that David and I agreed to Saturday night. It is as follows: one “Fancy” dinner out between my birthday and Valentine’s (but never on Valentine’s Day, because crowded) and we will wait to buy chocolate until it goes on sale on February 15th (his), provided we only buy the good stuff (mine).
    • Getting the photo booth pictures back from our wedding. Man, my family is awesome. And embarrassing. And awesome. Also, it is official that I look about as uncomfortable as I feel when taking goofy pictures. I definitely got my loud, fast-talking speech from the Fullerton’s, but the goofy gene got lost in translation.
    • New books.
    • I GET TO SEE MY FAMILY THIS WEEKEND!!!
    • @PopeRandyHarris. I don’t know who is responsible for this. I only know that I love them.
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A look back.

Confession: I  am incredibly nostalgic person.

When I went home last month to help my parents pack up the last of their stuff, I spent at least 4 hours sitting on the floor, going through a box of my old, second-rate toys mostly saying things like, “Oh my gosh, I remember this.”

Four. Hours. And some of them I literally had not thought about once in the 12+ years that they sat in our garage attic.

And while that was probably a gigantic waste of time, I enjoy indulging my nostalgic tendencies from time to time. I like looking back. Facebook timeline was designed for people just like me, and I love it.

David, on the other hand, has this strange obsession with being present in, like, the actual moment in which you are currently living.

Which is great because while one of us is waxing poetic about the Noah’s Ark puzzle she loved when she was 6, the other can be like, “That’s great, babe. But it’s 7pm and I was thinking maybe we could, like, live life and eat dinner at some point.”

But looking back over the year gives me perspective. I realize that it’s okay that I only read 29 out of 30 books. And it’s okay that my year-end posts are about 3 weeks late. And it’s okay that I have four loads of laundry waiting to be done and seven boxes that still need to be unpacked. Because look at everything we got done this year!

So with that, 2012 in pictures:

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The year started with gingerbread houses and these pretty ladies coming to visit.

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I painted this and read a great book by John Green.

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I took a photography colloquia and made it to the final round of TFA interviews.

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I turned 22, and that’s what my room looked like. It was not a good birthday.

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David and I broke up. It snowed. I painted.

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I rearranged my room. I thought about dying my hair, but thankfully, didn’t.

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I adopted a puppy. I named her Harper Lee.

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I had no idea how much I needed her.

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Kaitlyn and I pranked a favorite, retiring professor. Totally worth going to bed at 4am.

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I took a wonderful, unexpected, and much needed Spring Break trip to Kansas.

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I read, I baked with friends, and both of these pretty ladies got married.

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Then somehow, in a turn of events absolutely no one saw coming, David and I got engaged. Go ahead. Judge me. If I were you, I would judge me. In fact, if you don’t raise your eyebrows at that a little, I judge you. But somehow, that worked for us.

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David was named a University scholar and we went on a joy-filled church retreat.

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I had my last class, and we graduated from ACU.

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We said good bye to this place.

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And these people.

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I was in the Most Beautiful Wedding Ever, when my darling friend Ali got married in June.

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We said Hello to College Station. And bought some furniture from this fine establishment.

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My parents moved out of the house we lived in since I was 4, and America had a birthday.

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And my grandfather had a birthday.

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And David had a birthday.

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David started graduate school, and I got my first real job.

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We were “showered” by our wonderful churches.

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And spent a lovely Thanksgiving in Tulsa.

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Then we got married!! Which was wonderful, and busy, and so full of family.

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My dear friend Kaitlyn couldn’t be there, but we got a picture anyway.

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And we spent Christmas honeymooning in Santa Fe.

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Then flew back to Dallas, drove to San Antonio for a friend’s wedding. Then rang in the new year at the wedding of a couple more dear Highland friends.

It was quite a year. It’s a wonderful life.

 




















 

On Monday, we give thanks

And sometimes on Tuesday when Mondays are hard and we don’t get around to it.

We just found out that some very dear friends, some of the most loving and gracious people I know, are enduring a very painful loss with their family.

The skies are dark,
sinking low, laden,
heavy with expectant rain.

And that feels right with my soul today, my heart breaking a little alongside people I love dearly. And I have a list of little things, one I made yesterday,

but today, I’m most thankful for the anticipated Christ child.

A promised light, breaking through our darkness.

Emmanuel, God with us. God, drawing near.

I wrote this just over a year ago on an old blog. A very different situation, but the same familiar sense of grief and loss.

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But here are the little things for which I am thankful.

  • Coffee and laughter and future plans with new friends. The joy of life with other people and new relationships.
  • The final countdown: we’re under three weeks, guys!
  • It’s snowing on WordPress. Every time I open my home page, tiny white dots drift from the top of the screen. If it’s going to insist on being 80 degrees outside, at least my computer understands appropriate weather patterns.
  • The new Fair Trade chocolate chips at HEB. I’m determined that as far as it is within my control, I won’t support human enslavement, economically crippling working conditions, and unsustainable growing practices. And coffee and chocolate are two of the worst offenders.
    I realize that it is an incredibly small (and mildly selfish) thing, but I’m grateful that I can support fair and just treatment of other human beings, and still be able to make chocolate chip cookies. (Plus, they are delicious.)
  • My new Christmas album: Christmas by Low. Which Stephen Thompson of NPR’s PCHH calls “cocoa for the soul”. And it is.
  • A really wonderful weekend with my parents. We ate at Pei Wei and picked up my wedding dress and did some Christmas shopping for relatives; it was really lovely.
  • The lighted garland I bought on sale at Target in lieu of a Christmas tree this year.

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Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.

This is what I must remember

This morning at work, after the normal morning tasks of coffee making and ice gathering, after cleaning up the conference room from last night’s dinner,

after scrubbing dried/soggy lasagna off of a plastic utensil in a sink that won’t stay on consistently because hello, plastic utensils are very much worth this kind of cleaning effort,

after reading just the beginning of another blog post about laundry and tedium and the desert fathers who sought the spirituality of the most menial tasks, after clicking to something else because that kind of truth feels like too much this morning, after reminding myself: you have a job, this is good, be grateful,

after that, I poured myself a cup of coffee, sat down at my desk, dumped a couple packets of creamer, and just stared into the smooth, unperturbable surface, its color embarrassingly closer to white than black.

I feel stretched thin, and I don’t know why; my life is so good. I don’t want more. I don’t want better. I just want to feel less exhausted.

I want to embody hopeful anticipation, without haste, without impatience. I want to be kind and generous and open-palmed, all those things I’ve never been all that good at, but boy would life be easier if I was.

I want the advent to wrap itself around me, to change me. I want to embrace this real hope and good light that won’t be muddled by the mundane or rocked by my failures.

And it’s hard without a church, I tell you. It’s hard without community. It’s hard, sometimes, to force yourself to create the thing you know you need, because if you could just have it already, it would be so much easier to get started.

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I tried to remember the last time my heart and soul and mind felt this weight, these frustrated, negative thoughts that seem to fly through my mind faster than I can shoot them down. The last time I darn near hated myself for my own inability to just be happy already.

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I know it was like this shortly after I moved to Abilene. Oh, I hated Abilene. I hated its endlessly confusing roads. I hated the complete lack of a drainage system that resulted in a biblical flood every time in rained for more than 20 minutes. I missed my family. I missed my church. I missed Super Target.

I missed the life I had expected for myself. The one where I went off to college, and suddenly became a different person, where making friends was easy, and I was not only the most brilliant student of all time, but also the life of the party.

I think I was disappointed by how much harder it is to live in the reality of a moment than to imagine it. And I think I missed out on a whole year of loving that place because I was too busy focusing on the life I expected.

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The Sunday before graduation, we met one last time at the house in which we had gathered for almost two years. Each arriving to our little family holiday, laden with food and gifts and grace, greeted with hugs and cheerful exclamations.

We laughed uproariously, talked of deep things, drank more than our fair share of Mark’s darkest of dark roasts. We repeated our stories, shared our tears, offered our endless thanks.

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And before we left, Gina, the kindest of hostesses, commissioned us. Reminded us that we were about to go out, that we had been given this gift of real and true love for a time, for a purpose. 

We knew a community that was real, a community of joy and hard questions and “I love you” and “this doesn’t end here”. We would not be fooled by the cheaper imitations, we would not be placated by shallow and nice.

And so we left Abilene, left the house on Lincoln, but carry with us not a bitterness of what we left behind, but a hopeful charge, a belief, that here too, anywhere, we can cultivate a garden that blooms in generosity and faithfulness.

We are not passive victims of our circumstance; but willful participants. So we can bake the cake and offer it with open arms, invite them in, surrender our home and our coffee, gather around the table and share the bread, even if we don’t call it that.

We’ve done it before. It just takes time.

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So maybe the moral is that I’m still being taught patience, after all these years. How to be patient with new places, how to be patient with myself, how to wait happily, expectantly, resting in the gracious gift of this one, spectacular life.

Disappointing football and fantastic food.

Well, I have returned from the land of the Okies.

I hope you all had a really wonderful Thanksgiving full of food, family, relaxation, and gratitude.

I have so many, many things to be thankful for – more than I could possibly list here – but here are just a few to brighten Return to Work Monday.

1.  Gravy. I discovered it this Thanksgiving. I’ve always given gravy a wide berth; brown liquid made from turkey giblets just never sounded the least bit appealing to me.

But apparently, it isn’t always made with the innards of a large bird. And tasty brown sauce made from normal kitchen ingredients sounds great! So I ventured into New Territory, something I almost never do on Thanksgiving.

And I was rewarded most deliciously.

I am now a person who likes gravy. I think I have to register for a gravy boat now…

2. Brisk fall days and long walks with David to work off all that gravy.

3. Leaves coloring trees all bright red, leaves gathering in crunchy piles for the amusement of children (and 22 year old joggers), leaves raining down, leaves caught in the blustery wind, leaves resting gently on lawns and driveways and front stoops.

The view from David’s parents kitchen. I just love a perfectly yellow tree.

4. All the crazies who went out at 8 pm on Thanksgiving day, resulting in a perfectly pleasant day of Black Friday shopping (seriously no dressing room lines! no trouble finding a parking spot! no wait at check-out! how does such a thing happen?)

5. Baking Thanksgiving pies with David’s grandmother. (We made a Vodka crust; it was fun times).

6. Sorting through hilarious-precious pictures of David and his siblings as children (and several of his mom and my aunt when they were in school together).

Aren’t they SO cute? David is on the left. And his older brother, John, is on the right.

David’s mom and my aunt were roommates in college. A seriously serendipitous little fact. Don’t they just look so lovely? Left to right: Susan, some woman I do not know, my Aunt Beth.
I love it.

7. Running into my sweet friend, Matt Anderson during our 4 hour layover in Abilene yesterday. Plus he gave me free coffee, which let me tell you, is one of my very favorite things ever.

8. Speaking of, Peppermint Mochas have returned to Starbucks. (And don’t tell me they have peppermint flavoring year round. I refuse to acknowledge that reality. It doesn’t count unless it comes in a happy red cup that orders Cheer! and Rekindle! and Joy!)

9. The world’s best fiance who was wonderfully sweet to me when I get All Kinds of Sick on the drive home yesterday.

As an aside, here are some things that do not help car sickness:

 

  1. Migraines
  2. Having to close your eyes every time headlights pass in the opposite direction because the lights cause your migraine to start screaming in protest
  3. Sprite – I used to like Sprite when I was sick – I do not anymore
  4. 12 hours in the car in one day
  5. Letting yourself become seriously dehydrated
  6. Drinking coffee as a solution to this problem
  7. Setting off the car alarm when you try to get out of the locked car

Here are some things that make me feel much better:

 

  1. Meds recommended by Dr. Dad
  2. David driving my whole six hour shift after he’d already driven for six hours
  3. Sitting on the curb outside of Walgreens while David buys me a drink
  4. David rubbing my back while hunched over in the front seat displaying all manner of Pathetic and Sad and Uuughughugh
  5. A somewhat hilarious combination of peek-a-boo and red light/green light, wherein David warned me every time lights appeared on the horizon so that I could cover my eyes, then let me know when I could safely watch the road again – dealing with a headache and car sickness is a careful balancing act – definitely a two person job.

Seriously though, he’s great.

10. A really beautiful Thanksgiving break full family, food (with almost an entire serving of Puppy Chow all to myself), board games, and Christmas decorating.

You guys, you’re fabulous. And I thank you.

There are times when living life can be draining, when grace is an impassable mountain, treacherous and exhausting and insurmountable.

There are times when it is difficult to believe that you are loved, when even the kindness of dear friends has to fight through the darkness to be heard.

I have spent some time on that dark pass, friends. And it can be terrible, lonely, exhilarating, painful, hopeful, cold, and strengthening all at the same time.

But then there are weekends like this last one.

And I don’t subscribe to the notion that you have to know how bad Lima beans can taste in order to recognize just how blissfully apples, pastry, and cinnamon can compliment each other. Our minds and eyes and tongues and hearts know good when they experience it; the ugly bitterness isn’t necessary.

But a heart that has shivered in the loneliness, that has longed achingly for the sun, that has slipped into a chasm where its rising no longer seems certain – that heart has learned gratitude.

Because when that sun rises again – and it does – you are constantly aware of the tickling warmth on the back of your legs, and the feather soft rays that trickle through the clouds. And when you stop for a moment to remember, to recognize, I swear, it’ll bring you to your knees.

And so it was this weekend.

From the overwhelming generosity of my church to family who drove several hours on Saturday just to be there and then turned around Sunday afternoon to drive several hours back.

From a hand-crafted tribute to one of our favorite movies from my cousins to all the precious Christmas gifts from family members that made me feel so known.

My cousin made this. Because she is awesome and talented.

From my dad leaving my favorite road trip snack by my suitcase to a fantastic collection of recipes from my future mother-in-law to the hard-work of my gracious and talented hostesses to another cousin who is helping me do all the decorations because she’s fabulous.

This is the recipe book that I got from Susan. Is that not fan-freaking-tastic? Now, I not only have tons of actual dinner recipes, but I have some of David’s favorites.

And as if all that wasn’t enough, my forever friend and bridesmaid who lives out in California flew in early and completely surprised me by showing up to my shower. So of course I screamed and ran to hug her and we both cried a few happy, happy tears. And I can’t believe we didn’t get a picture, but it was so good to see her.

By the way, she blogs delightfully about all things fashion, here, and you should check it out.

Plus a whole bunch of sweet phone calls and text messages from friends who couldn’t be there, but let me know that I was loved anyway.

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And here are a few gift highlights.
Obviously, one of us likes coffee. I’ll give you a hint: it’s me. I’m the one who likes coffee.

I went with both the fast, single serve (that can also make hot chocolate for David) and the french press. Because why not?

My sister bought me this beautiful blanket. It’s the grown-up version of the blanket I still sleep with every night gave up when I went to college like a grown-up. She picked it out because I can stick my fingers through the holes just like I do with my other one. Yeah, she’s pretty wonderful.

My OhSo soft blanket.

They had a pitcher of wooden spoons set out for people to write their best marriage advice. David and I read through them when I got home last night. Isn’t that such a cute idea?

We got a bit of conflicting advice. Thankfully, I took Glen Pemberton’s Wisdom and Devotional Lit. of the OT class where I learned that wisdom is not bits of universally applicable facts, but is rather the ability to discern when you should apply varied, sometimes contradictory truth. So this is not a problem.
Unless we apply the wrong one…

Confession: this one was my favorite. Mostly because it made me laugh.

I couldn’t capture it in a picture, but sometime I’ll share one of my other forever friends Abby’s brilliant gift. The consensus was that she “won the shower”. Ha.

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I feel blessed beyond words by your love, your generosity, your creativity, and your presence. Thank you. Though those words can hardly contain the depth of my gratitude, thank you, all the same.

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I will think of you each time I get a cup of coffee in the morning or decorate my Christmas tree or curl up with my grown-up blanket.  As Ann Voskamp said, “Remembering is an act of thanksgiving, a way of thanksgiving, this turn of the heart over time’s shoulder to see all the long way his arms have carried.”