Today, just thankful

13669_1140812731271_4975982_n

    • 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.
Advertisements

It’s the final countdown.

That high-pitched whine you’re hearing is the sound of my anxiety.

.

.

My mom texted me today because our cake baker quit.

After several conversations and emails about this cake.

.

I mean, she had my email address. Could’ve sent a 30 second message:

“Hey! So won’t be doing your cake after all. I quit. Screw those guys. I realize this is inconvenient for you, but thems the facts. Have a nice wedding!”

.

I lied. Typing that took less than 30 seconds.

But, no.

.

So thanks for that, chica.

Thankfully, cake is bottom tier of wedding things that are important to me, but still. I want to have some. That doesn’t look like a 4 year old made it.

Actually, my standards are higher than that. I want it to look better than I could do it myself, and I can make some dang good looking desserts, if I do say so myself.

So here’s hoping Edgar knows what he’s doing.

.

.

So that just leaves programs, cups, chairs, tablecloths,
wrapping, video editing, photo scanning, moving, underwear,
plates & utensils, reception playlist, emergency kit, coffee carafes
Christmas presents, hot chocolate ingredients, s’mores, marriage license,
nails, make-up, dinner, exit strategy, thank-you notes, honeymoon packing,
gift buying for the wedding party tinies, my rehearsal dinner outfit,
fixing the errant wedding delivery I received last night, cake
and a partridge in a pear tree to figure out this week.

.

I can literally feel my heart rate accelerating.

.

So I’m thankful for the Peace on Earth part of Christmas right now. And for a four hour drive all to myself tomorrow to listen to my Yuletide Playlist*. And for a really great boss who gave me a week off.

And in one week, I’ll be together with all my family and dearest friends.

.

Just gotta make it through the next 8 days.

.

Then wedded bliss.

.

.

*It’s actually titled Jesus and Mary, What a Great Day. And it fantastic. It’s the perfect mix of cheesy Amy Grant, off-beat cheer, and haunting hymns.

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.

——–

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.

16980_1159898488403_4553817_n

 

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.

______

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.

_______

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.

________

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.

398792_3016055011156_1121428137_n

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.

540599_3016043330864_8163648_n

_________

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.

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.

.
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.

.

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.

.

.

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.”

November is for Thanks

I keep trying to find a consistent day for thankfulness, but consistency is not my word for 2012. Maybe life will settle down in January and we can find an every week day for giving thanks. Maybe Sundays, that feels right. But this week, it’s Monday.

And maybe that would be better, because Mondays are hard, and thankfulness is a great cure for Mondays.

  • The words “you can head out a little early” last Friday. Oh, kind bosses and sweet freedom on a day that would not end
  • HEB retreat and what a blessing I know it was for so many people I love, even if I couldn’t be there
  • Sweet friends who let you know that, even in such a beautiful weekend, you were missed
  • David’s wonderful parents who came to visit this weekend and helped us accomplish ALL THE THINGS! Yes, people, we now have rings and tuxes. We will now officially all be clothed at the wedding.
  • John Green and the absolutely fabulous videos his team is making about world history. I can’t encourage you strongly enough to go watch them. They’re on YouTube. They’re free. They’re freaking brilliant and funny and beautifully graphic-ed.

This is their penultimate (favorite word) video. He discusses globalization through the     lens of t-shirt production. Watch it. Just do it. Right now. And then go watch all their previous videos.

  • Creative, funny people who create brilliant internet things for the Monday morning amusement of office workers everywhere. Case in point: When animals trick or treat. Click this link. It will make you smile so much.
  • November. And the promise of colder weather, more family,  warm comfort food baking, and twinkle lights.
  • Christmas music in Target. I went in to pick up some freezer bags, and I couldn’t resist wandering back to the ostentatiously early Christmas section. I just wandered through the aisles, smiling back at the fat little snowmen, and letting that oh-so-familiar music take me back to tree decorating and cookie baking and all my favorite things. It’s good people.

Wedding Shower Weekend: Part 2

Last Sunday, David’s church threw a really lovely shower for us. Hosted by these wonderfully kind women:

Hostesses

It was such a delightful afternoon. But I kept experiencing this twinge of not-quite-right-emotion that I just couldn’t place. Kinda of like guilt, but not so guilty.

I’ve always had a sort of weird relationship with gift giving in general, but there’s this thing about wedding gifts that feels so, “hey! buy me stuff!”

But I was sitting there, opening presents, and thoroughly enjoying myself, I must say. And I just couldn’t ignore this feeling squirming quietly in the back of my mind, trying to get my attention, to reconcile a disconnect that I couldn’t quite articulate.

Then I was holding a gift from my sweet mother, a gift we had been equally excited about when we found it at Pottery Barn, a gift she knew I would love. And I didn’t feel that squirmy feeling. That was the crux of it.

Gifts are rarely exchanged between strangers.

They are given to co-workers in gratitude or presented thoughtfully to friends who are enduring too much.

They’re pulled from deep within a suitcase full of dirty clothes and passed out at the end of a trip, joyful in reunion.

They’re unwrapped around a Christmas tree, pajama clad legs folding indian style, excitement transforming sleepy, long-loved eyes.

They are the result of relationships, a natural celebration of the work, the grace, the give and take necessary to draw close and share life. They are reciprocal, by their very nature.

And so it is an unusual experience to open a pile full of gifts brought lovingly by people you have never met. A realization drawn more starkly by David’s absence.

Because the pretty white packages – the tea kettle, the shiny silver knives, the striped duvet and turquoise bowls – they will find their way into my home, my kitchen cabinets, but they were never really meant for me. They were bought for David and mostly for his parents, for the years they’ve spent loving their church.

As I opened those gifts, I received the blessing poured out of someone else’s relationships. Gifts that I didn’t earn, can’t pay back.

I can offer only my thanks, which feels gracefully small.

I never knew how humbling it is to be loved; it’s so much beyond what I deserve.

———

And now for pictures!

Family

Both mine and David’s moms were able to be there, along with both David’s grandmothers and his dad’s sister, Kathi. Though I’m sure they would have loved to see David, I really enjoyed getting to spend the weekend with all of them.

Mother and me

Me and my mom! (sorry it’s a bit blurry)

My future mother-in-law

I’m trying not to gush too much, but I just love family.

David’s sweet grandmothers

Me and Susan’s mother.

As you can tell by these pictures, I had no fun.

None at all.

I definitely don’t like cookware.

Or presents.

It’s a rough life, but somebody’s gotta do it.

Me and the “bridal bunny”. He has a veil and everything.

.

.

.

*As a side note to all my CoC friends, my shower was held at the home of the lovely Raye Lynn McCloud. That’s right, as in the mother of TJ McCloud, as in “Out of My League” TJ McCloud. In honor of my middle school, church retreat attending self, I was appropriately excited about this fact.