Our Plan B Christmas

Croup* stinks. For toddlers, and also for adults. I know this because I’ve had it for 10 days and STILL have a fever, a horrible cough that keeps me up all night, no voice, and a runny nose that not all the Kleenex boxes in all the world could handle.

Merry Christmas to me.

PlanBXmas1Gosh, I sound like such a Scrooge, don’t I? It really wasn’t THAT bad. I managed to take Wrenn on a few outings during my week off, but as the week went on, I felt worse. And worse. And worse. And then on Christmas Eve, I felt like death, and between my germs, Wrenn’s germs (she’s on the tail end of croup – she got a 4-day head start), and a tummy bug that attacked one of my relatives, Christmas Eve with Mr. Right’s family got cancelled.

And then I had to cancel Christmas Day plans with my family, since I didn’t want to expose my two baby nephews to my germs. I’m not sure what made me more sad – missing Christmas with my family, or missing a chance to cuddle my 3-week-old and 6-month-old nephews for a whole day.

It was a total bummer, y’all.

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Since we hadn’t planned to spend Christmas at home, just the three of us, it wasn’t like we had planned something awesome to do. We had no fun food to cook, so we grabbed take-out fried chicken for our Christmas Eve dinner. Thankfully, Christmas night, both of our moms dropped off Christmas leftovers so we were able to eat a proper Christmas dinner, albeit it from the microwave on a plastic plate. It was yummy nonetheless.

I was super bummed at first about all our cancelled fun may or may not have thrown myself a pity party on Christmas Eve, but then we wrote a letter to Santa, set out cookies, and the magic seemed to come back a little. Wrenn was REALLY into Santa this year, and also totally confused about why he came when she was SLEEPING. So silly, if you think about it. Girlfriend wanted to HANG OUT WITH SANTA.

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Christmas Day ended up being pretty wonderful. Wrenn loved opening presents, and we all played with her new toys, took long naps, and got to briefly see family that night as they dropped off food. Mr. Right was able to sneak in two bike rides in that beautiful 75-degree Christmas weather, and I got to spend the day relaxing – something I, well, rarely do.

PlanBXmas3 Now Christmas has been put away, the pine needles have been vacuumed up (mostly), half of my decorations have been donated to Goodwill (yay for simplifying), and I’m in full-on New Year’s organizing mode. And I’m heading to the doctor tomorrow to beg him for SOMETHING to make me no longer contagious. I’m starting to get a bit lonely over here.

*I was convinced I had croup, but when I called my doctor today, he said croup only lasts about 5 days. He doesn’t think it’s croup – so it must be the plague. It’s the only other possibility.

We are filled with joy: A Thanksgiving reflection

Great things

To compare this year to last year is to simply laugh. Last year was the worst year of my life. This year, one of the best. Not because nothing bad happened – we experienced our share of heartbreak and stress – we lost a baby, we lost our dog (just last week), my sister’s baby spent weeks in the NICU, our close friends moved several states away. Life was still hard, but it was also so sweet.

And the hard came one at a time, not like the waterfall of hard things that almost drowned us last year. Between the hard this year were long stretches of peace. Of easy, and fun, and adventures and health and laughter. So much laughter. And rest, and friends, and more time together as a little family of three than we have ever gotten to spend before. Time to write, and create, and play on the floor and spend hours outside working in our garden.

I am thankful for the hard, because it makes years like this seem that much sweeter. This year has been filled with wonder that can only be seen through the eyes of a two-year-old.

I am thankful for holidays and dedicated times to look back and reflect on God’s goodness. His goodness on the peaceful days, and his goodness during my times of sorrow. His goodness during times of healing, and times of serving, and times of just being.

He is so faithful.

The Lord has done great things for {me}, and {I am} filled with joy. (Psalm 126:3)

A weekend away with my tribe

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When Mr. Right and I sit down with couples who are planning to get married, we always tell them that finding good couple friends is one of the best things you can do for your marriage. I’m not kidding – research supports it, and my heart can attest to it. It takes awhile – when we got married, most of our friends were single, and so we had my friends and his friends and a few “our” friends, but very few couples that we could do life with.

And so we prayed. And prayed. And prayed. And man, has God blessed us richly. If you haven’t found “your” people yet, may I suggest looking at church? Church is messy and I’ll admit, there are some people there who are hard to love. But there are also some people – just like you – who are willing to do life with you, to know your junk and love you anyway, to be there when your “I just had a baby” hormones are out of control and you need someone to talk you down off the ledge, to pray for you, to see you without any makeup on and not care one bit, to laugh with you – and at you – so life seems less serious.

We found our tribe at church, in our Sunday School class. They are a bunch of messy people with J-U-N-K, and I absolutely adore them. ADORE.

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This past weekend six couples from our class headed down to a lake house with just one rule: NO KIDS ALLOWED. Grownups only. It was awesome.

Here’s how our weekend went down:

Friday night:

  • Drive two hours out of town, listening to podcasts and enjoying great shoulder-to-shoulder time with the spouse.
  • Eat dinner at a restaurant at 8:00 (y’all, if we eat past 6:00 these days, we feel like we’re living on the edge). It was CRAZY.
  • Stay up super late playing games.
  • Laugh and laugh and laugh and (maybe sort of) binge on cookies.

Saturday:

  • Sleep late. Like, really late. Like, until almost 8:00. Feel like a million bucks.
  • Sit around and make breakfast.
  • Talk. Laugh. Eat.
  • Sit in rocking chairs in a screened-in porch and stare at the lake.
  • Watch your crazy husband jump into the crazy cold lake. Because he’s THE BEST.
  • Talk. Laugh. Eat.
  • Discuss doing something productive, like going into town to shop. Then decide to ditch the plans and take naps. OH GLORIOUS NAPS.
  • Talk. Laugh. Eat.
  • Sit around a campfire eating s’mores and laughing ’til our cheeks hurt.
  • Stay up late playing games, and (maybe sort of) binge on cake balls, chocolate cake, and leftover cookies.

Sunday:

  • Sleep late. Again. Like rockstars.
  • Sit around and make breakfast.
  • Talk. Laugh. Eat.
  • Go home. Get kiddos. Go back to reality.

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To my tribe: thank you for refreshing my soul. For being good listeners and encouragers. For giving me so many “me, too” moments. For being awesome and laid back and FUNNY and really good cooks. And for making me feel loved.

Let’s do it again, okay? #standingroomonly

And just like that, I turned into a pumpkin

Every little girl dreams of being a princess. And you know what? Every big girl – especially a tired mama who lives in jeans and comfortable shoes and loves dry shampoo and looks forward to her Sunday naps more than almost anything else – wants to be a princess every once in awhile.

Well friends, this was our year!

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Miss Wrenn is obsessed with Cinderella. Like, o-b-s-e-s-s-e-d. And, the best part of all is that she is CONVINCED that her daddy is Prince Charming, which made picking this year’s Halloween costumes a breeze. I just HAD to find her a Cinderella dress, and I just HAD to convince Mr. Right to be Prince Charming.

And for me – well, I could have been an evil stepmother or evil stepsister… or maybe I could have been a fairy godmother (I didn’t think of it until later) – but no, I decided I would be a princess too.

I snagged Wrenn a beautiful (and surprisingly well-made) Cinderella dress on Amazon for $27. Once she got over the itchiness (sorry girlfriend – ALL princess dresses are itchy – it’s good training for being a grown-up where EVERYTHING is slightly uncomfortable), she was in love.

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However, when it came time to wear it for her “Harvest Party” (ahem) at Mother’s Day Out, she decided she needed to add a very important accessory. As Wrenn calls it, she was a “Superhero Princess.”

I love that my daughter wants to be a superhero princess. Because that’s basically what being a mom is, isn’t it? A superhero princess?

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For the past four years, we have hosted a big Halloween Party at our house. We’re not exactly Halloween people, but one year we got a wild hair and decided to host a chili cookoff and invite all of our friends and neighbors, and well, it kind of stuck. This year we had about 50 people, including lots we had never met. I loved it.

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Wrenn and I have a thing for sidewalk chalk, so we decided to decorate the driveway the day of the party. It was an excuse to get outside and enjoy the amazing fall weather. (Imagine me saying, “No Wrenn! This is mommy’s picture – you go draw your OWN picture!” about 1,000 times.)

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This year, we had an epiphany. Actually, Mr. Right had an epiphany. He rented our costumes from a local costume shop for about $35 each. He simply walked in, picked out what he wanted, and <<POOF>> we were Prince Charming and Cinderella. With NO work, NO planning, NO stress.

My goodness, I sure love that man.

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I must admit, for one evening, I really did feel like Cinderella. That is, if Cinderella was 15 years older, wore sensible shoes and chased a 2-year-old around, trying to keep her from overdosing on sugar or running into the street.

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Wrenn LOVED our costumes. To her, we WERE princesses. And a neighborhood kid even asked to take her picture with me. I may or may not have twirled at least once in our full-length mirror. I haven’t had this much fun dressing up since our wedding. Petticoats = fancy.

Wrenn had THE BEST TIME handing out candy to all of the neighborhood kids. And convincing all 50 guests to give her JUST ONE piece of candy (bless), and stealing cookies from the dessert table. Girlfriend stayed up until 9:30 from the sugar high, which is 4 a.m. in toddler years (normal bedtime is 7:15).

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And at midnight, I turned back into a pumpkin. Well, actually, I changed into sweats for party cleanup and I was in bed by 10:30 because – HELLO – it was a church night AND daylight savings, which meant my child was up at an ungodly hour ready to face the world. Dang morning people!

I’m already dreaming about what costumes we can rent next year. Because I swear, I will NEVER hand-make a costume again. I wonder if I can talk Wrenn into another princess theme?

Rest and a new week

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My plan for this weekend had been to REST. Lots of rest. My plan was to barely leave our house, hang out and get ahead on housework, recharge my batteries, spend some extra time with Wrenn while Mr. Right went camping with some guys from church, and do things that I enjoy.

God knew I needed the rest, and I think it’s no coincidence that Mr. Right and I both came down with sore throats/colds on Friday, forcing us to slow WAY down and really do almost nothing. That, and the seven inches of rain that cancelled Mr. Right’s camping plans (and made the weekend stuck at home even better, with the soothing sound of rain in the background during my long naps).

This morning I wrote out my calendar, all the plans we have for the week, and handed them over to God. I want his blessing on my calendar, on my plans, on the ways I’m spending my time. The calendar that tends to leave me feeling tired and overwhelmed. This morning, that calendar is His.

Adventures in potty training and the giant living in our home

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Potty training in bullet points:

  • Wrenn’s 3-year-old (boy) cousin taught her how to use the potty. I’m hoping that’s not going to be something that lands both of them in therapy someday. But it worked!
  • My child is crazy motivated by chocolate. Anytime she has “success” she runs out of her room yelling, “Mommy, I NEED CHOCOLATE!!!” Funny, that’s how her dad is motivated as well.
  • I learned an important lesson: Immediately dump the potty after she goes or the DOG WILL DRINK ALL OF IT AND YOU WILL WANT TO THROW UP OR DIE.
  • My mother-in-law had to tell me there’s an escape hatch on pull-ups for #2. I’m going to add that to the list of things people should warn new parents about, along with: don’t feed your kids too many bananas or they’ll never poo again (I learned that the VERY hard way).
  • I have no idea how to go from “Yay, you peed in the potty four times today” to “Yay, you’re wearing big girl undies and mama doesn’t have to spend $50 a month on diapers anymore!” I actually let her pick out some undies (it was a tough choice between Little Mermaid and Frozen, but she went with the mermaid) thinking we would give them a go, and then I remmebered… POO. That has yet to happen in the potty. And this mama is NOT cleaning POO off of Arial’s head. So moms… feel free to tell me what the next step is, as long as that next step doesn’t involve me cleaning poo messes off my couch.

And our new housemate:

On a completely unrelated note but still something I want to remember forever – it turns out that an imaginary green giant has moved into our home. Wrenn points him out – filled with all the wonder and fantasy of a two-year-old – and we wave at him, hide from him, laugh with him,  wake him up when he’s sleeping, pretend we’re scared of him, and draw pictures of him. His name is Jovie the Monkey and sometimes he’s a bald giant with glasses and sometimes he’s a snake, but he’s always big. Regardless, I love the wonder and imagination that this child brings to our home, and I hope this giant chooses to stick around for awhile.

That one time I almost died of embarrassment telling a Bible story

Each week as part of our ESL (English as a Second Language – for adults) program, after an hour of instruction, all the classes come together and we tell a Bible story and then give announcements. We use Chronological Bible Story Telling – basically, if you had someone who had never heard the name of Jesus, how would you give them a complete view of the Bible in just a few short sessions? About 12 to be exact? So we hit the major stories of the Bible and unpack what it means to need and have a savior.

The first time it was my turn to teach on the passover, I royally screwed it up.

You see, I have always taught the beginner’s class. It’s my favorite (it’s also all I know), and many of my students speak so very little English. So when you’re telling a complicated story like how the Angel of Death asked the Israelites to kill a lamb and put the blood over their door posts so they would be passed over and their firstborn would be saved… there’s a lot of big words that can be confusing to a new English speaker.

So I decided to “help” simplify the story.

I was doing really great, and was so proud of myself, until I got to the part where I needed to explain who the Egyptians were, and who the Israelites were. I thought it would be helpful to differentiate between the two by explaining how the Israelites were the GOOD GUYS and the Egyptians were the BAD GUYS. I probably called the Egyptians the BAD GUYS 3-4 times before I looked up…

And saw a row of Egyptian students looking back at me.

You know those moments in life where you want to crawl in a hole and die? This was one of those moments.

A miscarriage – Halfway through what might have been

Right now I should have been halfway through my pregnancy with Baby Truett. I would already know his or her gender – we probably would have had a big party to do a proper reveal. We both felt it was a boy in our gut, but I’m usually wrong, so who knows.

Right about now I would be feeling those first flutters – kicks that feel more like gas bubbles and are my favorite thing about being pregnant. I would be getting a nice, round baby bump and shopping for fall maternity clothes and secretly mourning the fact that I wouldn’t get to indulge in any of the fall fashions in the window displays at our local mall.

Well, now I get to shop for “regular” fall clothes.

I should be well into my second trimester – those blissful middle months of more energy, less nausea, and finally looking pregnant instead of fat. We’d probably be preparing a nursery, arguing over colors and fretting about getting Wrenn out of her crib so she could pass it on to her baby brother or sister.

When we first found out about our miscarriage, a wise friend warned us that after our initial time of mourning, we would find ourselves grieving again at random times. Small triggers hiding around corners that catch you by surprise on a seemingly normal day. And she was right. It has been mostly smooth sailing through this thing called grief, and yet every once in awhile it surprises me and catches me off guard, and I get sad again as I think about what should have been, but what isn’t.

The meanest joke has been that I may not have a baby here in my arms, but I still had to walk through many of the same postpartum maladies I experienced with Wrenn. My hair fell out again, just like it did after I had Wrenn. It fell out in clumps and we found it all over our house, clinging to every dark shirt it could find. My sleek ponytail is back to having all sorts of stray baby hairs growing in where the longer ones fell out. I went through the same joint pain in my legs and feet that I had Wrenn – enough to be in a decent amount of pain every single day for months. Just like with Wrenn, the pain is now waning and will soon go dark – nothing I can’t live with, but still a cruel, daily reminder of the child I don’t have.

And I gained weight. I’m totally blaming that on the pregnancy and not on the fact that I may have eaten one too many rich meals with Mr. Right as we tried to find fun ways to spend our time over these past few months. Either way, my pants BARELY button. It’s just one more way to feel a little less than I did before this happened.

I share this, not for your sympathy, but because nobody told me that my hair would fall out or that my joints would hurt after losing my child. Only one person warned me of the way this grief would manifest itself – in waves, hiding in unexpected places, ready to catch me by surprise. And so, I apply my life’s motto of “Me, too” to this experience as well. Ladies, may our transparency be a blessing to other women who join our club after us. You’re not alone. You’re normal.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in ALL our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

A solution for bad days: Remembering I’m BELOVED

Do you ever have a bad day? One of those days where you feel completely worthless, unlovable, unworthy. A day where you feel fat, and wretched, and insecure, and like you have so many secrets that if others found out, they would be horrified?

(You know, those big secrets like {gasp} sometimes you fight with your spouse, or you haven’t meal planned since 2012, or something deep and dark that brings you shame.)

At my conference last week, Louie Giglio may have spoken to an arena with 12,000 people, but he was really speaking directly to me. He didn’t know it, but God did. There were so many things he said that pierced me, but my favorite part was when he talked about how important it is to see ourselves through God’s eyes. To view ourselves the way God views us. I see my limitations, my sins, my screw-ups, my SHAME, the many times I dropped the ball. But how does He see me?

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God sees me as:

righteous :: redeemed :: WORTH DYING FOR :: forgiven :: treasured :: wanted :: chosen :: worth singing over :: WORTHY :: beautiful :: someone worth giving good gifts to :: provided for :: protected :: having the light of life :: strong because of Him :: saved :: full of JOY :: worth rejoicing over :: full of faith :: fearfully and wonderfully made :: confident :: worthy of grace. 

LOVED.

If I could see myself the way God sees me, you know what I would feel?

joy :: gratitude :: rejoicing :: like telling everybody

The song I have had on repeat in my car for the past 10 months (well, when I’m not listening to Serial podcasts) has been this one. Friends, may we remember to start each morning reminding ourselves of who God says we are.

God is telling me to go small

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Last week I was in Atlanta live tweeting and Instagramming the Catalyst Leadership Conference for work. I got to hear from the gals at If: Gathering, Louie and Shelley Giglio, Andy Stanley, Brene Brown, the guy who founded Warby Parker, the guy who founded Charity Water, one of the leading photographers of our era,  and David Crowder played a few songs. And somehow I got paid to do it. Not a bad way to spend a week.

Listening to leaders speak for three days straight is enough to make my type-A head explode. Do more of this… you could be GREAT if only you would sacrifice more… think bigger… be more… do less… let God…

How do all of these things apply to little old me? Doing MORE is never much of a struggle for me. I can do, do, do around the clock until I wind myself up into a ball of stress, unable to sit because there is one more thing to do. One more thing to create. One more task at hand. One more item to check off my list. One more obligation. One more good thing. One more… one more… one more…

So what is the next great thing God has for me? Does He want me to do something GREAT by the world’s standards? Does he want me to be famous, standing on a stage someday using my gifts for His glory? The crazy thing is, right now I feel like He is telling me that it’s not about being great – it’s about being a great servant. That He doesn’t care one bit if I’m famous – that it’s okay to be behind the scenes. That He can use my gifts at my job and in the one-on-one interactions I have on a daily basis.

I feel like lately God has been teaching me that when I do less – when I create more margin in my life – then I am available to love others better. When I have a stack of frozen casseroles in my freezer, I am better able to help someone out in a pinch who needs to experience God’s love. When I have free time built into my schedule, I can drop everything and help out in a crisis. When I have a free night in my calendar, I can host people in our home for dinner and show them love – just regular, old-fashioned LOVE with no agenda and no strings attached.

God is teaching me hospitality. And rest. The two go hand-in-hand for me, because when I’m rested, when I have MARGIN, when I have a free moment, I’m better able to give love – and my time – to others.

So while my head is spinning as I think through all the ways I could use my gifts for BIG THINGS for the Kingdom, between you and me, right now God is telling me to go small. Really small. And loose, and free, and quiet. To go behind the scenes and just love and make people feel safe and encouraged and welcomed.