Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Sweet Stench of Victory

Hope has been working at a barn this summer.  And when I say "working," I don't mean just grooming horses.  She mucks stalls, makes feed, cleans water troughs and all the other grunt work that goes into keeping a stable clean.  Needless to say, she works really hard.

She also comes home stinking to high heaven.

We've decided she has to sit on towels when she gets into the car because there is so much grime on her.  And the smell is really horrific.  We tell her it smells like a horse has peed on her. (Aren't we just the best and most supportive parents??)

I know, I know, you may think your kid stinks after a workout or practice, too.  And I get it.  We once drove home from Oklahoma from a soccer tournament in August with Hope's shin guards, socks and cleats in the back, wafting their smell to the front of the car until we made a pit stop to tie them up in a bag so we didn't gag anymore.  Athletics make for stinky kids AND gear.

But I digress...

Since leaving my full time job last year and Brian's subsequent surgery, we have not had a lot of discretionary income.  Horse gear has been one of the many things that has had to fall by the wayside.  While it's been discouraging to her, Hope continues to work hard to find a way around it.

She mucks out stalls in $20 boots from Academy while others are taking their horses out in their $200 boots from Dover and then they change into their $400 riding boots.  And as they push past her, she continues to be gracious and cleans up after their horses.  It's not glamorous and I may get in trouble for writing this because sometimes it's embarrassing to her.  But she continues to do it 5-6 days a week.

She doesn't make much.  Definitely works harder than most people I know who make 3xs what she does.  And while she complains a little (after all--she IS a teenager), she puts in her time and does her job well.

A few weeks ago, she was able to take her paycheck and buy her very own saddle.  It's a used one from a rider at her other barn--where she rides, but it is HERS.

As a parent, I want to be able to give her a saddle and expensive paddock boots and new riding pants.  I don't want her to feel "less-than" because of what she has or doesn't have.  But just like she is reaping the rewards of the hard work, I am watching her and seeing a character develop that might not have if I had given her all the things I want to.

Victory and success don't usually come easily.  It's hard work and you are bound to get a little (or in Hope's case--a LOT) stinky in the process.

But it's always worth it.

Just ask Hope.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Unfriended: A Book Review

I love to read.  Sometimes my eyes are bigger than my stomach and I get books that sit on my nightstand for weeks, months, even years before I open them.  I'm fickle and there's really not a rhyme or reason to why I read what I do and when I read it.  I've always just chalked it up to "When I read it, it will be the perfect time."

That's how this book was.  I've had it for a little while.  I bought it on a whim and then figured it would be one of those cheesy "Jesus is your best friend" kind of books. (and yes, I DO believe Jesus is my best friend, but I don't want to read a couple of hundred pages beating that into my head).

This book was a delightful surprise!  It took me a few weeks to read because I wanted to let the words sink in.  So many practical things, so many challenging things and so many hopeful things are packed into this little nugget.  The author wrote also wrote a Bible study called "We Saved You a Seat" that has videos that will be free to watch starting Aug 3rd.  I can't wait to dive into that as well and am praying I can do it with a few people.

I underlined a lot in this book.  Here are the things that hit me the most:

"Being willing to be a neighbor in the heart sense of the word is being willing to connect with the people who God puts in our path...How can I BE a friend?"

"We might have defined friendship our whole lives by what others do to us, but in the end it's what we do for others that will define us as friends or not."

"At the end of the day, we get to choose who will have the final say in our lives and our relationships: fear or love."

"God didnt come to make bad people good.  He came to make dead people alive."

"Forgiveness is making peace with the past so that there is opportunity for relationship in the future.  Not necessarily with the same people who've scarred us."

"There's always room for one more friend and room to know each other more.  Better.  Deeper. Uglier. Weirdere. Funnier.  For better or worse, female friendships take courage to start and courage to maintain."

"The cardinal rule of friendship:  You have to be willing to go first."

"In the beginning, God made us in His image.  It's the only image we're supposed to fit."

"Loving people means loving them the way they need to be loved, not the way you like being loved."

"Anyone is good company at a cocktail party.  But love is born when we misunderstand one another and make it right...If it is real, friendship is usually untidy."

"Latching onto a friend with the hope that they will give us God-sized affirmation will always disappoint...God and only God can give us the words and the lives that fill us up."

"Jesus is never tired of me always needing Him.  Instead, He is deighted by how desperately I need His validation and He never, ever withholds it from me.  Or from you."

"There is no 'done' when it coes to sacrificial love.  There is only more."

"Stop keeping score--who called who last, and who owes an email or a play date or a lunch date--and start initiating.  Friendship isn't something we passively receive.  Friendship is something we actively do.  It's a gift we offer for free, not a demand we make with a stamping foot."

"The shortest distance between strangers and friends is a shared story about our broken places."

"Depression lies and tells you that it's not worth fighting and that you're better off alone."

"It may seem like He's asleep in the boat, but it's not because He doesn't care.  It's because He's so deeply confident the Father is in control."

"No matter how much you clean or remodel or move or rebuild, hospitality will always be more a matter of the heart than the architecture.  And your guests will only feel as comfortable in your house as you feel in your own skin."

"Missing out on community is a kind of dying."

"To become real, friendship more often requires becoming comfortable with the snapshots of life often taken at an unflattering angle."

 "And don't let the fear of getting it wrong stop you.  We all get it wrong."

"Blessings are not for hoarding, they're for forwarding.  Because that is how we reflect God's gory back to Him."

"The best antidote to jealousy is choosing instead to encourage."

"Everyone is on the outside of something.  But that is only half the story.  We are all, each of us, also on the inside of something--often without even realizing it."

"Forget the hundreds you wish would come, the cool or the trending you want to impress; feed the hungry who are already there.  Feed them your best."

"The one seat I need to focus on is the one right next to me.  Not the one across the room or the aisle or even the other end of the table."

"The words we say to ourselves matter because the God who is The Word says we matter.  And it's time we start believing Him."

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Different Kind of Date Night

Last night I worked an event This Side UP! Family does every month.  It's called I Date My Spouse" and is an opportunity for married couples to take advantage of free childcare while they go on a date--often with a giftcard given to them by TSUF.  It's amazing!  The kids get some quality programming and have a blast while their parents connect.

I wish there had been something like this when my girls were little.

I know of people who are consistent in dating their spouse.  They go to dinner.  They take vacations. They spend time together.  All without their kids.

When my girls were little, we were not good at the dating thing.  Partly because we had so little family time to be all together that we just didn't take the time away from them.  Partly because date night is expensive when you calculate babysitter, dinner and an activity.  And partly because both of us are more practical than romantic.

To this day, we still don't have a set date night, but as the girls have gotten older, we have found some different rhythms that work for us.

When the girls both started elementary school, Brian worked retail hours and I worked for a church, so weekends were not really an option for us and weeknights were hard because the girls needed to be fed, bathed and in bed at a decent hour.  Brian usually worked late on Fridays or was off and that was my day off, so we would either do breakfast or lunch together.  There was a season when I had a pt job on Fridays and he even came up to eat lunch with me there a few times.

During the summer, the girls started staying with my in-laws for a couple of days at a time.  Some nights, we would cook stuff they wouldn't eat (this is how I finally learned to make guacamole and potato salad--not together, of course--that would be soooo YUCK).  Other nights, we'd head out to some local places to eat (it's amazing how much cheaper your bill is when you don't order queso and soft drinks).

For a short season, we had a boat.  This was my favorite kind of date.  Some mornings, we would drop the kids off at school and head to the lake for the day (once, we barely made it back in time and had to bring the boat through the carpool line--eek!).  Sometimes, we'd eat dinner and then head out for a few hours.  It was glorious.  Basically, our date consisted of Brian fishing and me reading.  We seldom talked, except to comment on the size of the fish, but the comraderie we built during that time was the BEST!

Most recently, we've started watching Longmire again together on Netflix.  Every night, we head to the bedroom and shut the door.  Usually, we are interrupted a few times by girls wanting to make the dog play with them (she loves Longmire time because she sleeps between us on the bed).  We watch one episode and then go to sleep.  Again, no talking, but it's time spent together.  We are almost finished with the series and I'm already dreading not having that time together.

Most days I think it would be easier if we didn't have to worry about finances and could do the traditional night out that most other couples do.  But, when I look back on our dates, I don't really regret how we've chosen to do them.  I only regret the seasons where we didn't do anything--when we let fatigue and work and kids' activities keep us too busy to spend time together.

What types of dates work for you?  What's your favorite thing to do with your spouse? Also, I'm taking suggestions on what series we can watch next!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Gettin Dirty

When was the last time you got dirty?  I'm not talking about your regular every day dirt.  Or even just sweat from working out.  I'm talking about the kind of dirty where there's crud under your nails.  And the dirt is caked on every part of  your shirt, leaving you nowhere to wipe the sweat off your face without rubbing more yuck on in your eye or mouth. And there is so much grime stuck to your legs that you look like you have a tan line when you take your socks off.

That kind of dirty.

I shower every day.  Well, okay, I shower MOST days.  And I don't really think much about it.  If I've gone a day without washing my hair, I feel the clean after lathering it up.  And on the days I shave my legs, they SEEM to be cleaner.

But there's something about a shower after you've gotten really dirty that just feels extra good.  The kind where you look down and see the dirt twirling down the drain.  When your skin feels so much smoother and you swear you've lost several pounds.

Like redemption.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Unspoken Prayers

Sometimes, I think the prayers we don't speak are the loudest.  The ones that make you sob with grief and you just can't even think of words to say what's in your heart.  The ones that leave you feeling so small and insignificant.  The ones that come from a place of pure desperation.  These don't need words for our Father to hear them.

In fact, I have to believe that God hears those as well as the ones we articulate well.  I have to believe that He comes alongside us when we can't speak them and just holds us while we cry.  And I believe that He's not worried about fixing it in that moment--he's more worried about comforting our heart.

Like when a child breaks a glass and is bleeding.  We don't clean up the glass first, we tend to our child's wounds.  Once they are cared for, we go about putting things in order, but not until we know our child is safe.

While I THINK I want the fix first, I believe what I really want--what any of us want--is the comfort.
The peace that washes through me when I know I am loved.

The grace that even if the thing I need fixing is my fault, He will not hold it against me.  

The hope that my brokenness is not only seen, but is cared about.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

What's Buried Inside You?

I graduated with a design degree a few (*ahem*) years ago from UNT.  I used it for about 6 years and then never thought much about it again.  I wasn't the best in my class.  I mean--how did people remember which leg style was Queen Anne and which was Chippendale?

So, I moved on to sales and corporate training and then stay at home mama.  The best was when I was a kids pastor and people asked me what seminary I went to--the shock on their faces when I said I didn't and explained my degree was priceless. 

Fast forward to 2013 and the 1st season of Fixer Upper.  Watching Chip and Jo was bittersweet for me because, when Brian and I were dating, our dream was to do exactly what they were doing.  We wanted to flip houses--Brian handling all the building/structural parts and me designing the spaces. It started stirring something up inside me again that I didn't even know was there, but I kinda just ignored it most days--I had a job I loved that provided insurance for my family and paid the bills.

In 2015, Brian and I took a post anniversary trip and started dreaming again.  Road trips do that for us.  While we were in the beautiful Missouri outdoors (in a hotel room with no internet or tv), we started talking about "What if..." again. 

I won't bore you with the details, but there were several things that happened in the space of those short few days that caused us to know the time was right for Brian to leave his retail mgmt. job and start his company back up again.  I would stay on at my job until the end of the year and then I'd join him full time in the adventure of BR Construction.

Needless to say, we got comfortable again and it took another full year before we made the leap for me to quit my job.  And I was only going to manage the office for Brian because I was going to pursue some other things. 

Some of those things worked out (I have a part time job for a little non-profit that I LOVE, I was able to consult with NBCF and create a volunteer mgmt. process for them, I traveled a little as a meeting planner), and some didn't (I have gotten no further in writing my book). 

The last month has opened up a new aspect to working with Brian.  First of all, it's WITH and not FOR (which is how it started out).  Secondly, he's making me use my design experience again. 

At first, I was so very nervous.  It's been years since I stayed on top of the latest color trends and knew what was the next hot thing in design.  So I started looking on the internet and buying magazines and talking to realtor friends.

And you know what?  I found that the designer in me is still there!  I buried her under insecurity years ago, but as I talk color and shower tile and cedar vs brick with our clients, I've found that it's as exhilarating as that first time you hop on a bike and ride downhill with the wind. 

So, I wonder, what's buried inside YOU?  What have you pushed aside because it won't pay the bills or just seems impossible to pursue?  You may have to wade deep through your insecurities to find it like me or you may know exactly what it is.  But, no matter what, it's worth naming and claiming.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

We're just a Little Cracked

One of my favorite things about getting married was registering for new stuff.  Shallow, I know, but I LOVED looking at dishes and fajita pans and mixers and, and, and...I could go on forever.

It was fun to start over with new stuff. Kinda symbolic, don't ya think?

Then you start using the dishes everyday.  And after a few years, they get cracked or even worse, broken and you have to throw them away,

These bowls in my cabinet remind me of my marriage.  They are used often and show the wear.  If they don't have a chip around the rim, they have hairline cracks in the bottom of them--not enough to get rid of them, but definitely making them more fragile and definitely not looking new anymore.

Our marriage started out like a cabinet full of new and shiny dishes.

And then the every day happened.  Work and kids and finances and unkind words said in bad moods all created cracks.  There have been things we've had to throw away. In some cases, we've replaced them with a better model, in others, we realized we never needed them in the first place.

A few weeks ago, Brian and I had an honest conversation about our marriage.  "Is it better now after going through the hard stuff?"

What a loaded (and scary) question!  I wanted our answer to be YES! surrounded by heart-eyed emojis and general sappy-ness.  Brian said it best when he said "It's more real."

In the beginning, our dishes were seldom used (after all, when it was just the 2 of us, we ate out a lot and it took a while to rotate through 12 bowls), so of course they looked pretty and shiny. And that mixer was wiped clean after every use.

As life happened, we didn't pay as much attention when we took the bowls out of the dishwasher and accidentally hit them on the side of the countertop.  And the poor mixer started getting flour caked on it because there wasn't time to wipe it down before the girls woke up from their nap--it was a miracle that the cake got in the oven!

Real isn't always pretty.  And it's usually surrounded by the monkey covering his mouth emoji instead of the heart-eyed smiley face one.  Sometimes it's no emoji at all.

But real is GOOD.  In fact, it's real good.

It's truth and love and laughter mixed in with the hurt and the frustration and the hard.  It's eating on those cracked dishes and being thankful they've survived. It's not thinking twice about throwing away the broken and making do with what's left.   It's still loving the pattern and knowing you would pick the same one again if you had it to do all over again.

No cracks means the dishes haven't been used.  Or that they've been handled very carefully and never had anyone banging their fork on them or scraping the bottom of the bowl with their spoon. It's the china in the cabinet that seldom gets taken out--it's pretty to look at, but you can't always enjoy eating on it because you're trying to be so careful.  It's hand-washing slowly instead of rinsing and laughing as you casually put it in the dishwasher.

Cracked dishes tell a story.  Not always the easy story, but the GOOD and REAL one.