None of the Above

For the Newest Year

This mom gig is hard. This woman gig is hard. This person gig is hard.

It’s normal to become a bit contemplative with a new beginning. I wrote about how my word for 2016 is going to be “relentless“. I think it’s good to have things to focus on. I’m a pretty anxious person by nature so I tend to have bible verses ready in my brain for when I start to panic about something. I have been doing the if:equip study the last few months and I really recommend it. (It gets delivered to your email daily and takes about ten minutes to read through and it includes a short clip of a conversation between two women to go a bit deeper. It’s in a lull right now but go here to sign up for when they begin again). During the month of December the study focused on advent and last week had a day that featured a psalm(89). Ever since I read it, my brain has been plagued. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne…”  

When I read of Tamir Rice, another black kid who was killed and had no earthly justice:

“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne…”

When I hear of horrendous terror attacks in cities I’ve never heard of:

“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne…”

When I hear more stories of elementary-aged children being sold into sex slavery:

“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne…”  

When a friend gets assaulted while WALKING DOWN THE STREET IN BROAD DAYLIGHT:

“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne…

Hear this. I do not take this as an excuse for passivity. I do not mean that “God will handle it so we don’t have to”. Heaven will be brought to earth a brick at a time as we allow ourselves to be used for Gods glory but oh what a sigh of relief. This isn’t the end of the story. The very foundation of where He sits on His throne is built of righteousness and justice.

Can you breathe a little deeper? When our justice system, society, world, just fails miserably, it’s not the end.

So this year, I’m going to keep this verse close by. When I’m working hard to be a part of Gods redemptive story, when I’m devastated by earthly failure, when it all seems a bit hopeless.

“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne…”

 

 Happy New Year!
Did you miss our super quick kitchen reno? Check it out here!

None of the Above

Relentless

I’ve never been one to do the whole “word a year” thing. The last few weeks though, this word, relentless, has kept coming to mind. I think it will be my 2016 word but I’m starting early. I think most know what it means but I looked it up anyway and loved the definition Google gave: oppressively constant, incessant.

That’s how it’s been feeling. Oppressively constant. 

I’ve been known to be relentless. Growing up I would get my mind on something and just bug the daylights out of my parents until I could get it. I was young and bargaining meals for toys with them. Of course they always won and I had to eat dinner but I would just say “instead of feeding me this meal, could you buy me this thing”. Silly me, thought it was a money thing, not an entitlement thing. It’s comical looking back but scary now as I see my daughter. She forgets nothing. She will repeat herself 1000 times until she gets what she wants or has a very stern conversation from us. It can feel suffocating.

That’s how it’s felt the last few months. It feels like my loved ones are being cornered. Like one by one their health has been sacrificed and I’m having to question each one of their permanence on this earth, but more specifically in my life. It’s been ugly. They’ve all turned out ok but after some questionable news a few days ago that stopped me in my tracks, I woke up to my baby having croup today. So here I am, for the second time this week, wondering what one of my people really means to me, watching his chest rise and fall, praying for a clear sound.

Relentless

I know how to be relentless. It’s how I married my D, after all. We were with family we don’t get to see very often over the weekend in Louisville. They asked about our journey to marriage and I was reminded again, I can be relentless. I can fight for someone.

Recently ut’s gotten so personal and sometimes feels all encompassing. These times as a Christian mean my nose should be planted square on the floor, storming the gates of heaven for these people in my life, these terrors attacks, these tefugees. But once I stand back up I’ve been challenged that being relentless also means more. It means fighting on their behalf in prayer but it means fighting for good to prevail and being part of the good. I have a small square of earth and it all matters. How I treat my people, but also how I treat yours. Even more, how am I speaking about them, how am I teaching my kids to think, pray, and speak for those they’re called to battle for and against, the people that will push their noses to the floor, those whose potential loss makes them go to battle; makes them be relentless to the gates of heaven. How am I modeling this? How am I showing them it matters? It has to!

If we had our noses to the floor, in every country. If we got up and did something to make the world more loving, more beautiful, if we bought Christmas gifts that support local businesses or efforts that pay people in other countries fairly instead of going to the mall because it’s easier. Wouldn’t it all mean something?  If we told our elected officials on Election Day and every day they’re in office what we think, won’t it change something? It has to. It has to mean something, it has to bring heaven to earth just a little bit.

None of the Above

To be met in the song

I’ve had a kind of backwards way of learning to worship. I’ve been thrown into it. I didn’t grow up going to church consistently and didn’t really start to experience worship through music until high school. I would still say I’ve been slow to let myself be impacted through it. Until Dee. By the way, my mom is very troubled that I’ve been referring to him as “Dee” in this blog since that is a girls name. I don’t know how to change it at this point. Maybe it should just be “D”.

Back to the process. I totally fell in love with “D” while watching him lead worship at our church. He and I were barely acquaintances when I started going to Horizon and there was something captivating about him leading worship. I trusted him (while thinking he was adorable). That may sound weird, like I didn’t trust other people but I just remember thinking that I believed he meant the words he was singing. Like he was able to worship while leading a congregation in worship. He would be first to say that it was a process and the first few years he was terrified and felt ill-equipped. I guess I started going to Horizon once he was on the up-swing.

Fast forward a few years and babies later and it was quite the experience this morning. D was leading worship at our church and I have been going to the family/overflow room since Jay was born so he wouldn’t be disruptive. I have loud children. But today I felt like trying him out in the service during worship and oh my, the babe did not disappoint. It was the sweetest twenty minutes I have had in a long time. First of all, it is so magical for your kids to realize that their dad is singing in the same room even though they don’t understand it. Jay could hear D and was falling out of my arms trying to get closer to him. He eventually realized that I was not letting him go and so he found his thumb and rested his head on my chest. Before I knew it, I was singing along…” You’re a good, good father, its who you are…”, watching my baby swing his legs along to the music, and in came the tears. Holding this precious baby, singing along to the sound of my husband, to our God who gave it all to me. Who chose me out of the billions to live this sweet life that sometimes just takes every shred of patience I have. Talk about worship. It was crazy.

So here I am, a few hours later, remembering being pregnant during this thankful/Christmassy season with both of my babies. Remembering, the kicks as I heard stories of Mary and this baby that would be born to save the world. My kids are pretty great but I truly have no grandiose expectations for them saving anything. Still, somehow, marveling at the miracle of it all. This family, this life, these fat baby hands I’m wrapped around, hands that for a while I doubted I’d ever get to hold, its all just a jumble of feelings, and thankfulness, and anticipation, and hoping and begging that I’ll get to be around forever to watch it all unfold, these little lives. On my hardest day, and I’ve had some whoppers the last few months, I wonder what its all for but gosh when I get those twenty minutes it somehow all makes sense again.

Have you ever tried it?

Just listening and being open to it all? I dare you.

Two songs are consistently making me feel all the feelings lately.

“Good, Good Father” By Housefires II

“It is Well” by Bethel music

Photo Cred: Arpasi Photography

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None of the Above

Someone is living my nightmare.

I mentioned A few weeks ago that I attended a simulcast of the if: gathering. It was a really impactful day for me but one specific story has been absolutely haunting me since the moment I heard it. A woman named April Lost her two young sons in a tornado in 2014. She herself was badly injured and didn’t walk for months. She told of lying on top of her children in the bathroom and calling out to God for him to protect them as the tornado ravaged her home and community. She woke up a few hundred yards away, barely able to move, and continued to cry out to the Lord as she had no idea where her sons and husband were. Both of her sons died from the tornado that day but she was still so eager to proclaim God’s goodness in the midst of this incredible loss. If you would like to read her full story, check it out here.

As I said, this has been totally haunting me. As I’ve thought about this, probably daily, a few things have been clear to me.

  1. My children are on loan to me. This story in particular has caused me to think about lots of different areas of our lives as a family and how I’m called to protect my children. It has heightened our family conversations about where or how we will educate our children. Will that be small private schools? Homeschool? Our local neighborhood school? How do we keep them safe and at the same time allow them to experience this life and trust God with their futures. That does not mean that I want my kindergartner to be huddled in a closet for active shooter drills, learn trivia for tests, or miss out socially so the jury is still out.
  2. April spoke about how every parent wants their children to be happy, healthy, to have a joy filled life. Although her sweet boys did not have much time on earth, her wishes for them while they were here came true. I’m a big reader and one theme has been going strong throughout several authors, and that is to raise your children to be kind. April’s story has pushed me to strategically think about the character traits that we want our children to have and the ways in which we can teach them. Over and over, it comes back to the fact that they will learn from what they see. Great. So are Dee and I kind to one another, kind to the outcast, do we care about things beyond ourselves? How are we teaching our children to be kind? One thing that was clear to me from April is that her children knew that she believed in God and that it was worth it to her to scream out to him on their behalf. I’m praying for my kids 3 billion times a day but how often are they joining me in that?
  3. There is some more room at the table. I came downstairs yesterday and Dee had placed our five month old, Jay, in a highchair. Elle was sitting next to him in her own chair. She and Dee were eating breakfast together while Jay played. It took my breath away. My sweet little family all sitting together at the table for the first time. I totally swooned. I’m obsessed with these three people and there was something so beautiful to me about seeing my little family for the first time of thousands at a table together. Most days, I really want this to be it. It’s so comfortable. I really love our family of four but I also dream about who else could sit at that table one day. I’m done getting pregnant but is there another sweet face through fostering or adoping that needs to be at our table? Surely they are no less darling or funny or great, and they may not have a table. So although I’m in love with my party of four in a couple of years couldn’t it be a great table of five? I hope so. I’d love to experience life as five.

So while I’m randomly weeping about April and the life she’s living  I’m also so filled with hope. I’m not sure how long I’ll get to live with these people who walk around with my heart but I know I want to do it well and to teach by example that our God is worth serving in the midst of nightmares and to be thankful that it doesn’t end here. Really, I could be 100 years old and weep that I didn’t have enough time with them. I’m hoping for that scenario!

Kitchen renovation plans coming soon!

None of the Above

From one decade to the next

It is the eve of Dee’s thirtieth birthday. For the first time, I’m along for the ride as he moves into the next decade. (I still have a whole 16 months until I get on my own thirtieth birthday sinking ship).

In the weirdest way I feel like I’ve grown up with him. I started chasing him right before I turned 21 and we were married when I was 22. I was so certain that I was old enough, mature enough, had my stuff together enough but the truth is I didn’t have a clue. I had some loved ones less than thrilled that I was choosing to get married so young and it is nothing but Gods grace that I not only still choose to love him but (most days) I really like him. For reasons I cannot even comprehend he still likes me back and THAT, ladies and gentleman, is all I could ever hope for.

The truth is, when you get married when you are still so young the hardest, most important thing is to change and grow together and not apart. Twenties are defining in a thousand ways and when you jump in with both feet, buy a house, have a few kids, and still want to go on a date eight years later I really think it’s nothing short of miraculous.

If you hate gushy just stop reading here. Below are 20(I realize this should be 30 but I have two kids–there just isn’t time!) of my favorite things about the man i’d choose to marry again (in no particular order):

1-He has the craziest work ethic. He works SO hard and he does things well both at work and at home.

2-He is a stud. I wish he were less of a stud while I’m still losing the last ten lbs of baby weight.

3-He is willing to fight with me. Lord knows I don’t make it easy but he knows it’s worth it. He won’t settle for good in our marriage

4-He makes being a dad look easy. Except for the time he forgot Jay downstairs at church (kidding…kind of) he is so attentive especially to throwing Elle in the air to the point of exhaustion.

5-He lets me win. Even when I shouldn’t.

6-When I was going through breastfeeding HELL ON EARTH with both of my kids he was up with me every minute through my screaming and crying pain. The man is on my team. Praise God for formula or my kids would not be with us.

7-He will be mortified by this blog post. Sorry, babe!

8-His friendships are a priority. Even when I selfishly hate his about him, I really DO love it.

9-He has an enormous amount of character and integrity. He will not utter a rude word about someone.

10-He lives and breathes community. He is made for making people feel welcome in a room full of strangers. I’m so bad at this.

11-He is willing to teach me things even when I don’t want to learn from him.

12- Hes desperate to go on a trip with me even though I’m not ready to leave the babies. I somehow married someone who is dying to take me away on an awesome trip and I’m turning him down (FOR THE MOMENT!)

13-I fell in love with him watching him lead worship at Horizon church and this is still something that brings me joy. It is certainly a time sacrifice for our family but has been such an expression of Gods faithfulness to him, it’s unreal.

14-He fights for me. Period.

15- He is the worst storyteller ever. It’s so funny.

16-He is committed to family. Monday night family dinners, holidays, serving, all of it.

17-He is learning to be affirming.

18-He works so I can be home with the kids full time. We did this before we could technically afford it and it has meant tons of sacrifices along the way but he is committed to it in the same way I am.

19-He forgives quicker than anyone I’ve ever met. He is so quick to apologize and (even more frequently) forgive me when I’m being difficult.

20-Out of the mobs of girls trying to snatch him up all at once, he somehow noticed the quiet girl in the corner of the room and chose me! Thank God!

Happy 30th birthday to my love! I’m so happy for every year I get to grow older with you. I hope we get 100 more!

None of the Above

Ten Whole Years

So I went to my ten year reunion this weekend. Ten year High School reunion, that is. Adult conversation? Margarita? Tater tots with crab dip and cheese on them? yes-I’m in!

Of course its got me really thinking about way too many aspects of my life. I have always thought of a ten year reunion as a time that you’d go back and show everyone how far you’ve come in life, maybe a little bragging, a little “I’ve made it”. I really didn’t show up with any of those feelings, though. In so many ways, I’ve “made it”. I have a stud of a husband, two kids (girl and boy), a beautiful home (except for the stinking tile kitchen that all my nightmares are made of), a college degree. I may not look the same (thank you-10.3 lb Jay!) and I really do love my life, don’t get me wrong, but I think the thing I’m proud of most is leaving behind that girl I was in high school. Insecure, exclusive with friends, preppy to the max, obsessed with status…the list goes on. I’m so glad she didn’t join me in adulthood (for the most part).

I was talking to a friend at church this morning about how I’d love to send my kids to private school and what a great experience I had. Her face scrunched up immediately and she said “not for me, I hated it, I wasn’t popular so it wasn’t a good experience”. I immediately wondered if the biggest difference between then and now is that I see people. Was I just part of the in-crowd and had no idea that my high school wasn’t a fun place for all? I was never someone to mock or ridicule people for being different but I’m sure I didn’t come to their rescue either. I think sometimes THAT kind of person is worse.

So here I am, the day after my reunion wondering if I should have shown up with a thousand apologies for being blissfully unaware. Everyone is obviously “fine”. The reunion was a blast. I have not seen, much less spoken to more than 3 people in that room and probably one or two were on purpose. Still, it was a blast catching up with each person I had a few moments with but I wonder if the real problem is that I didn’t have relationships with some of my peers at all in high school and I’m just now thinking to care about it. That is a whole lot of ugly.

As always, I end up thinking about my kids. I can pray and encourage and beg them to reach out to the loner and stick up for the person who is being ridiculed, to eat with the person whose sitting alone at lunch but one day I will drop them off at school (maybe not, that may be a blog post for another day) and just hope that they would care. I think if they would just be people who see everyone and care about them; to simply be kind I would feel like I was a major success at the parenting gig. The last thing I would hope for any of us is to coast. The most horrible thing would be for our kids to read about our current generation in history books and ask what we were doing to stop all of this chaos and we didn’t have an answer. My kids very well may ask what I did to stop human trafficking, or HIV spreading like wildfire in our own city, or racism, or mass shootings for no reason at all. I hope I will have shown them that I care deeply and I did something, that they need to care for the victims and the outcasts whether in their school or those who are simply taking up the same amount of space on earth. What a difference ten years makes. Praise God there aren’t ten year reunions for college. I’d be sleeping through that one!

None of the Above, Renovation, Rental

Three items down, a billion to go

Is this your first glimpse of Rentals and Beans? Start here.

This week has been chaotic. We have several “major players” in our lives that are struggling with health issues. So it’s been a bit emotionally exhausting and we obviously changed focus. However, we (Dee) did check off a few items. He sanded and painted a small area of the kitchen, power washed and stained the deck, and bought grout to touch up our kitchen floor tile.

Some lessons learned:

  • don’t let the power washer hose touch the motor. ($56)
  • staining a deck does take 12 hours so don’t offer to watch your niece and nephew at 5:30 pm, lest you (ashley) be in charge of FOUR KIDS UNDER 3.5.

So hopefully in five years Dee will have forgotten how terrible it was to refinish it and he won’t still want to hire someone. Luckily the new house has a stone patio.

I also got a lead registry number. In Maryland your property needs to be inspected for lead before you can rent it out. Before you do that you must receive a lead registry number. A friend went through this process about a month before us and had quite the story of getting his number and there was weeks of stalking involved. For whatever reason I sent the email and left a voicemail (because it’s impossible to have an actual human conversation!) and received the number in my email the next day! Hallelujah!

This coming week I’d like to set up our lead inspection and rental inspection as well as get pictures taken of the rental to list it. Dwe would like to install the smoke detectors (which must be hard wired and “talk to each other”) and/or install a railing that spans the entire flight of steps from our first to second floor.

We are still negotiating some things  that we would like to be fixed before we purchase the new home. Hopefully that will get finished up this week as well.

As I am typing this one of our sweet neighbors is cutting my lawn. He’s not even a neighbor. He bought the house next-door to ours at an auction and is fixing it up and selling it. He’s the sweetest man ever. They started work  on the house a week before Jay was born and they finished it about a month ago. I think they felt so bad to be renovating a house next-door to a new born that they started cutting our grass. Now every couple weeks they completely cut our lawn and it is outrageous. Side note, he is friends with the seller of our new house. Small world!