Monday, February 8, 2016

13 years and counting

Loveys, it's my anniversary. Thirteen years ago today, the Jeffster and I said, "I do." All in all, we've been together going on seventeen years, which sounds like a very long time. And it is. Still, I've been Brandy Bruce for thirteen years as of today. (In case you're wondering, I used to be Brandy Brumble. I remember when I first joined Facebook, a lot of my friends were including their maiden names so old friends could find them. I thought about it for one half second. Brandy Brumble Bruce. Not happening.)

Jeff kept asking me over and over what we were doing for our anniversary. I kept shrugging and saying, "Meh, it's just thirteen years. Not a big deal, right?" Ten years felt like a big deal. Fifteen years sounds like a big deal. Thirteen years sounds like an in between kind of thing. Still, Jeff was relentless about asking. He's one of those wise husbands who always likes to be prepared when it comes to holidays and anniversaries. Should he get flowers or what? The answer is always YES. But other than that, to be honest, this year is kind of a meh year. Linc has been down with the flu. A Monday is a difficult day to get a sitter. We just spent literally hundreds of dollars on medicine for our kids (I wish I were kidding. It was cry-worthy). My feet are killing me (recovery is not going well. Prayers appreciated. It's a really hard time and it's discouraging).

So, it's not a year of trips and jewelry and adventure. It's a Tamiflu and baby-not-napping and enchiladas kind of night. I could try to convince you that all of that is romantic. But it's not. It's just real life.

And I'll take it.

Because real life together is what we signed up for thirteen years ago. It's babies and messes and pain sometimes. It's where we are and where we live. I would choose it all over again. Hear me. Hard days. Exhaustion. Disappointment in each other. Forgiveness. Laughter. Birthday parties. Easter baskets. Mountains of laundry.

I love him.

He loves me.

We keep holding on for dear life.

I'm grateful. I'm grateful because being married to Jeff means that I have a safe place to fall. It means I have someone in my corner. It means I have a partner when it comes to raising these babies we've made. It means that when nothing works out and I'm very discouraged, I've got him and that makes everything okay. I've got someone to curl up against at night. I've got someone to hold hands with while I'm watching Downton Abbey.

Honestly, thirteen years ago I had no idea how hard marriage can be sometimes.

I just knew I loved him and he loved me.

Here we are. Three kids, one orange cat, and a mortgage in Colorado.

Life is a gift. It was only last weekend that we were at our friend's memorial service, feeling basically devastated for her family. I'll hold on a little tighter and count my blessings today, lovey.

We've made it thirteen years and we're holding on and keeping the faith. We've got a family and a home and it's good stuff.

Still. It's real life over here. Linc has the flu. Lily took her first steps this past week. And who doesn't like enchiladas for dinner?

I could just about cry at this moment. It's my anniversary and I'm grateful for my husband and my children and life. (And our sweet Sam can babysit on Wednesday, so we'll get to squeeze in a dinner date after all.)

When I think about where we are now--I know these few things: No marriage is perfect. They all take a lot of work, and sometimes things don't work out. Love is not always enough. There's more to it than that. But . . . love is a good place to start. It keeps you reaching for each other when times are hard. Romance, even if it's not a romantic getaway or expensive gifts, is still vital for your happiness. For both of you. He needs romance too. Laughter is so important. Grace is so important. Self-care is important. Gratitude is important. Being there for each other matters in a deep way. Choosing each other over and over.

I'm sure, thirteen years from now, I'll have a lot more to add to that list.

This is where we are now.

It's a good life.

I think back over my life with Jeff--driving around in that hot-rod truck, hanging out at Michelle's house, eating at the Applebees by our townhome in Lynchburg (a million times), watching the OC and holding hands, traveling through Europe, that tiny cabin we stayed in on the Caribbean cruise, bagels and cream cheese in Williamsburg, making snow angels in the middle of the night in Colorado, holding Ashtyn in the hospital room and realizing that the two of us were now the three of us--so many moments that I never want to forget.

Thirteen years and counting, lovey. It's not easy, but I'll take it and I'll thank God for it.

Love is a beautiful thing.

I was watching our wedding video and thought I'd share some of it here. Keep in mind, loveys, this was back in the olden days, pre-Pinterest and such. :) It's just a little glimpse of a couple of young things getting married thirteen years ago.

Jeff, I love you, honey.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Not Great

Loveys, this was me yesterday. It was a rough day. At one moment, I found myself standing by the kitchen island, mindlessly eating an empty taco shell I had found, wondering how I got to this point.

This is another reminder that my diet is not working. Another reminder of this was my lack of self control at the birthday party I went to yesterday morning. I was sitting by my friend Shari, and when the girl brought over two pieces of Star Wars cake for us, I LITERALLY reached across Shari to grab her piece of cake because it had 3 times more frosting. And then I ate the whole thing in two seconds. (I'm sorry, Shari. I'm a bad person sometimes.)

The truth is I've been on the edge lately. Lily has been crying a lot (teething most likely). I cannot seem to keep up with anything. Do you know these moments? Where you just don't have the energy for much? So you hunker down and put on your pajamas and find yourself suddenly eating empty taco shells?

By the end of yesterday, I told Jeff we need to move and have a fresh start. (He didn't really respond to that but he was sympathetic at least).

Here I am today. Still in pajamas but no taco shells at least.

How are you, lovey?

I am staying home. My hair is terrible and my clothes are from the nineties. It's a difficult time.

I know next week will be better. It has to. But I've given up on this week. Humiliating moments (more than one in the span of three days! Lord help me). Frustrating moments. Too many car drives with screaming children (this can bring me to the brink). Motherhood crying moments. Epic failure moments.

It's not my week.

I will start fresh on Monday, (even though Jeff won't let us move, I will just have to do the best I can).

The truth is that I've had weeks like this before (though none come to my mind at this moment). And all moms feel tired and discouraged, for sure I know this. I also know all moms have had embarrassing moments--for one reason or another (often brought on by our children). And the crying and whiny-ness can get to even the most patient woman (which I never was to begin with). I also know there are worse things in the world.

But today, my capacity is at nil. I know it's been building slowly. Long days for Jeff at work (the market has been crazy). Teacher meetings with not great news. Fussy baby. Hurting feet and physical therapy. Grocery shopping and forgetting toilet paper.

We reach that point every now and then (usually by Thursday) and we start to twitch.

That's where I'm living right now. In the twitching place.

Also, I'm hungry for lunch and it's 10:42.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Grief and Hope

Loveys, my friend died.

She was Jeff's administrative assistant for four years, and I think he and I are just still shocked by the whole thing. She and I are the same age. She has a lovely teenage daughter and an adorable two-year-old son and a sweet husband who's been through this kind of unimaginable grief before. My heart hurts for the three of them.

The phone call came Saturday night, and I covered my face with my hands and cried. Jeff just seemed stunned. After all, he'd spent every day with her for years. How can she be gone? A beautiful life. A special person. I keep thinking about this moment two years ago--we went to see her in the hospital after her baby was born. Such a happy day. Perfection. A little family in a hospital room, filled with love. No one could have known that day that just two years later she would take her last breath.

It. Is. Devastating.

These kinds of things scare me and frustrate me and fill me with both raging and plummeting emotions. I don't want this to have happened.

Loss. Grief. Sorrow.

Life is a mixed bag. Our friend who passed away lived near us. Just a few streets away really. It seems surreal. Houses filled with families, eating dinner, watching movies, laughing and talking and playing. Except in one of those houses, everything stopped on Saturday night and a mom went to meet Jesus and things will never be the same for that family.

Rewind to a week before.

Sunday morning, Jeff and I look at each other across the kitchen island. I raise my eyebrows. "Are we going to church?" He answers me, "Yeah, we should go." We pack up the kids (this process feels very similar to packing up to go to another state for a week), and head to our church. I'll be real with you, loveys, it's been a rough few months. To get really real, it's been a difficult year. We drop all the kids at their respective classrooms and go sit next to each other in church. Do you know those moments? Where just getting there has been enough to make you need a nap? You're desperate to hear from God, but you don't even realize it. You just hope you hear something that will help.

Our pastor started speaking to those people listening who need a comeback.

I didn't have to look at Jeff. I cried during the whole service. I needed every word like a drowning woman needs air. A marriage comeback. A lifestyle comeback. A faith comeback. We got to the car afterward, and Jeff and I cried and held each other while the kids were chaotic in the backseat.

Every now and then God does this. He shows up when I didn't even have the wherewithal to ask him to.

Fast forward a week later. It's Sunday and we're headed to church again. Just hours before, our friend breathed her last. I still feel shaken by that. By the reality that we can be perfectly happy and busy loving our family and living life--then everything can change and suddenly we're dying and it's fast.

Worship begins and we're singing out that God is the breath in our lungs. And it means something different to me. Because I'm just so grateful to even have breath in my lungs when my friend doesn't anymore.

Life is a gift, lovey.

Her life was a gift too. We're grieving for her. We're heartbroken for her family. We'll miss her.

I closed my eyes on Sunday and lifted my hands and sang out that God is the breath in my lungs. The Author of life. The Giver of good things. The Receiver of the ones who pass on.

Every breath is a gift. We can't go on without it. When we reach a moment where our every breath is God in and around us, where every breath is gratitude, I think it's a moment of awareness and beauty. To me, that time of worship was so comforting. And there was the reassurance that when I no longer breathe on this earth--God will be my only breath.

Loveys, it's hope amid grief.

That's what faith is. Hope.

These moments give us clearer perspective. Some things matter a lot less than others. People get all worked up over all kinds of things.

Sometimes, we need to just take a breath . . . and be thankful we're here.

Pray for the hurting. Love our families.

Do you see the picture above? I've been to that cemetery in Galveston. It's kind of amazing actually. All these gorgeous flowers. Life pushing up around loss. I told Jeff to slow down as we drove past because I couldn't stop staring.

We ALL need hope sometimes. Whether it's hope for our marriage, hope for our future, hope for change, and so on.

Here's the thing lovey, as long as we're breathing, we can make changes. Even if it's as small as just changing our perspective. There's hope. God shows up sometimes when we're not expecting him to. Life goes on even though terrible things happen.

Things stop. Things change. I know this to be true. So do you.

The past week has been an emotional one for us. It's also brought perspective and truth.

I've wanted quiet. I've wanted solace. I've wanted to hold my babies tight and be glad I have breath in my lungs. I've lifted up my friend's family in prayer over and over. It's a reflective time. Sometimes we need that. Slow down. Breathe deep. Be thankful. Worry less about the now and consider the vastness of eternity. After we heard the news that our friend had passed, Jeff just reached over and we held hands. And I was so glad he was there. Thankful for another night together. Thankful for the three beating hearts in the other rooms upstairs.

I'm thankful for my friend's life. So many people loved her. I wish she was still here.

One of my favorite hymns says, "God leads his dear children along. Some through the waters, some through the flood; some through the fire, but all through the blood. Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song, in the night season and all the day long."

I love those words. I keep singing them. It's like that moment of worship--so comforting. I've been thinking about worship ever since Sunday, and the different experiences I've had with it. Brother Dale at Calvary, singing steady and calm. Kim Smith at East River, keeping time by stomping his boot. Hundreds of voices at LBT, with all the men singing out and holding their Bibles up in the air. The passion of that moment almost unnerving. Singing the benediction at Grace in Lynchburg. Standing and singing at Milldale during campmeeting. Louder and louder.

Calling out to God because we're desperate for something.

Hope is a beautiful thing, lovey. It lets us breathe a little when we feel like we just can't.

Love is a beautiful thing, too, lovey. And it lives on forever.