Goodbye October, Hello November! Living Out Who We Are

Loveys, October was so much fun. My kids love dressing up and carving pumpkins and Halloween candy (me too) and cartoon specials. How was October for you guys? For us, there were trips to the mountains for ice cream and rushing rivers and seeing the fall colors. Freelance projects. Tutoring. Martial arts. Flu shots. Lots of homework happening. Monster Mash dance at school. Poldark and Outlander and wine. Book club. Basketball nights. Taking dinner to a friend. Cheesecake date with sister.  

All good things.

It seems like it's a busy life for all of us. Connecting with each other. Living out the day to day. Keeping home and family running the best we can. Even when we want things to slow down, sometimes it's not possible when juggling schedules. We get tired. We push through even when we're worn out. Or we get sick and need help. Or one of the kids has an accident and we're headed to Urgent Care. It's just real life. (I made a minimum of eighteen peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches last month. Real life with a first grader.)

Here's something I've been thinking about lately. I sometimes feel like I'm living in this constant paradox of wanting more adventure in my life--and also wanting to stay home in my pajamas.

Do you know the feeling? (Tell me I'm not alone in this!)

Life is filled with all these monotonous things (see above about the PBJ situation) and we sometimes feel the desire for more.

There's also that thing about being tired and not having capacity for much more.

Where does that leave us?

(Usually watching the Food Network, or maybe that's just me.)

So sometimes I think we need real adventure. Like a change of scenery. An out of the ordinary experience. Something new. Something different. Something exciting. I think those are good things and sometimes we have to seek them out. (Take the one million years it takes to prepare the family to go somewhere and actually load up the car. Or find a sitter and put makeup on and do something with your hair that hasn't been washed.)

And other times it's okay to just hope and wish and plan while we go about everyday life. For me, there are four other people to consider when thinking about anything. And three kids who come first to me. So it's a balancing act (that constantly tips one way or the other).

You know what--adventure is good for them too.

So is routine and steadiness and consistency.

It occurs to me that the Jeffster needs adventure too. Just a little. Every now and then. :)

People talk about having white space on our calendars. In other words, leaving room to breathe. But sometimes I look at our calendar and wonder where they find it. Something has to be cut, I suppose. Maybe some people can look at their calendars and they know lots of things that could be cut for breathing room. For others, it's like looking at your budget, trying to find more money. Not so easy.

Every year my kids get older, a few more things get added to the calendar, and I feel that's just real life too. I want them to learn. And to be able to do things. To experience life with us and the people around us.

While I was growing up, my mother was a teacher at the small Christian school we went to, and my dad was a police officer who worked extra security jobs to make ends meet. We were very involved with our church. And looking back, life was very busy. It seemed like we were always at the church/school.

Life is busy. Then and now.

But my feeling from growing up was that the majority of the time, especially during childhood, our home was peaceful. There wasn't a lot of fighting ever. My dad was calm and steady. My mom is beyond capable. They loved each other and they loved us. My dad would bring my mom a rose home. He'd kiss her hand when they sat next to each other in church. My mom was funny and nice and everyone always liked her. She has soft hands. She likes to have fun.

Memories of holidays and Saturday nights and shopping for banquet dresses and watching movies like Anne of Green Gables and Little Women, my dad coming home in his uniform, my mom falling asleep grading papers--it was not perfect, but it was safe and peaceful and loving. And having a family of my own now, I know that that is the goal. Not perfect. But really good.

And that's what has stayed with me.

We can be busy and we are right now. That's life. But this home can still be peaceful if Jeff and I are peaceful. If the goal is loving and safe and peace-filled--I think we can manage those things. (P.S. Some years it's harder to achieve this than others, but it's a good goal for me.)

October has passed and we flew into November. I was looking at my calendar last night, and it's looking full. Sunday lunch with friends, movie night with Jeff, Thanksgiving lunch at the school, a wedding to go to, holiday with family, one project I still need to finish . . . and all the other stuff we have going on with the kids.

In all of that, it's a month to focus on being thankful. If my heart starts there, I think it's going to be a really good month.

I'm thankful for friends and people to do life with. I'm thankful for these kids, and we'll juggle whatever they need us to. I'm thankful for Jeff, so we'll make time for each other. I'm thankful for the holiday season, because I wait all year for it and it's awesome.

November means Christmas is literally a gasp away.

So I'm party-planning for December and I'm listening to Christmas music (no apologies, I've been listening off and on since July, so there).

Here at the start of November, loveys, what do you want for your holiday season? What's a must on your checklist? (My list is already too long.)

I want this holiday season to be memorable and heartwarming and the kind you never want to forget. Maybe a little adventure. Maybe squeeze in time for romance. Maybe cut down on gifts and go for just a few really meaningful presents. Make it about love and joy and peace and sacrifice--those things we say but sometimes let go of.

Make it whatever you want because you can.

I'm all in this holiday season. Starting right now with gratitude this month. And giving and sharing joy and peace and love in December. This week on the way to school, Ashtyn told me that her favorite thing about the holidays is being with family. (Such a precious girl!)

It's about giving and sharing who we are with others. I've been working on a proof lately for a publisher. The book is all about loving the people around you. Your neighbors. Your friends. Your family. Choosing to love those people like Jesus loves us. I told Jeff, I'd cried four times by the time I reached chapter five. I'm choosing that this year. Choosing to pour into what I have. 

It's officially the holiday season, lovey. Go grab an eggnog latte in a Starbucks holiday cup and dive in.

Pumpkin Everything

It's officially fall, loveys.

I was in Colorado Springs yesterday and completely overwhelmed by yellow and red leaves everywhere. So beautiful. And today, snow-capped peaks already in the distance and fall colors everywhere. It goes fast, I know. I want to freeze time. We bought lots of pumpkins for the doorstep this afternoon (that's about as artistic as I get unfortunately). And it's warm outside. The kids are playing in the back while Annette's Enchiladas are in the oven (see Bread and Wine for the recipe and prepare to have your life changed). Today was supposed to be extremely productive. Until we all woke up, moving extra slow, and I realized almost nothing would get done except for buying pumpkins.

There's always tomorrow.

So we'll push chores and everything else to tomorrow. Instead, we'll have enchiladas and rice and beans, and ice cream for dessert, and maybe popcorn and a movie later. And it will all keep.

(Also, the kids have come in and apparently their new names are Hunter and Fisher and they are eating dinner while completely in character. And also, apparently we are now a family who hunts and fishes a lot and the kids call me 'Ma.' One more thing . . . they will be going scuba diving later if I'm okay with it. Of course I'm okay with it.)

The hectic-ness of the end of summer and school starting and birthday season has segued into the busyness of our school schedule. Field trips. Martial arts. Tutoring sessions. More homework. And I start to feel like maybe I don't have capacity for too much more. (Which is a difficult situation because I'm supposed to start potty-training Lily soon. Sob.)

Loveys, I've just finished reading Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist. It's a fast read and one I needed so badly. My soul just soaked it up. I highly recommend it for people who need stillness . . . and people who need change. Because, sometimes, we need both.

Sometimes one leads to the other.

It's the kind of book that I keep thinking about. I want parts of it to stay with me. When I first finished it, my immediate response was that I need to clean out my closet--simplify, get rid of stuff. Those great intentions have not happened yet, but cleaning out my closet and simplifying where I can is absolutely on my to-do list. I always feel better after taking stuff to Goodwill and letting go of excess. With school starting, I inevitably feel like we have stuff everywhere. School papers and homework folders and drawings and backpacks and shoes piled up in the closet. Time gets away from us daily, and rooms get unmanageable and laundry is--okay, laundry is always terrible. It gets to be a lot.

And life happens in the mess.

Last night, when the kids FINALLY went to bed. I poured a glass of wine and cleaned the kitchen. Jeff came downstairs and helped me. Then he sat at the island and we talked about the kids and schedules and basically everything. We talked for almost two hours, lovey. Crazy. This morning, he and I were both still saying how nice it was just to have (uninterrupted!) conversation with each other. What we want. Where we're going. How the kids are doing in school. Plans for the holidays. Car issues. Health issues. Us.

We need to talk sometimes. More than clipped conversations and short phone calls or quick texts. We need to share stuff and hear each other.

It seems like the onslaught of media everywhere stays at this off-the-charts level of constant outrage and criticism over anything and everything. I'll just be honest that I can't keep up with that. It's not healthy for me. The chaos of everyday is enough. And one of the things I want most is a peaceful home. I want my kids to be grateful. I want this space that's ours to be where we're the most happy.

There are always seasons of more stress or emotion, of course. That's life. We've lived those too. But I'll choose peace if I can. Chaos or mess or uncontrollable giggles or late nights talking quietly with Jeff for hours. These are my people and I love them so much. They don't need to be perfect. None of us are and it's okay. I just want to love them.

The kids are back outside now, in the fading light of evening. (They're scuba diving most likely.) Lily runs to keep up with them and my heart melts.

Summer is past and we're in full fall mode. My freelance projects are finished, and I'm ready to just breathe and enjoy every possible moment of the upcoming holiday season. I want to write. I can feel a new story starting in me. Outlander and Poldark are part of my life again and that is all kinds of wonderful. How's your fall season, lovey? I'm wishing for happiness for you even amid the busyness of life. Pumpkin pie and gold leaves and cool breezes and long talks and good books and more love. Grace for our people.


Birthdays and Confessions

Loveys, I recently celebrated my 38th birthday. (And yes, that sounds dangerously close to the end of my thirties.) The cake right there is one that Jeff made and the kids decorated. I loved it so much. There were gifts and cake and hugs and kisses and handmade cards and a special breakfast. Delightful things that warm your heart.

And now I'm 38.

One of my friends (who is 41 and shall remain nameless! :) told me that something changed when she turned 40. She stopped caring so much what other people think. I look forward to that actually. I'm not quite there yet, but I'm inching my way closer and closer and I can almost taste that freedom.

For me (and this could just be me) when a birthday comes around, I inevitably take stock of my life-- if I'm happy with where I am and who I am. If I'm where I thought I'd be. All that philosophical stuff. Remember that MASH game we played when we were kids? (Mansion, Apartment, Shack, House) Who would we marry? How many kids would we have? What would our career be?

Even as kids, we start wondering what our life will look like.

I check off the things that I've done. Places I've been. Is it enough?

I was reading a book the other day--the author is someone who's incredibly successful and rightfully so, her writing is awesome and thought-provoking. In the book, she mentioned her age and it stopped me for a moment. We're right about the same age.

True heart confession: without warning, it occurred to me how much more this woman is than I am.

How much more she has accomplished and will accomplish. How much more capable and smart she is. How her life sounds like a Nancy Meyers movie I'd like to watch. She probably doesn't say the wrong thing and hurt people's feelings. Everyone laughs at her jokes. She's invited to everything. She doesn't have to work hard for people to like her. She gets all the amazing opportunities.

I'm going to be real here (because I'm 38 and it's what we 38-year-olds do), doesn't it sometimes feel like it's super easy for some people? They're immediately included in the cool club. They have the right look and attitude and everyone automatically likes them. They are thoughtful and say all the right, socially acceptable things. They are never lonely because so many people are clamoring for their time and want to help them and be around them.

And you

There are all these T-shirts and coffee mugs out there, telling us You're enough. You're awesome. You're beautiful. You're Wonder Woman.

Sounds great. Enter the counter T-shirts: You're not enough. Jesus is. Stop worrying about it.

It's hard to be a girl sometimes.

We want to be perfect, while not caring at all if we're perfect. We want to be liked, but we don't want to be ruled by what other people are thinking. We want to know ourselves, but somehow we still make mistakes.

And carrying all that is a lot.

I'm not a perfect wife, mother, sister, daughter, or friend. Not even close. Honestly, I keep realizing it over and over. I wish 38 was the magic age where we start making all the right decisions, saying all the right, wise things, and living completely selflessly. Where we don't cry or feel lonely or wish some things were different.

Shouldn't I have it more together at 38? That other woman/writer does. She's out there changing the world. I just really want a third cup of coffee and a brownie. Why did she get all the great chances at such a younger age?

Maybe because she worked hard for it. (Another true confession: I'm an extremely unambitious person. That whole coffee-and-brownie thing? That's real for me.) Or maybe she didn't have to work super hard for it. Maybe she met the right people at the right time and they liked her. Maybe she's crazy-gifted and things were bound to work out for her. I don't know. But maybe it's just normal to wonder.

Here's what I know, lovey.

All our paths are different.

Anyone who seems perfect, isn't.

Even just creating a peaceful, safe home and raising good kids and loving my husband are worthwhile accomplishments.

It's hard to make friends sometimes.

It's hard to be enough or feel like we're enough. (Then there's the T-shirt conundrum from above.) It's hard to have faith.

I think checklists are normal. Mine is pretty standard--husband that I still like to hold hands with? check. Kids that I adore? check. House with a fireplace? check.

Like all of us, there are a few other things on my list that are more specific to who I am. I go over my list--then I move on. Because life is about moving forward, not always looking back. It's about who we are now. Where we're going.

There's still time.

So, here at 38, all thoughts of comparison pushed aside because they are toxic--what do I want for my life?

Loveys, I've got this old Liberty T-shirt. It's got holes in it, but I can't seem to make myself throw it away. I love sleeping in it because it's been broken in so well. It's soft and fits just like I want it to. I bought a new one last time I was in VA, but it just doesn't compare to my old favorite.

I want to wear my skin like that T-shirt. In other words, to be comfortable with myself.

To accept God's generous grace over my life. It's okay if I'm not perfect. I know I will make mistakes. And then I'll try to do better. God's grace is enough.

I want to be grateful for every gift I've been given. Going to sleep every night next to Jeff is my favorite thing. (And after 19 years together and going on 15 years of marriage, that alone can seem like a miracle sometimes. I'll take it.) Snuggling with Lily as we watch cartoons fills my heart to capacity. Cheering for Ash and Linc every day in the carpool lane makes me happy. Writing a story or two when I feel inspired leaves me so fulfilled.

I want to make my own choices and decisions--not determined whatsoever by what our culture dictates or what's socially acceptable or popular or trending. And I want to prioritize peace and contentment (and rest, when I can get more of it!).

To embrace change because it's good for me.

It seems to me that getting older is a gift in itself. For those of us who've lost friends or family members--we know this to be true. Even if nothing has gone as we'd hoped with our checklist. Even if we look at our life--at whatever age--and know that it's time to chase dreams or make changes or even accept what is and figure out what to do. Or leave or stay or dance. Or create a whole new checklist. We're here. I've written before about a friend of ours who died, and how that shook me. She and I were the same age. And I can't help but think of her. How she'd probably give anything to watch her children grow. Life is a gift, lovey.

And maybe, getting older means stripping away what doesn't matter so much, and appreciating what does. One of my favorite quotes by Rich Mullins is this:

"And everything that could be shaken was shaken. And all that remains is all I ever really had."

I read those words and they sink into my soul. Have I learned that yet? Am I still learning it? To chip away at what doesn't last, and truly see what does. Sometimes it's a process, I think. To learn what it is we value more than anything. And then hold on like crazy.

Thirty-eight looks like juggling lunches and homework and martial arts classes and dinner and breakfast and laundry. It looks like service a lot and that can be draining. It also looks like reaching for Jeff, maybe both of us are too tired to talk, and we don't care. We've made it this far, we'll keep reaching. Thirty-eight looks like all kinds of things. Laughter. Crying. Real life.

Mainly, to me, these look like the best days of my life.