Sunday, April 20, 2014

Forever After . . . a Faith Post

So it's Easter. And I'm a believer so that means something special to me.

I've been thinking about that this morning--after all the craziness that goes on in making Easter baskets last night, getting the kids ready for church this morning and getting us all fed and out the door and then getting annoyed when the parking attendants want me to park a mile from the church when there are a dozen spots close up. Then driving past said parking attendants who are now annoyed with me.

I was thinking today about how sometimes I wish we could strip away everything else and just be quiet before God.

Do you ever need that? I really do. And when it's nearly impossible to have time alone apart from twenty minutes in the shower (and sometimes the kids are still yelling at the door)--stripping everything else away can get difficult. I love our church. I really do. And church is about coming together, so getting quiet before God doesn't always happen in that setting. But in church today (the service was great at our church today, btw), I was thinking about the early Christians. And how they didn't have the hype and the show that goes along with our church services today. It was probably just a group of people, voices lifted to God in song, maybe some instruments, most often not. They didn't have light shows and concert stuff and coffee stations. It was just people coming together, desperately needing to hear from God. As I merged with big crowds of people at church today, I saw a few people I know, but there are lots of us, so I didn't know most of the people. I didn't know the couple in front of me or the family next to me, but they seemed like great people. And to be honest, my spirit was frustrated with the parking attendant who rolled her eyes at me. And I'm already tired and it's 8:45 in the morning. I'm worn out, and it's just the beginning of our day.

And then the message starts and Jeff holds my hand and Doug starts talking about how the tomb is empty.

And everything else strips away for just one moment. And I feel this voice in my heart whisper to me, That's what it's about, remember? Let everything else go. It's you and Me forever after. That's what the resurrection was about. That's what the cross was about. That's why you're here. Because you believe it. You believe Me. Forever after.

Like a fairy tale.

Except it's real. On the days where I'm scratching to hold on to my faith. On the days where I'm wrapped up in it and I know God's got me. Every day--it all comes down to Easter. That's what solidified our forever after. And I grasp it and hold it and remind myself that it's that faith, that belief, that matters. That's the real part.

I'll just be real with you, lovey. For a moment, I missed our little church growing up. Only a piano and a hundred or so people singing Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine--but every one of us was singing and down to the smallest child, we all knew the words by heart. And I knew everybody.

But right where I was, the person Who mattered was whispering to me, You and Me, forever after. The tomb is empty.  

And I'm reminded that I'm in love with Jesus.

Sara and Nemo were at our house for dinner last night and we talked late into the night about people we know who are hurting, people truly suffering--and honestly, today, I just kept thinking that God doesn't care where I park. He doesn't care if the lighting is cool. There are Christians all over the world right now, worshipping God without that stuff, without hardly anything in some cases. God wants me in the moment, reaching out to Him, my heart crying because Easter means that love wins. In the middle of the service, as the pastor spoke, God quieted my soul. I felt this reminder to strip away all the parts that are about impressing people, and hold on to the parts that are about loving God.

Easter. Love wins. He is risen.

He came back for us.

He's still coming back for us.

So from my family to yours, Happy Easter, loveys. And if the day starts to feel a bit much, if the candy rush starts to get to you--it's okay to stop for a minute and take a breath and strip away all those things aren't what today is about. It's okay to need peace, to need quiet, to want to just let your heart fill up with praise and be thankful because the tomb is empty. It's Easter. It's about what He did for us.



Thursday, April 17, 2014

Dear Jeff

So below is the note I wrote to Jeff today. I woke up with all these good intentions that my house was going to be spic-and-span clean by 10:30 a.m. But instead, I was writing a story, cleaning up a mess Linc made, then squeezing in a 10:30 conference call with my boss. Now we have a birthday party to go to in two hours, and I've talked myself out of cleaning until later.


Intentions only get you so far, I suppose. But there are worse things in life than putting off cleaning house another day. Linc's actually asleep right now, which means I could be cleaning, but then I chance being loud and waking him up. Priorities, loveys. During my conference call with my boss today as we talked about projects and such, I reminded him that I must have time to wear my other hat. My potty-training Lincoln hat. He said he'll keep in mind that I need time for potty-training my child.

It's actually going well; I cannot complain. Linc is being cooperative. I think not rushing him before now has helped. He actually seems to be ready (not the case with my first attempts with Ashtyn; that's another, tragic story). I noticed my friend gives her daughter a marshmallow when she goes potty. Lincoln gets about 25 per time. :) That's how we roll, loveys.

So Ashtyn's parent/teacher conference was last night, and I find those discouraging. Probably not for all parents. And there are good aspects, but there are discouraging ones for us as well. I've been reminding myself this morning that kindergarten doesn't need to be a major source of anxiety (for me, not Ash. She's fine). It's one of those times where I'm reminded that I need to be a pro-active parent and I also need to be okay with challenges.

Our lives are full, aren't they?

Mine is. And yet, right now, I have a quiet moment where I'm sitting here typing, listening to birds chirp outside because just maybe spring is coming to Colorado, I had a good cup of coffee this morning and I have a son who's had a million marshmallows today because he's really trying at potty-training.

I'm blessed.

My neck is hurting. I have a lot of work projects to juggle. My house needs to be cleaned. I have a lot to do.

I am blessed.

Really.

Perspective, loveys. We have so much.

Easter is coming. It hasn't felt so much like Easter to me yet. I think it's because we're in a rental house. Don't ask why. I just think that's part of it maybe. I can't find my cookbooks. All my nice plates are packed. Sara and Nemo are coming over Saturday (which I'm thrilled about) and we'll be eating Easter dinner on paper plates. Sara and I grew up on paper plates so we're totally okay with this. :)  But I guess I've been feeling lately the reality of things being packed away and out of reach (and having no idea where they are in the sea of boxes). And all of that is okay. I will use foil since I have no idea where the lids are to my Corningware. And I'll be with my husband and my children and my sweet sister and brother-in-law and I'll remember how much I love my family. Sara and I have both had our Mimi on the brain lately. We keep talking about her. We're having roast for our Easter dinner in honor of Mimi. She used to make a delicious roast when our family got together. This is the first Easter she's spending in heaven. We still miss her. And we'll share stories and eat roast and remember, most of all, we are blessed.

Easter is coming.





Saturday, April 12, 2014

Mommy Hulk and Life's Delights


So, I'm sitting here watching Beautiful Creatures with my sweet friend Sam, and thinking about the last few days. It was date night for the Bruce's Friday night and we went to dinner with our lovely friends John and June. So fun. It's been a really long time since Jeff and I were able to just sit and talk with friends until the people at the restaurant flick the lights to let us know it's closing time. A really long time. The food was delicious. Jeff and John both ordered the same thing. It was pretty hilarious when the waiter brought out two little skinny plates for Jeff and John, then brought the girls' plates. My plate and June's were so huge they filled half the table! :) Really, I'm so thankful for time with friends. When you've got little ones, there just never seems to be enough time to even have a complete conversation! So Friday was extra special. Conversation and friends. Isn't that an excellent combination?

Children and conversation is another one of life's delights. Truly, I needed a date night out since the last few days have been filled with moments of mommy yelling and kids driving me nuts, and then I'll turn right around and Ash and Linc will say something adorable and make me melt. Yesterday, Linc kept calling me "Mommy Hulk." Hilarious. The boy is so comic-crazed. He's into Batman and Superman and Spiderman and every villain like Joker. Yesterday he said he was green hulk, then he got this thoughtful look on his face and said, "Well, maybe red hulk." I'm like, You're two! How in the world do you keep up with all these characters? I'm realizing that Ash is getting to the age where we can have actual conversations and it's just so cool. I look at this precious little blond-haired girl and think, I am so, so lucky you're mine. (Of course, then she can make me crazy in the next minute. But I'm thinking every mom has those moments. They pass. But the love always stays.) I was saying goodnight to Linc tonight--and I wanted to memorize his voice because it was just so precious. And funny! Kids say the funniest things!

Speaking of good conversation, so after the fun of last night, Sara and I went to tea today. Tea with my mother and sisters is one of my all-time favorite things to do. Sara and I just love to go have tea together. So we had an Irish-themed tea and brunch today in Denver, which was just so fun. Another of life's delights. Sisters and tea parties. And conversation and sharing. I love coming away from conversation feeling graced and filled and happy and thankful and wishing it could have lasted even longer. We need that in our lives. Especially when our days are filled with tiring tasks and so much to do and so much to give. Those days are blessings, too, and part of life. But we need moments where we feel nourished and connected with people around us too. I had just a few hours to myself yesterday. As a mom, you know how rare that can be--time alone. And I was reminded that those times alone can be so good for us. The quiet. The stillness.

But then, some moments we need connection. We need conversation. Listening and sharing and laughing and encouraging and being who we are. And there are those moments in life . . .  our children reaching for us and calling for us and chattering away to us.

Life's delights.


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Gathering of Hearts

You guys know that it's been a week of sickness at our house. But I've been thinking this morning about how it's also been a gathering of hearts. And you've got to love that. In the last two weeks, we've spent time connecting and reconnecting with old friends (and new!). And that's a blessing. Several of the women in these photos below have moved away so we don't see them often. So a time of reconnecting together is so nice. I'm reminded of what glued us together in the first place. Friendship. So even when life takes us in different directions, it's nice to come together and see how far we've come and know that we're still connected.
We also spent some time with our new journey group friends, and that was great. It's a reminder that God keeps bringing people into our lives for a purpose. Today, Jeff's at one of our journey friends' house, helping out with some projects. I'm home with the two sick kids. Ash has definitely caught Linc's cold, so here we are, back at square one.
 
It's okay.
 
Sometimes, on the rough weeks, we just need to remind ourselves that it's going to be okay. You may feel tired and like you're holding on by a frail emotional thread--but it's going to get better. One of the harder things to realize is that sometimes it will come down to you in order to make that happen. Your sacrifice to do what you need to. Your grace given to the ones around you. Your humility to see where you're lacking and ask God for help. All of these things--we can't do them on our own. We need a little divine help to get our home and our families and our relationships back on track sometimes.
 
It's okay.
 
It's worth it.
 
I've got two sniffly-nosed, coughing kids today. We've got two tired parents living together in this house.  . . . Recipe for conflict.
 
It's okay. It gets better. Colds eventually go away. We get a little stronger physically and emotionally. We've all lived these weeks before.
 
Divine help. Come on down.
 
And in the midst of life, we get blessings like these kinds of gatherings.
 
Scripture says that God is our strength and our song.
 
Start singing, loveys.
 
Ash is in front of the TV right now, dancing up a storm to the music. She's got a runny nose and definitely isn't perfectly healthy today. But there's music and she's dancing. I'm reminded . . . joy in every season.
 
 


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Blizzard, you know. Same old, same old.

April. Snowstorm. It reminds me of when my sister got married.

So what's new with you guys? Well, I told you we were living with the plague this week. Linc has been out of daycare ALL week because he's been so sick. Finally, the fever has broken and he's doing better. (If you're wondering if I'm seriously annoyed at that doctor who wouldn't give us medicine, the answer is YES. He still has an awful cold.) Now Ash is coughing today. Naturally. So despite the snowstorm outside, we're staying warm and coughy cozy inside. I have a feeling I'll be watching a million hours of superman/batman/avengers cartoons all days. Makes me long for the days of Cinderella and 101 Dalmatians, to be honest. But I have Spiderman for a son, so superheroes and bad guys seem to be a major part of my life. I never expected this really. Coming from an all-girl (except for my dad) household, we were a girly group. But literally, Linc and Ash refer to each other as "Superman" and "Wonder Woman." I am "Queen Wonder Woman," if I'm lucky.

So it's been a rough week over here. Ash has still been on spring break and with Linc out of daycare because of the fever, Jeff and I have been juggling the kids back and forth while trying to actually go to work. Not my best week. You can't exactly ask friends to watch your kids when they have the plague. Thankfully, being home today is good for us. I need a day home with these kiddos. (Cough medicine around the clock.) So it's a jammies and cartoons and medicine and watching-the-snow-from-the-window kind of day. The snow is gorgeous today, but truly, we are SO ready for spring and sandals and sunshine giving us freckles.

The kids have disappeared into the basement for a moment (more superhero stuff), so I'm actually getting to watch the Pioneer Woman. Now I'm starving and wishing I was having lunch at her house, since lunch at my house is destined to be grilled cheese sandwiches and Campbell's chicken soup. (The sandwiches are still not for-sure on the menu since I'm having to cook. Probably I'll talk myself into it.)

Anyway, it's been one of those weeks that every mom knows so well. Low energy, sick, whiny kids, lack of sleep, still a ton of work to do, and so on. And it's one of those weekends jam-packed with stuff going on. Some of which I may just have to forego and recognize my limitations. There are moments in my life when God reminds me of my limitations and it's a good thing. There are other moments in my life when God reminds me I can do all things through Him. Days and seasons for the different times of our lives, loveys. Breathing in and breathing out.

I finished book 3 in my series for Heartsong and that has been such a good feeling. (Nancy, I'm just about ready for that night out to celebrate, love!) I connected with book 3 in a different way from books one and two. For book one (and I won't give spoilers in case you don't know Leo and Mandy yet!), the story just flowed out of me. I loved the characters and the story came easily. Book two was harder, mainly due to where I was in my life. I'd had my car accident. I just wasn't physically able to do as much as I normally could. My workload hadn't lessened at my real job, it was holiday season, my beloved grandmother Mimi passed away, and we had our house on the market. But still, I found that book's storyline to be maybe the most fun to write because the characters just came to life for me and kept pushing me for more.

Book 3 came right on the heels of book two. Still going to therapy, sold the house and having to move, book projects--good grief. But writing it was a blessing for me. I connected with my main character. And the story came together and now it's sent off to my editor.

All three . . . finished. I don't even know how I feel about it. Good, of course. But at the same time, a little sad to be finished with those characters. I've had some friends ask where they can find the book. They do carry them in places like Walmart, but they usually don't stock very many so they go quickly. Here in Denver, Tattered Cover will be carrying them. You can get them easily at Walmart.com or CBD.com or Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com, of course. They have e-book versions that are easily downloadable. And there are a lot of Heartsong/Harlequin subscribers who get them in the mail. Our library has a copy and you can request for your library to get a copy too, if you want to check it out through the library.

And a reminder to all my lovely friends who've read it, don't forget to leave a review on Amazon.com or Goodreads or wherever! I SO appreciate every review and it's helpful for the publisher to see feedback. So take a few minutes to do that, if you will! Really, I'll love you forever. I'm doing a blog book tour later this month, and I'll post more on that so you can see all the blogs reviewing the book. I'll also be doing a Q&A on Goodreads later this month too. I'll share that link when it's time.   

And if you read it and enjoyed it and haven't read Looks Like Love, you should totally check it out! Just go to the Looks Like Love tab on this page. I'm so, so grateful for all my sweet friends who've bought Table for Two and are reading it now! Thank you!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Rocky Roads


This week has been a rocky one for me.

It's only Monday.

After a wonderful Friday connecting with old friends, Linc came down with a fever Saturday. You know how that goes. Sick kids and tired moms and dads for as long as the illness lasts. Long days and longer nights. Parents frustrated with each other. We took Linc to the clinic on Sunday, at which point an unhelpful doctor was rude and condescending to me and I had to leave trying to calm down and pray for grace.

So it's been a long few days and will continue to be. I'm under a deadline this week to add to my list.

Did I mention it's only Monday?

Right. Linc just started crying again and Jeff ran upstairs. Another long night ahead of us, I'm thinking.

It's okay. We all go through it.

I think my family needs a vacation. After the sniffles are all gone. And I'm talking about sniffles for more than just Linc. All of us are tired over here.

We need spring, don't you think? It's supposed to be here, but then again, it's supposed to snow Thursday. We need sunshine and flowers. Here in Colorado, I think we're all feeling very ready for sunshine and flowers and warm weather. Easter is coming and I'm so glad. The reminder of rebirth and hope and life and beauty and Jesus.

Easter is coming, loveys.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Daisy Chain Effect



We're talking friendship today, loveys. It's on my mind. I've come to believe that we're all unique and so we approach friendship in different ways. And I've come to understand that it's okay. My way might not be what works for other people, but that's okay. It's how I roll. We're all unique and so we live out life in different ways.

Let's go back.

I met Michelle Coyne when I was about twelve years old. We were about twelve, I should say. And we were both kind of quiet (Michelle more so than me) and we had a heart connection. We claimed each other as best friends. I spent the night at her house. She spent the night at mine. We wrote stories together. We played out in the woods. We called each other on the phone. We played Nintendo together. We made up our own language. We wore best friend necklaces. It was a best-friend kind of thing. You are mine. I am yours.

We went from being twelve to sixteen, sharing clothes and make-up and driving down the road, singing with the radio turned up. We went from being sixteen to twenty--in college, growing up and going through growing pains, dancing around the house together. We went from being twenty to twenty-three, bridesmaids in each other's weddings (about two months apart). We went from twenty-three to twenty-eight, pregnant and having babies (about six months apart). We went from twenty-eight to thirty-four, sending our daughters to kindergarten and decorating my house together for a Curious George birthday party. We cried together at her mom's funeral--a woman I loved and associate with all my favorite growing-up moments, since nearly all of them include Michelle. A woman who always understood that there was a bond between myself and her daughter, and who fought for it if ever Michelle and I were struggling.

Because the older we get, the better we realize: Bonds like that take time to build and they are worth fighting for.

Twelve years old. Thirty-four years old. Twenty-two years of being in each other's lives. Of coming together and offering grace to each other and supporting each other and crying with each other and loving each other. Having sisters helps you learn to do this. You have to keep coming together because there's never a choice for something else. The bond is too deep. My sisters are the friends who go so deep, they've reached the core of me.

Here's the thing. I'm not sure I'm the kind of girl who needs a ton of friends. Back in my schooldays, I was never one who had a slew of friends. Give me one or two close friends, and I'm good. I'm still that way. I don't need to be the most popular. I don't need everyone to know me. I don't need to be part of everything. I've always been more introverted, spending time curled up with a book or scribbling stories were my favorite things to do. That's probably why Michelle and I clicked so immediately and so strong. We could sit together and be quiet and be perfectly happy. We can still do that.

I know not everyone works that way. Sometimes it seems like some women collect friends. Gathering them up wherever they go. Adding people the way we add friends to our facebook friend list. That might work for them. But for me--I need a heart connection.


I was looking at my facebook friend list the other day. I've got people on that list from different seasons and places of my life. A host of Texas people who knew me as Brandy Brumble. Friends from the past who are still in my heart. There's something comforting about those people because there's so much history. I think of nights spent at Jennifer Levee's house. I think of watching Days of our Lives at Tammy's house with Dana and Mandy and Michelle and Missy. I think of dancing to Swing Kids with Cory Holland. I'm part of their history and they're part of mine. Like a quilt with lots of patches from moments frozen in time. I kept scrolling on my list and came across Amber and Joy and Melissa and Mary Jane and Lois and Leticia and Krisha. Friends from my season in Longview. I think of Amber bringing me breakfast and encouraging me every day. Leticia and I laughing together. Joy and I whispering secrets. Mary Jane never waking up on time. Lois being utterly hilarious at times. Krisha and I on Sunday afternoon bus route.

I kept going and found Laurie and Holly and Monica and Samantha and Leah and Mrs. Nutter. Trixia and Liz and Court and Sarah and Hannah and Mary Jo, and Alisha, and so on. People I knew in Virginia who I made so many memories with. Living with Laurie--a whole set of memories of growing up as women together.

God brings people into our lives for specific reasons sometimes. And sometimes we have a deep heart connection that means the relationship will last. Some don't and that's okay. That's really okay. Some people have more capacity in their lives than others. Some women can be best friends with a million friends. I can't. I need time, investment, trust, space to breathe, understanding of our different personalities, grace.

I think of Jesus--he loved everyone, opened his heart to everyone, he had the most capacity. He also surrounded himself with a certain number of close friends whom he lived out life with.

That's pretty cool.

I've had close friends who are no longer part of my life. That's alright. The plain truth is that some friends are part of you for a season, then life moves you in different directions. That doesn't lessen the importance of the season you spent together. Or your impact on their life or their impact on you. Have you ever met someone whom you really wanted to be friends with, but she didn't seem as interested in being friends with you at that moment? Or she never had time? We've all had that happen. Maybe she didn't have as much room in her life right then. It's okay. It's good to know our boundaries. It's good to know when we're overspent and need to pull back. It's okay to trim our online friend list. And it's okay to trim the real-life one if we need to. This doesn't mean stop being a light to the people around you, or to stop reaching out when God brings opportunities in your life for new people. It means that, for some of us, it's okay if you can't be BFFs with everybody. It's okay to invest in the people whom you have a deep heart connection with. It's okay to be you and not anyone else.

Lately I've been missing Texas. I had coffee with some friends this morning and mentioned that I just wished I could go out for dinner with my Texas girlfriends. I was thinking of how fun it would be to hang out with Michelle, to laugh with Dana. To have a girls night with all those girls I love down South. I miss them because I feel connected to them.

It's a connection that grew over time and keeps lasting. I met my friend Nancy at a table where we were eating pizza in the church basement, like seven years ago. I didn't know in that moment that God had just brought someone in my life who would be a lasting friend. We met Tammy and Jenny and Angie and Mel and that group took root in my heart. Different people and different relationships, but God put us together for a very special season of life. The kind that sort of cements you in each other's heart, wherever you end up going. I love how God does that. And years after having met that group, we're still in touch. Some friends come and go. That's just the way life works. Some stay. In some cases, there are miles between you, but the heart connection was real, so the distance doesn't change the love.

I love the verse in the Bible that says, A man who has friends must himself be friendly. But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. That's a powerful heart connection. A tried-and-true connection. One that involves a lot of trust and a lot of grace. I think of Michelle. At twelve years old, I couldn't have known that I'd still want to wear best-friend necklaces with her twenty-two years later.

Or maybe I did know. That I was hers and she was mine.

Friendship. It can be complicated--girls can have drama. I don't look forward to seeing Ashtyn go through hurt feelings with friends. Girls can be vicious! And even as grown-up women, things can be complicated. We can have hurt feelings and feel frustrated and confused. Remember, we don't have to be BFFs with everyone. That's okay. And some friendships are different from others. One relationship doesn't have to mirror the other. And there's something like a daisy chain effect when it comes to people. You introduce someone to a friend, and they click and their friendship takes off and you feel--well, you have mixed feelings. They tackled that on Sofia the First the other day (for all you moms of young girls who watch Disney, you know Sofia). And I watched it with Ash and my heart sort of just hurt watching it, because it happens in real life and can happen whether you're five years old or thirty-five years old. You know how that goes. You introduce someone to someone else, and the next thing you know, they're having them over for coffee and doing playdates--but you're no longer part of the equation. And on Sofia, it all wrapped up perfectly, but in real life, it doesn't always work that way.

Remember what I said about all of us having different personalities and doing friendship differently? This goes back to that. We react differently to situations. We are not all the same. And that's okay. I mentioned earlier that I'm not the kind of girl who needs a ton of friends. I like knowing people. I like having women in my life. I may only need a handful of bosom friends (if you're an Anne of Green Gables fan, you understood that reference. If not, it just means super close), but that handful is vital to my emotional health. (And Jeff's! I think he'd go nuts if I didn't have women in my life to vent to and talk with.)

I tell Ashtyn that I think we have to be the kind of friend we want to have. What does that look like in your life? You might think we all want the same things--but we don't. For some women, availability is super important in friendship. You need to be with people who are available. For others, they need to be with outgoing, talkative people. For some of us, trust is paramount. You need to confide in someone and know she's trustworthy. Some women love to give advice. Every time you tell them something, they want to offer a solution or challenge you to fix it. But for some of us, we need friends who are better at listening. I appreciate a friend who just listens and doesn't judge and who doesn't need to give me tons of advice.

Some women connect best with people who believe what they believe. They feel the most comfortable with women who are just like them. It's important to me to have friends from different walks of life. Some women, in truth, want friends with a high social status. They want to be part of the popular crowd (and unfortunately, this can still happen among grown-up women). Some of us could care less about that (thankfully). Some of us need to be around friends who help us grow into better, more mature women. Some of us need to be around people who are all about fun. Some need people who are all about loyalty and respect. It's good to recognize what kind of friend you need and what kind you're drawn to. And what kind of friend you want to be.

Trustworthy.
Loyal.
Sensitive to the feelings of those around you.
A good listener.
Caring in practical ways.
Ready to laugh.
Real.

A true friend is a gift.



P.s. The clip above is from Anne of Green Gables. Obviously, I am a fan. I realize some girls have not grown up with this obsession. Seriously. It's awesome.